Poster Session Abstracts

Helen Farmery

Can the Teaching of Mathematics be a cultural experience?

Middlesex University serves a student population that is culturally, linguistically and racially diverse. There is an expectation that our students develop a critical awareness of their own and others’ cultures, beliefs, languages and experiences and the degree of cultural responsivity within the design of our University modules is an important element in this.

But I am a teacher of mathematics? Do I need to be culturally responsive?

The universality of mathematics has long been accepted. Mathematical activities such as counting, locating and measuring are applicable in the non-human universe and are therefore not creations of human beings. There is a clear argument that 10 plus 10 always was and still is 20 no matter what era or context one finds oneself and no matter what language or symbol one uses:  ‘It is not time, space or culture dependent’ (Arda Cimen, 2014:525). Such acceptance however contributes towards a possible misconception that sense making in mathematics is therefore also based on the idea of cultural independency and universality; that it is culture-free knowledge. D’Ambrosio (1985), Ascher (2002) and Orey (2013) however assert the cultural relativity of mathematics and bemoan the Eurocentrism of mathematics education across many parts of the world claiming it pays little regard to the socio-cultural differences of the learners that it services.

In recent years the debate as to whether the learning of mathematics is acultural or a discipline with strong cultural significance has given rise to an ethnomathematics movement (D’Ambrosio, 1985, 2001) that has stimulated discussion amongst mathematics educators across the world. This paper debates from a socio-cultural perspective that the learning of mathematics is a process of participation in collective practices that are inextricably linked to culture (D’Ambrosio, 1985; Orey & Rosa, 2013) and the choice of activity and the analysis of the data the study produces reflects this.

Dr. Uracha Chatrakul Na Ayudhya

International Students’ Lived Experiences as Temporary Migrants: Lessons for Diversity at Middlesex University

This paper is based on a study funded by the Richard Benjamin Trust and considers the debates and controversies surrounding the issue of international students studying and working in the UK in the context of tighter immigration policies. Each year, international students contribute £2.5 billion to the UK economy in HE tuition fees alone and an overall estimated contribution of £14 billion (BIS, 2011; UKCISA, 2014). On the one hand, it has been argued that it is of vital importance for the UK university system and more broadly for the UK economy as a whole to keep attracting and retaining international students in the context of increased competition in the international education market. On the other hand, the British government’s policy objective of reducing net migration targets international students as well as other groups of economic migrants.

Against this backdrop, the study aims to understand the lived experiences of non-EU and non-EEA international students as temporary migrants and their expectations of employment during and after their university study in the UK. Much has been speculated about the repercussions of these structural constraints, yet little is known about how they are interpreted by the international students themselves and how the constraints shape these social actors’ perceptions and experiences as international students in the UK. Twenty narrative interviews with international students studying for Master degrees in London were conducted to gain in-depth accounts of their lived experiences. Key findings and implications are considered in relation to the conference’s broad theme of “diversity” and the notion of “treating everyone fairly regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation and religious beliefs while creating a positive, safe and nurturing environment for students and staff”.

Tiwalola Kolapo


Cultural Competency is about embracing diversity which is a step further from simply recognising diversity in any setting. Furthermore acquiring the skill of cultural competency to date has been about mastering its 4 accepted levels known as:

  • Cultural Awareness
  • Cultural Knowledge
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Cultural Competence

I propose that there is a missing link or level which I have termed Cultural Translation defined as the level that is displayed when what is known in cultural terms becomes what do in collaboration with the person or persons of another culture.

The tool that enables cultural translation is Reflexivity, which is the ability of the cultural practitioner to examine their practice and bias and acknowledge how these affect the knowledge translation process. Overall this discussion is about recognising that there is a significant gap between cultural sensitivity and cultural competence, and this can be filled adequately by cultural translation. I further argue that cultural competence cannot be asserted until there is a complete translation of the entire cultural process from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’.

Method: Mixed Methods

The choice of a mixed method approach favours the researching of issues that are relatively unknown or less researched; it is a suitable overarching plan for the collection, measurement and analysis of mixed method data. Quantitative (Questionnaire)/Qualitative (in-depth interviews) define the research design.

