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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


The Power of Multiple Voices: The Story Behind Reclaiming Education

Elizabeth J. Wood.

This paper is complementary to the workshop Reclaiming Education. In that Performance/Paper in Multiple Voices, a poetic rendering of the project is presented. This paper, instead, will explore the project's theoretical and philosophical underpinnings. It will investigate, concretely, the ways in which the project mapped out an alternative to the traditional university learning environment, detailing, describing, and analysing the process.

The project Reclaiming Education was undertaken between September and December, 2002, in the Faculty of Education at McGill University. It originated as a result of the initiative of 7 students: Chadwick Barnes, Andrea Galway, Joshua Novis, Aynsley O'Carroll, Alelia Parenteau, Jennifer Sweer, and Kaya Taché-Green, advanced-level students who sought an alternative to the traditional university course. With social justice concerns at its core, Reclaiming Education democratically developed the theoretical and practical content, goals, and practices of the course itself, embedding within it an innovative community-based project. Together, we created a learning environment in which all voices – both the professor's and the students' – were present and determinant at every level of the educational process.

Emergent themes include the role of power relations in the learning group, communication, and the challenges faced when responsibility for learning is reappropriated by students. The results not only challenged and transformed traditional university practices for these students, but may provide a model for the development of future projects.

As noted above, whereas the complementary Performance / Paper in Multiple Voices is one venue for portraying this challenging yet rewarding journey, this paper explores more deeply the theoretical framework in which the project can be situated.


Elizabeth J. Wood  (Canada)
Associate Professor
Integrated Studies in Education
McGill University

Elizabeth Wood is Director of Undergraduate Programs at McGill University. Her teaching and research are situated at the intersection of education, the arts, and social justice. She is recipient of several awards for distinguished teaching and is author of numerous articles on contemporary art.

  • Transformative Education
  • Critical Pedagogy
  • Arts-based Methodology
  • Student-centred Learning

(30 min Conference Paper, English)