Dr Craig Hammond

School of Education

'Utopian Pedagogy’ Creative disruption and transformative student engagement

Research/discipline focus:  I have written the curricula for the level 6/BA module ‘Informal and Non-formal Education’, and level 7/MA module ‘Critique, Power and Transformation in Education’ to include my “constructively disruptive” utopian pedagogic practices. Both modules consistently achieve 100% satisfaction scores on student module evaluations: Naiara, a recent MA student evidence’s the value of this pedagogy:

Throughout my various courses of academic study, I have been provided with opportunities to learn from educators with a passion for their discipline; rarely have I been fortunate enough to meet “magic-weavers”, educators who inspire students in ways that continue to resonate and impact long after teaching has finished. Craig is one such “magic-weaver”, he provided an invaluable pedagogic experience based on personalised and democratic connections to culture and transformative learning (Naiara Unzurrunzaga, MA, 2020).   

My level 6 and 7 ‘utopian pedagogy’ students achieve significant levels of excellence and value by drawing upon my successful pedagogic research; I facilitate inspired commitments to learning through transformative encounters and engagements with theories and concepts. My disruptive innovations initiate students to practice personal and diverse reflections through expressionistic discovery, by engaging with the concepts of punctum, dérive, and détournement. Dylan, a recent MA student evidence’s the LGBTQI+ reach, value, and impact of my pedagogy:

The pedagogic experience on Craig’s MA module was very powerful; it enabled me to incorporate the TV series: RuPaul's ‘Drag Race’. I connected to a scene where a contestant announced that they wanted to leave a legacy for boys who were teased, bullied, and made to feel too afraid to express their authentic identity. This was a moment of pure emotion for me; I utilised Barthes’ concept of punctum to explore my intense and underlying reaction to the scene; through memories of my younger self, and the lack of support and conflict that emerged from my family. This was a unique, disruptive, hopeful and transformative educational experience, affording me a space to talk about and express an otherwise hidden voice (Dylan Pritchard, MA, 2019).

My utopian pedagogy cracks open and makes accessible every day and constructive encounters with philosophical concepts, popular culture, and pedagogy; my approach creates a supportive environment that facilitates inclusive and empowered student-led practice. By utilising and critically interpreting particularistic experiences of culture, subjective spontaneities and multidirectional shifts in meaning, rhythm, and biography can – and do – emerge. In this way, my pedagogic space, culture-infused memory work and autoethnographic storytelling, generates the emergence of hidden identities, struggles, and transgressive experiences of oppression. The institutional reach of my utopian pedagogy is evidenced through the following value statement from Karen, a level 6 student: 

Utopian pedagogy spoke of unlocking potential; I really enjoyed engaging with this, as it introduced me to different philosophies and allowed me to realise that education means more than just acquiring knowledge; that it is also about empowering people to improve personally and become politically active. Not only did this pedagogy help me to think about myself in different ways, it nurtured my creativity and capacity for independent and critical thinking (Karen Blackwood, BA, 2020).

The inclusive reach, value, and impact of my utopian pedagogic in relation to successful outcomes with less advantaged and non-traditional students, is further evidenced by Karen. She graduated with a first-class honours in 2020 and I continued to work with her to develop her ideas and pursue postgraduate study. During 2021, I assisted Karen with an application for a fully funded PhD studentship at LJMU. Her proposal – submitted in October 2021 – had the title, ‘Playing the field: diverse postgraduate students’ experiences of Higher Education’. I am extremely pleased that Karen’s application was successful. I supported her to impactfully progress from gaining a first-class degree to securing a fully funded PhD studentship; a powerful student outcome that demonstrates excellence and value. I will continue to support Karen as part of this project as her Director of Studies. Adapting the reach of my utopian pedagogy, the project will investigate diverse postgraduate students’ experiences of Higher Education. Utilising in-depth explorations of autoethnographic stories and lived experiences, non-traditional HE postgraduate students (BAME, LGBTQI+, carers, mature and disabled students), will be afforded a voice.

I aim to facilitate success for all students but derive particular pride from enabling students from non-traditional backgrounds to fulfil their potential. As with Karen’s successful outcome, my previous MA student Naiara (quoted above), successfully secured a fully funded PhD studentship at the University of Liverpool in 2020. In June 2021 Naiara emailed me to explain that her experience of my utopian pedagogy, along with the conceptual introductions to Roland Barthes, the Situationists and bell hooks, has enabled her to explore the possibility of alternative and empowering approaches to education (as part of her PhD).

How have you included and used your research to shape, develop, share, discuss, interrogate, and experiment within your subject: Over the last two years, I have been developing a range of concepts and pedagogic practices. This commenced in June 2019 when I presented a blog and twitter chat for the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education online Community #LTHE. The title of the blog and discussion was: A Catechism for Oedipus: The Need for Pedagogies of Freedom, Creativity and Discovery in Higher Education (Hammond, 2019) The blog, twitter chat, and feedback from participants consolidated my interest in further developing these ideas. In brief, I reinterpret the main characters and themes from Sophocles’ myth Oedipus and offer these as adaptations for conceiving of and developing alternative pedagogic practice.