Dr Sarah Carr  and Alfonso Pezzella 

LGB and T health and social care curriculum inclusion in English HEIs: Emerging findings from a diversity network knowledge generation project.

This paper will explore the emerging findings of a survey on the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB and T) issues in health and social care curricula across HEIs in England.

The research aims to survey the extent to which LGB and T issues are covered in the education and training of health and social care practitioners; attitudes to teaching LGB and T issues in health and social care courses and the barriers and facilitators to teaching LGB and T issues. The survey also invites respondents to give their own perspectives and experiences on the topic.

The survey is one of the first of its kind and addresses the frequent finding in research that health and social care practitioners require specific training in order to provide appropriate care and support to LGB and T people across the life course. It is an example of knowledge generation by LGB and T researchers and networks.

The paper will explore the existing research and challenges in this area to frame the emerging study findings in the broader context of responding to diversity and complexity in teaching and in health and social care practice.

Pedro de Senna

Diversity in Drama Departments: an emerging picture.

The Standing Conference for University Drama Departments (SCUDD) is the subject association for Theatre and Drama in Higher Education, with 85 member departments across the UK. In 2014 SCUDD established a working group (which I chair) to explore ways in which we might map and address levels of diversity within the discipline, over a three year period. The first stage of the research consisted of a census-like exercise, in which a survey was designed and distributed among staff and students of member departments, in order to gather quantitative data on different aspects of our population diversity. This paper will outline the overall project as designed by the Working Group, and discuss some of the findings of the first phase, as well as some methodological problems encountered – not least among which is that of vocabulary.

The picture emerging from the survey is one of a discipline that in its ethnic make-up is overwhelmingly white (both staff and students), and in which there is a strong gender imbalance in student cohorts, which are predominantly female. This imbalance is not so pronounced among staff. Other categories surveyed include sexuality, age, disability and health, ethnic, national and religious identities. An important omission in this stage of the research is class, and the problems associated with this categorisation will also be discussed in this paper. Finally, the data gathered by the survey will be mapped against a series of background data, such as UCAS entries and the 2011 UK census, and a brief analysis of these comparators will be offered.

Sarah Lewis-Brooke, Alfonso Pezzella and Dr Mike Mimirinis.

Addressing  LGBTQ diversity in the social work curriculum: a pedagogical approach.

There is an acceptance that social work values include unconditional positive regard and a belief in striving for social justice. Despite this, LGBTQ issues in the social work curriculum have been described as minimal. The social work programme at Middlesex University has a very diverse population of students, which gives the students a real opportunity to become comfortable with working with difference. Nevertheless, a proportion of students each year identify that they struggle to reconcile their religious views with being able to accept and value different sexualities. Within this context, the project aims to explore whether the curriculum design or any other features of the student experience offered at Middlesex, increase students’ knowledge of LGBT issues and/or affect student attitudes. The presentation reports on the first stages of the project concerning the analysis of the features in the curriculum of two undergraduate modules in the first year, which are intended to develop a more inclusive attitude in students. By using a questionnaire about attitudes, it is also intended to measure whether attitudes do change. Lastly, it is explored whether including LGBTQ material as a pedagogic intervention in the curriculum, would make LGBTQ students feel more supported and confident that they are valued and included on their programme of study. The scope, design and expected outcomes of the study are discussed in light of raising the quality of the student experiences and effectiveness of strategies to promote diversity and inclusivity in the curriculum.

 Magali Peyrefitte and Gillian Lazar

Teaching Social Science Skills and Methods with Archive Material and Secondary Data to a Diverse Student Cohort: a case study

