‘Glaring omission’ of queer learners addressed in new research


New research undertaken by criminology academics at Leeds Trinity University and Keele University looks at the ‘glaring omission’ of queer learners in how they are empowered to participate to their learning and student experience while at university.

Students with laptops discussing work.

Dr Liam Wrigley, Lecturer in Criminology at Leeds Trinity University and Dr Leah Koumentaki, Teaching Fellow in Criminology at Keele University, recently published an article, titled Criminalised, victimised or other? A reflexive engagement with Queer Criminology utilising a relational pedagogical approach, in the journal Frontiers in Sociology. The article is based on ongoing research the two are leading, which addresses queerness, an area currently underrepresented in criminology and explores how to implement change at classroom level to ensure better visibility of queerness in crime and victimisation.

Dr Liam Wrigley said: “We noticed a glaring omission in the lives of the students who might identify as LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual). The lack of recognition of LGBTQ+ status when we are analysing our student demographics might cloud our judgement. Our research tries to go beyond the surface to understand Queer and Intersectional experiences.”

The research focuses on pedagogical approaches to ‘queering’ the classroom, allowing students to become experts in their own learning. This comes as a response to the absence of an interest in LGBTQIA+ narratives in criminology, due to androcentrism (male-centric perspectives) and heteronormativity (the concept that heterosexuality is preferred in society) largely shaping the field.

Dr Wrigley and Dr Koumentaki have been implementing practical changes in their teaching to reflect this and promote a democratic classroom environment where students use their awareness of social justice and lived experiences to direct the knowledge production and consequently shape their learning.

Dr Liam Wrigley said: “As relatively early-career academics, we looked at the curriculum and found an absence of intersectionality across queerness, race, ethnicity, disability, decoloniality and gender. As a result, we queered the approach to teaching, allowing students to use their own materials and learning artifacts that can productively contribute towards the learning environment. We did not put parameters on learning potentials (i.e. gatekeeping Virtual Learning Environment related materials). This opened the opportunity for students to become co-investigators and create their own knowledge within a co-created learning space. Overall, we should go beyond teaching criminalisation and victimisation and think about queer knowledge production and ways of thinking.

“We are educators, and we need to be ready to be challenged by the next generation of learners. I noticed from my classroom experience that students wanted to explore the inequalities faced by the community. Whether they are a part of the community or not, they want to explore it through the lens of social justice.”

Dr Leah Koumentaki said: “The current power dynamics in the classroom are based on a colonial understanding of how teaching should occur, which positions the lecturer as the holder of knowledge. Such ‘expertise’ comes however without acknowledging the catastrophic consequences of interpreting life and directing knowledge in refence to subjective experiences and views.

“We aim to invest in more indigenous ways of learning that break the barriers of coloniality in classrooms considering that such styles of learning were not excluding queerness firsthand. Taking a decolonial stand, we look into breaking the power dynamics by asking the students to reflect their own experiences. By taking such an approach we aim for a collaborative process wherein students have the space to share their daily experiences and places us in the position of the learner. Dismantling the role of the ‘expert’ is what establishes a democratic classroom wherein queerness has a strong stand and voice next to all marginalised voices.”

The research is still in its early stages and is part of an upcoming book from Frontiers in Sociology which will include research from all over the world, including the work of Dr Liam Wrigley and experts from Australia and the USA. The edited book will cover issues of transphobia and homophobia in South America, Queering STEM related subject matters, and (Un)belongings ascribed to LGBTQIA+ identities across the globe.

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