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04 January 2021
Unpacking ‘Signs of Learning’ in Complex Sociopolitical Environments
The recent global pandemic lays bare the ongoing disparities in health and economic well-being amongst racialized communities in North America (Poteat et al., 2020). Amplified by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement brought to global awareness and provoked dialogue about ongoing antiblack racism in the United States and global colonial and settler-colonial contexts. In academia the hashtags #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia brought similar attention to racisms within academic and scientific communities.
This movement corresponds to recent emphasis on the sociopolitical nature of teaching and learning in fields broadly construed as STEM, which continuously construct racialized assumptions based on deficit views about learners from nondominant communities (Adams, in press). Racialized and deficit-based discourses have been detrimental to Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities whose potential for flourishing has been stifled by the imposition of “solutions” from “experts” who claim to know what is “best” for them (Kayumova et al., 2019). Studies rooted in deficit discourses determines the orientation a researcher may take towards communities of learners from BIPOC backgrounds which often fails to show the richness, variation, and ingenuities inherent in diverse communities.
Because of these longstanding issues, we need research studies that engage what Walter Mignolo (2009) calls “epistemic disobedience,” i.e., intellectually delinking, “from the magic of the Western idea of modernity, ideals of humanity and promises of economic growth and financial prosperity” ( p.3). This kind of engagement can lay the foundation for rethinking the ways that learning emerges in contexts that are embedded in BIPOC and other marginalized communities, shaped by agency therein and advances the radical liberatory transformation of all participating stakeholders.
For this special issue, we are calling for manuscripts that share empirically rich accounts of work from different onto-epistemological positions rooted in local community approaches and knowledges to make the ingenuities and brilliance of BIPOC learners visible to “replac[e] entrenched assumptions about where we see ingenuity and how we recognize it” (Gutiérrez et al., 2017, p. 46). We need studies that embrace the strengths and creativity of BIPOC learners by deliberately shifting away from deficit-based thinking, which narrowly focuses on universalist epistemology, ontology, and ethics. Studies that document the brilliance of BIPOC learners allow the learning sciences community to see, uplift, and leverage learners’ cultural, historical, and identity backgrounds (Adams. 2018). Such studies include documenting learning of “border crossers” who as fugitives have “to learn to negotiate the power, violence, cruelty of the dominant culture. Such studies also imply accounts that go beyond the recounting of their “lived histories, restricted languages, and narrow cultural experiences” by critically unpacking the imagery and discourses of popular culture that are imposed on these youth (Giroux, 2012, p. 13).
We are particularly interested in critical research that employs bricolage to respond to new ways to document and capture learning in diverse communities (Steinberg & Kincheloe, 2012). The special issue offers counterstories and survivance stories that challenge master narratives and in doing so, “disrupt, decenter, and destabilize” while they are “intended to be generative, creative, and pedagogical (Sabzalian, 2019, p. 5). Hence, we not only unsettle dominant notions of learning, but also its grounding in Western epistemologies and methodologies, encouraging the navigation among diverse ontological positions and epistemologies and its associated methodologies (Kayumova et al., 2018). By doing this, we want to make visible how practices like learning are interconnected with the cultural, political and social, which “[are] marked by multiplicity, diversity, fragmentation, fluidity, provisionality, by far-reaching changes in distributions and assignation of power, which affect the agency and the potentials of individuals” (Kress, 2013, p. 120).
This perspective calls for reconsidering learning by moving beyond an apolitical focus on singularity, embracing learning’s multiplicity, dialogicality, and politicality. This perspective challenges assumptions about how to recognize diverse “signs of learning” and who gets to report on and speak on behalf of diverse learning, implying by its nature a humble stance and deep grounding in relations. It calls for researchers to advance new ways of listening, feeling, and experiencing learning and becoming of educators and youth in a wide range of settings and practices, a process deeply embedded in and lived through respectful relations and solidarity, resulting in new moral imaginaries and possibilities. By illuminating diversity of learning experiences, the papers in this special issue speak to what matters politically for different learners while offering new radical possibilities through reconfigurations of educational practices and institutions, and newly imagined designs of learning spaces.
Looking to Publish your Research?
We aim to make publishing with Taylor & Francis a rewarding experience for all our authors. Please visit our Author Services website for more information and guidance, and do contact us if there is anything we can help with!
Please send 500 word abstracts and keywords by September 15th 2020 following to the Submission Instructions linked below.
Please write “Abstract for MCA Special Issue” in the subject field.
Final manuscripts will have an 8,000 word limit.
Deadline for submission of Abstract of 500 words: September 15th 2020
Invited authors informed: October 12th 2020
Full paper deadline: January 4th 2021
Request Revisions: March 15th 2021
Anticipated publication: October 31st 2021
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