Towards a Pedagogy of Intercultural Understanding: Participatory Design Research with Urban Indigenous and Newcomer Immigrant Youth

  • Author / Creator
    Naureen Mumtaz
  • My participatory research study is based on the contention that while Canadians celebrate multiculturalism, there is also a need to move beyond the mere surface celebration of the concept, and to create conditions which can support co-creation of intercultural knowledge and understanding amongst youth from culturally diverse and ethnoculturally marginalized communities. This study seeks to learn how participatory design-based research methods can contribute to understanding issues of intercultural communication among the youth from urban Indigenous and newcomer immigrant communities. The following research questions guided this study: How can engagement with a participatory design research process for youth from urban Indigenous and newcomer immigrant communities foster intercultural understanding? In what ways may findings from this study influence transformative pedagogical practices?
    The theoretical scaffolds of my study were rooted in the concepts of critical pedagogy and its contemporary perspectives grounded in the critique of colonialism, postcolonialism and economic globalization (Freire, 1970; D. Smith, 2003; Giroux, 1992; L. T Smith, 1999). Recognizing that multiculturalism is a “wicked problem” (Rittel & Webber, 1973) and that it is interconnected with many other underlying social issues; participative design-based research (PDR) informed by the principles of participatory action research (PAR) was a plausible methodology for my study as it equally values the process of inquiry as well as the significance of the resulting outcomes (Kindon, Pain & Kesby, 2007). Along with being a knowledge creation approach, it was also an intervention to explore change within social structures as well as a response to instances of alienation or silencing within multicultural urban settings. Collaborative alliances with diverse community organizations assisted in recruiting youth participants for the study. Participants were engaged in the PDR process through design research methods. The emergent possibilities afforded by this methodology led to overcome the over-prescriptiveness of the traditional ways of knowing. The epistemological stance of experiential and engaged modes of knowing through PDR allowed me as a co-researcher, along with the diverse participants, to reflect on lived-experiences as a part of the inquiry (Brown, Harris & Russell, 2010). As the project cycles matured, there was growing participation in the design thinking circles (d.circles) from the population of newcomer Muslim immigrant and urban Indigenous communities, which represented two of the predominantly racialized and hence marginalized communities. The project involved youth-engaged d. circles in the local community settings. The diversity of thoughts expressed during the process shaped constructive discussion topics while different point-of-views and accounts of experiences were shared, heard and articulated. Youth participants worked towards finding ways to best represent those varied perspectives through their design concepts. In their creative design explorations, they addressed the question: What will you design for your visual communication project to promote better intercultural understanding amongst urban Indigenous and newcomer immigrant youth? Findings of the study project have shown to have contributed to raising awareness amongst the participants about who are “others” (Grant & Brueck, 2011) and what was the implication of their role in aiding such constructions. Through their engaged participation, they developed the capacity as leaders in their diverse communities to creatively visualize ways to prevent the continuation of disruptive thinking structures. Insights from the process of this study with the youth are significant to advance new contexts for design-based research for the field of curriculum, thereby creating relevance of participatory design methods for an epistemological and ethical practice that can benefit disciplines beyond design studies.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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