“Retelling the Story from Within:” Oral History as a Means of Educating for Change

This presentation will explore a collaborative teaching initiative that uses oral history as a means of educating for change by challenging traditional institutional structures of knowledge creation and by inspiring students to be active and engaged learners. I am a faculty partner in a cross-disciplinary undergraduate teaching project at the University of Toronto Scarborough, that offers courses that combine official (campus) and unofficial (community) sites of teaching and learning. Since 2013 we have offered courses in partnership with various NGO’s in the neighbouring community, a part of Toronto often negatively portrayed in popular media discourse. The goal of the teaching initiative is to provide student researchers with the opportunity to engage with both campus and community members in retelling the story of Scarborough from within. While oral history is not a new method, our students experienced it as radical practice that allowed inclusive dialogue, self-reflection, and reconstruction of dominant narratives. The process created a space beyond the classroom to give voice to community members often not included in official records. As one student noted, this form of “community-based research gives voice to those who are rarely heard, but have the most telling social commentaries to offer… I plan to reach out and hear more voices because I have grown a stronger passion for listening.” This presentation will explore the transformational impact on students of listening and interpreting, an example of a pedagogical practice that encourages education for change.

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