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ANTI-RACIST CLASSROOM

Curriculum & Pedagogy

Race, Roots & Resistance members are committed to promoting inclusive learning environments in which students of all identities and backgrounds can thrive through meaningful engagement with the fields of multicultural education and culturally responsive pedagogy.

 

DECOLONISING MENTAL HEALTH TRAINING IN THE UNIVERSITY:

Curricular analysis of a professional doctoral programme in MIE, SEED - Dr Sabah Siddiqui

A Professional Doctorate, more than any other university-based training, is a double-headed beast: it is a specialised programme that must balance the pedagogic intent of the University with the professional needs of Industry. It is designed to train candidates who are students on campus and apprentices already working in their fields. At the Manchester Institute of Education (MIE), University of Manchester, the Doctorate in Counselling Psychology (D Couns Psych) has been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). It enables students to register with the HCPC to become a registered practitioner psychologist and thus use the protected title ‘Counselling Psychologist’. While it is developed to equip a carefully selected cohort of candidates to become counselling psychologists in the future, the programme is also responding to university-wide challenges of widening participation. The reviewing of curriculum content is both a decolonising activity as well as being part of a wider strategy of addressing inequalities in the university, and addressing the needs of students who are identified as part of the ‘Widening Participation’ agenda.

I would like to briefly problematise the mention of ‘participation’. Widening participation must include not only a concern for ameliorating the conditions for access and attainment of a diverse group of people in its staff and student body, but also to diverse theories and knowledges that are brought to bear down on a decolonialised curriculum. Decolonisation is understood here in terms of bringing awareness of how historical legacies of colonialism and its associated cultural, classed, racialised, and gendered consequences have affected the forms of knowledge available and drawn upon in our teaching. Decolonising the curriculum of D Couns Psych would need to investigate the historical processes behind subject-formation, and there are two subjects to take into consideration here: the subject of the discipline, and the subject that is the discipline.

The first is the Subject whose individual, cultural, racial, ethnic, class, caste, gendered, and sexual position needs to be elaborated in any training of counselling subjects. A preliminary exploration of the D Couns Psych curriculum throws up the modules in which this subject and its formation is addressed. This is a programme committed to the reflective practitioner approach attentive to issues of social justice. In the curriculum, this is addressed through modules in Year 1 that frame discussions on multiculturism and critical thinking as it introduces Person-Centered Therapy, Pluralistic Counselling, and Systemic Therapy, and modules in Year 2 that think about reflexivity in practice and culturally-sensitive assessment. Currently Year 2 also has an entire module titled Difference and Diversity that includes lectures on social justice, children and adolescents, older adults, working with interpreters, social class, sexuality, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, culture, and ethnicity. According to trainees, it is in during the clinical case discussion groups that they find a space to discuss these issues as it impacts them in practice – which are student-led and practice-oriented.

The second is the subject of Psychology, Counselling Psychology in particular, whose historical origins as an aid to colonial, racist, and sexist projects in the past and the present have been well-studied in Critical Psychology, and the History and Philosophy of Psychology. The Conceptual and Historical Issues in Psychology (CHIPs) module in Undergraduate Psychology courses addresses some of these assumptions in the discipline of psychology. Yet, the specific domain of Counselling Psychology at advanced levels would need to look at the history of ideas it deploys routinely in its development.


How do we go about this curricular reform? As a senior member of staff pointed out, to legislate reform into the curriculum often backfires by raising resistances to the affirmative and forward-thinking policies it tries to embed into the training. Any curriculum can be interpreted to be more inclusive and progressive, or to be more parochial and regressive. Thus the curriculum alone cannot guarantee the decolonisation of our theories and knowledges.  

Here the greatest resource the university has is its people. The critical appreciation of domain-specific ideas as historical and political, rather than natural and professional, develops from the presence of a diverse body of students and staff on campus. People from different backgrounds bring to the programme their ways of encountering ideas in the discipline. In this way, the university body can make the curriculum, which must balance pedagogical intent with demands of the industry, more inclusive, and eventually decolonised.

The demand for inclusive education is also being led by students themselves. Students in UK universities have also been part of the move towards curriculum reform. In 2015, students at UCL founded the ‘Why Is My Curriculum White?’ campaign which spread to the rest of the country. The movement created “a wave of uprising against the ‘Whiteness’, Eurocentric domination and lack of diversity in the curricula with recent launches in Bristol, Birmingham, and Manchester, and an unwavering online presence” (El Magd, 2015). The same year saw the initiation of the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ protest movement at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. These campaigns demonstrate that students are aware of the inadequacy of their university curricula to address inequalities. These concerns will make their way into the classroom and the curriculum if the university body is more diverse with a healthy proportion of students and staff from BAME backgrounds, from working class backgrounds, more women and trans folx, and more people with disabilities. Inclusive universities will have theories and curricula that are transformed in the hands and minds of diverse groups of people.

The responsibility falls upon the University of Manchester and MIE; this is not only a social responsibility to include more people, but also a responsibility to the bodies of knowledge the department is invested in. To decolonise curriculum is to renew the discipline from within through an appreciation of the historicity of its knowledge claims. The focus on mental health training is a particularly good place to start, because of the practice interface between the University, local communities and stakeholders, on one hand, and because cultural norms are inevitably at play in mental health service provision, on the other. Aided by programme's commitment to the reflective practitioner approach, this is a call to the D Couns Psycho to bring the curriculum to life through theory and practice: (to raise the University of Manchester’s SU 2019 mandate) lets Decolonise, Democratise, Divest.


This preliminary curriculum review was supported by the Social Responsibility Fund of the Manchester Institute of Education, SEED, University of Manchester.

 

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