A core component of undergraduate Sociology and Criminology courses is the teaching of research methods. This paper discusses and evaluates a series of teaching activities utilising archival material from the Museum of Domestic Architecture (MODA) and secondary sources which were developed for a first year core module for undergraduate students studying sociology and criminology. The module is entitled ‘Researching the City’ and introduces students to a range of skills and qualitative and quantitative methods through the trope of researching the city, in this case London. The activities were developed as a collaboration between the module leader (a sociologist) and a member of Academic Writing and Language team of the University (an academic writing specialist), and focused specifically on suburbia.  This collaboration arose from our interest in devising classroom activities which would be accessible to a diverse cohort of students especially in terms of linguistic and academic backgrounds. The material enabled students to explore the changes happening in the suburban location in which the university is situated, particularly with regards to a large-scale new private housing development in its proximity.  After completing the tasks in seminars, students were also asked to produce a short piece of writing, in the form of an online diary, reflecting on the changes in this London suburb, based on their understanding of both the archival and recent promotional material. Students were also asked to reflect on the experience of taking part in this teaching activity. A thematic analysis of the diary entries for 72 students (n=72) was undertaken and there were interesting findings in relation to how students reflected on both the research methods and their own positionality towards suburbia. We discuss the implications of these findings for future pedagogy with a highly diverse cohort.

Professor Lee Jerome

Students’ social segregation strategies in a super-diverse London university: Reflections on the naturalization and de-racialization of difference.

The contact hypothesis is often taken to suggest that more diverse institutions encourage more social mixing. The research evidence is mixed however, with some studies finding that when there is a White majority, Black and Minority Ethnic students often group together and thus exacerbate social divisions. Some have suggested that once there is no majority this ‘defensive’ strategy might be expected to diminish and a range of ethno-racially mixed relationships will flourish. By contrast, in this case study of a super-diverse programme in a London university, the students tended to group through choice along ethnic and religious lines. Whilst these students rarely chose to work with others and reported feeling uncomfortable when asked by lecturers to disrupt their self-selected groups, they also claimed that they got along with others in the class. In Vertovec’s terms this represents a form of ‘mutual differentiation’ in which group identity and boundaries have been sustained or strengthened, and this in turn raises the possibility that super-diverse institutions may continue to act as sites of ‘natural’ and ‘de-racialized’ social division where social mixing is rare. This indicates that even in very diverse settings students can develop a veneer of ‘everyday civil integration’ whilst finding deeper relationships uncomfortable or difficult, and that they may lack a critical language for recognising and engaging with that diversity.

Irfan Khan

International Relations and International Law

Many might agree that the world today, both at the level of the state and at the level of individual people, can generally be placed under one of two political theories; realism and idealism. Of course that is not to say there are other options available, but few could argue that these would be the main two political agendas of international relations, and each has a long tradition in scholastic and theological writings.

International law, on the other hand, has taken huge leaps in the last one hundred years, and there is now an extensive legal framework of custom, treaties and case law which makes up the vast substance of the modern international regime. Yet unfortunately, international law is all too often subordinated to the politics of international relations, to the extent that some have questioned whether international law is a legitimate field of law at all.

This presentation will look at  our ‘system of individual states’ and the manner in which they have aligned themselves within the ‘international society of states’, in order to contextualize them within the framework of either realism or idealism. The basic idea here is to see which of the two is the better theory, and what implications this has for the ever expanding system of international law and in particular human rights.

Clare O’Donoghue

Not That Book: Future Childcare and Education Professionals’ Awareness of and Attitudes towards Children’s Literature on Social Inclusion

The UK Equality Act (2010), mirroring the EU Equal Treatment Directives, obliges all childcare and educational institutions to actively promote positive attitudes to diversity and inclusion reflecting modern European values. Furthermore, childcare / educational institutions cannot reject disabled children if their parents wish to enrol them; gay adoption and  marriage are legal in the UK, resulting in children with non-traditional family structures attending nurseries and schools.  However, recognition in the legal code does not always mean social acceptance or  inclusion in the social fabric and artefacts of everyday life. White, monolingual, middleclass, heterosexual culture is dominant in the Early Years’ teaching body and children’s literature, necessitating awareness raising for pro-active inclusion. There is research work addressing cultural and gender representation in children’s literature and educational materials but little addressing staff attitudes to diversity. This paper reports on the attitudes of final year students on BA Primary Education / Early Childhood Studies / Education Studies degree programmes towards children’s picture books  promoting inclusion and diversity in the Early Years’ setting. The respondents are more diverse than national trends in terms of ethnicity, class and bilingualism but are still predominantly  heterosexual and largely female. This is a quantitative, questionnaire based study:  respondents analysed children’s picture books  promoting   aspects of inclusion and diversity,  rating them in terms of acceptability and usability. The individual / pair response was followed  by group discussion where further attitudinal notes were taken. Respondents were positive about books that promoted some aspects of diversity and inclusion but not others.


