The Pedagogy of Discomfort as an Agent of Change

By: Shane McIver  

The emergence of phrases such as ‘fake news’ invite increased scrutiny of factual reporting and the media. Naturally, the media is highly influential given its ability to shape ideas, values and beliefs. University students often look to the media as an additional learning resource, to identify patterns, current trends and information relevant to their areas of academic interest.However, there can be an unnerving dissonance between positions presented by the media versus findings from academic investigation. Negative media examples might range from obvious and incendiary reporting fostering racism and discrimination through to equally damaging covert messages. This reporting might directly oppose fact, yet be adopted through general acceptance and social conditioning. This presentation reports outcomes arising from a research project where undergraduate students ultimately questioned their own values, attitudes and beliefs when comparing media portrayal versus evidence across a diverse range of subjects, including sexualities and identity, the needs of refugees and asylum seekers, justice and injustice, plus other examples that typically evoke strong reactions based on unexamined opinion. In alignment with Boler’s (1999) pedagogy of discomfort, critical thinking and informed inquiry displaced preconceived and often narrow perspectives with an increasing awareness of appreciating an alternative and deeper understanding, without slipping into defensive anger, blame, or guilt as part of that experience. Accordingly, the dynamics of a pedagogy of discomfort will be discussed, as well as the underpinning role of reflective practice, given the combination of the two tended to catalyse radical shifts in awareness and personal empowerment.

pedagogy, media, self-empowerment
Identity and Belonging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Shane McIver

Victoria, Australia

Dr. Shane McIver is a lecturer and active researcher at Deakin University, Melbourne, within the School of Health and Social Development. His higher education research interests typically focus on how reflective practices and experiential learning contribute to the student experience, notably through models of student empowerment. He teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate students.