Becoming a Newman Foundation Year Student: Conscientization to Promote Democratic Engagement, Meaningful Dialogue and Co-operative Working
Reflecting the University’s commitment to social justice and student formation, Newman’s newly created Foundation Year in Social Sciences adopted a particular approach to programme delivery through committing to the principles of critical pedagogy. It was an intentional programme design to support transition into and across programmes. However unlike many traditional approaches to ‘study skills’ with deficit models of student development, it seeks to foster in students an awareness of the subtle injustices legitimised by the current education system: what Paulo Freire calls ‘conscientização’ or conscientization. Embedded within the curriculum of this new Foundation Year is an unequivocal invitation to students to challenge the structural inequalities that had previously operated to constrain their educational choices. This article is an exploration of the extent to which the first cohorts of students and staff have experienced this and reflects on the development of our programme. This contributes to the discussion of the approaches required in Foundation Year provision to create truly transformative student experiences. Taking a Frierean approach also entailed being committed to promoting democratic engagement, meaningful dialogue and co-operative working. Students are actively involved in the evaluation of the programme throughout, and through participatory workshops at the end of the programme. The learning we share here from working with our students includes vignettes from two 2017/18 Foundation Year students, Phoebe and Kaece, who offer their experiences of navigating University study via the Foundation Year.