Workshop: Building inclusive rights – respecting classrooms through responsive teacher education programmes

Impressions from the 2017 SIETAR Europa Congress

Caitriona Ní Cassaithe on the panel “Building inclusive rights-respecting classrooms through responsive teacher education programmes” by Benjamin Mallon & Rowan Oberman:

How can intercultural expertise, skills and competences be deepened?

Mallon and Oberman’s thought-provoking and highly interactive presentation opened by posing the question: how can initial teacher education deepen the intercultural, and specifically rights-based expertise, skills and competencies of student teachers? And with a strong background in both human rights and intial teacher education, the panellists were well positioned to answer this.

Rowan Oberman is a researcher and lecturer in development, intercultural, human rights andcitizenship education at DCU Institute of Education, St Patrick’s Campus, Dublin. Current Chair of the Global School advisory committee, she is also a qualified barrister who specialises in human rights and family law. Ben Mallon (PhD) is a post-doctoral researcher also at the Institute of Education, DCU.

Though initially flagged as a panel, the format of the presentation was changed to that of a participative workshop as one of the panellists was unable to attend. The session was chaired by Professor Fionnuala Waldron, Cregan Professor of Education and Chair of the Centre for Human Rights and Citizenship Education, established in 2005 in St. Patrick’s College (now DCU Institute of Education).

Framed on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the presenters used thepowerful analogy of ‘Rights Tinted Spectacles’ to highlight the importance of looking at education itself through a human rights lens. Drawing parallels between the educational practices of teachers and children’s experiences of school, Oberman and Mallon discussed theimportance of constructing ‘Rights-Tinted Spectacles’ with student teachers through global citizenship and human rights teacher education programmes. Children’s experiences can be shaped by the values, attitudes and competencies of the teachers they come in to contact with during their formal school years, therefore, it is imperative that carefully constructed initial teacher education programmes are put in place to inform the educational practice of teachers throughout their careers.

The presentation was peppered with a variety of engaging activities which were relevant to the topic and engaged the participants. Each group was given a selection of cards containingkey words relating to children’s rights (e.g. voice, participation, protection from violence) and a large image of a school. The participants were asked to select the children’s rights they believed schools excelled at respecting and placed these at the centre of the school image.

They placed children’s rights they believed to be less respected at the edges of the image. The activity asked participants to reflect on their own educational experiences through a humanrights lens, applying a children’s rights framework to assess the day to day reality of school lifeas they know it.

They were then given a role-play card card (e.g. member of the Traveller Community; person with disability) and were asked to reconsider which rights were most important from this different perspective (or lens). Finally, participants were asked to apply their ‘children’s rights lenses’ to consider how well their own organisation respects rights.

The presentation was both insightful and engaging and generated a lot of lively discussionamongst the participants. The use of the simple but powerful analogy of ‘Rights-BasedSpectacles’ throughout highlighted the importance of acknowledging the multiple lenses with which people view the world.

More impressions from the 2017 SIETAR Europa congress can be found here.