Dr. Alexandra Beauregard

Co -authors

Dr. Lilith Arevshatian,Kingston University Business School
Dr. Jonathan Booth, LSE Department of Management
Prof. Stephen Whittle, Manchester Law School

Unheard voices: Transgender individuals in organisations

Despite the increasing public presence of transgender (or‘trans’) individuals in entertainment and media settings, and growing protective legislation, few organizations have yet followed suit in paying greater attention to the needs of transgender members. This is particularly the case in the UK, where trans individuals are rarely mentioned in organisations’ diversity policies or statements. We review FTSE 100 firms’ websites and find that only 17% refer  directly to trans individuals. This invisibility of the trans population in both organizational communications and scholarship results in inaudibility. The goal of this paper is to explore the reasons why these voices are unheard, and the implications of not hearing them.

We propose that trans voices are missing for a number of reasons: voluntary silence to protect oneself from adverse circumstances; the subsumption of trans voices within the larger ‘LGBT’ community; issues of intersectionality, wherein many trans voices become affiliated with those of their post-transition gender; multiple trans voices arising from diversity within the transgender community; and limited access to voice mechanisms for transgender members of organisations. We identify the negative implications of being unheard for trans individuals, for organisational outcomes, and for organisational scholarship, and propose ways in which organisations can listen more carefully to trans voices. Finally, we introduce an agenda for future research that tests the applicability of the theoretical framework of invisible stigma disclosure to transgender individuals, and calls for new theoretical and empirical developments to identify challenges and best practices for respecting trans individuals and their choices to remain silent or be heard in organisations.

Dr. Alexandra Beauregard’s Publications and papers

 Ahmed Patel

UNDERSTANDING THINGS – The Dimensions of Constructed Narratives In Designed Artefacts

Design is universal. It is present in studios and in workshops; on the factory floor and down the supermarket aisle; in commercial advertising and packaging; in household appliances and items of clothing; in movie animations and mobile applications (Sparke, 2009). Everything is designed in one way or another, (Antonelli, 2005) containing layers of narratives whether evident or ambiguous.  Some stories are shaped meaningfully into an object whilst others are not; some fashioned pretentiously, others embedded; some to communicate the materiality and manufacturing techniques, whilst others express waste; some immediately recognisable, understandable and iconic, others more subtle and enigmatic. There has been increasing attention on the story behind the object (Duits, 2003) that can be as captivating as a biography and a whole new universe opens up, the moment we decide to become acquainted with them (Antonelli, 2005).

If the design that surrounds us reflects the way we are, then we need to become more rigorous in the way that we read its meaning (Redhead, 2000). The communication of the narrative can be regarded as the ‘gold-dust’ of design. The magic that enables one to inform, interact, develop and communicate ideas/innovations (Karanian & Kress, 2010) alongside initiate user experiences (Numa et al., 2009) and create meaning through engaging, conversing and analysing. Stories are like pearls, bits of reality now covered in countless glossy layers, (Koskinen et al., 2003) which shape the materiality of our surroundings in the evident and imperceptible, natural and artificial, blatant and indistinguishable. The disclosure of the rich glossy layers and its narrative facilitates the gaining of both former and contemporary knowledge, wisdom and information: a tool for entertaining, teaching and learning. Stories and narratives facilitate and improve design and mobilize innovation, (Karanian et al., 2010) alongside enabling a deeper, more intimate, multiplex interaction between human and objects (Sterling, 2005).

The layers of stories and meaning in design artefacts are becoming increasingly deliberated and interest in design growing steadily (Duits, 2003). Often behind things and their functions stand astonishing principles that challenge one to think and question (Clivio et al., 2009). Stories in design are no longer confined to communicating concepts or providing visual entertainment, but a design tool implemented by both individuals and industries alike.