The focus of this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences is on institutional practices that shape and limit students’ and academics’ identities and how these restrictions can be overcome.
In the first article, Caitlin Hindle, Vikki Boliver, Ann Maclarnon, Cheryl McEwan, Bob Simpson and Hannah Brown examine the experiences of first-generation students at a prestigious university in the North of England. The students they interviewed identified a range of factors that inhibited their full integration into the life of the university, including the nature and cost of student social life and a culture that is socially and academically elitist. The authors urge selective universities to promote an institutional culture that is inclusive of students from all backgrounds by, for example, speaking out against anti-working-class prejudice, providing grants to enable low-income students to join sports clubs and societies, and encouraging all academic staff to take responsibility for developing students’ study skills.
In the second article, Chenyu Wang uses vignettes from her experience as a foreign-born, Chinese migrant academic at a predominantly White liberal arts college in the United States to explore institutional commitments to diversity and inclusion. She concludes that her assigned role is to be a representative of her country's culture and evidence of the college's diversity. Resisting this limited purpose, she identifies ways that foreign-born faculty of colour can critique White and Western perspectives and practices in the classroom.
In the third article, Priya Dixit explains how visa regulations impact on academics from the Global South who work in the Global North. The application process for visas is onerous and denial of visas restricts research and fieldwork and limits employment and promotion opportunities. Because visa regimes in the Global North mainly control the mobility of Black and Brown people, White academics may not be aware of their significance and ought to be.
In the fourth article, Eleanor Shoreman-Ouimet describes the teaching and assessment methods she has developed for courses on anthropogenic climate change. These include students’ submitting three questions or comments about the material at the end of each class, group projects involving ethnographic interviews on campus, and contributions to community projects. The first of these provides the tutor with information on each student's understanding of and personal response to the topic and the others take active learning beyond the classroom.
In the fifth article, Matias Thuen Jørgensen and Lena Brogaard show how differentiated teaching can benefit classes comprising students from a range of disciplines and with varying levels of prior knowledge. After surveying students to discover their previous experience, they provided different levels of readings and quizzes and reorganised class activities so that variation of academic level among students was less obvious. The improvement in student motivation and engagement made the extra work worthwhile.
The issue concludes with Meg Hancock's review of Conversations to Change Teaching by Joy Jarvis and Karen Clark. Our thanks go to the authors of the articles and review, the anonymous referees who commented on the manuscripts, the Editorial Board and everyone at Berghahn Journals. This is the fourth issue that has been copy-edited, typeset and produced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Penny Welch and Susan Wright