Creating a collaborative ‘we’ in the MDD-group at ILU/NTNU

Exploring and considering issues, challenges, visions, and joys among employees in a music, dance and drama at the department of teacher education at NTNU.

The MDD-group at ILU/NTNU

By employees of the subgroup for music, dance and drama (MDD) at the Department of Teacher Education (ILU), NTNU.

Strengthening professional communities seems important for the working environment, for research quality and for knowledge development. Employees in subject specific groups at the universities can, like ours, be placed in different buildings or different floors (or also different campuses and cities). And thus, have no coffee machine, printer, lunchroom etc. as a given meeting place. Without the informal meeting points in everyday life at work, specific effort is needed to create and strengthen the professional communities. This text shares how we approached this, in the subgroup for music, dance, drama at the Department of Teacher Education, NTNU.

What does it take to develop a community? An identity? And a collective vision and agenda? These large questions were motivating and provoking for the employees in music, dance and drama at the department for teacher education at NTNU. This group, like others, was consolidated as a result of the merging between NTNU and the university college HiST in 2016, and through numerous new positions. From this, the group is comprised of various backgrounds, cultures, traditions and visions, with diverse academic, artistic, and subject specific qualifications, knowledge, and positions. The consolidation of MDD as a group has been both fruitful and demanding. It has not been without tension, and with a vision to take the frictions as a starting point, in 2021 the group decided to thematize the challenges, issues, differences and concerns the group was navigating. The intention of this conscious action was to work collaboratively to grow a respectful, inclusive and empowering community where our differences and sameness could be voiced and used as common power.

Gathering 1. (1. December 2021, Led by: Rose, Bjørn-Terje, Anne-Lise and Elin) Who are we as MDD and what are our values, strengths, and challenges? From this: What are our visions, goals, and ambitions for the MDD-group.

We started out with a first seminar on this, December 1st , 2021, with an individual task where we answered these three questions:

From this, we moved into small groups of 2-3 people where we presented our answers for each other. Lastly, we summarized what we had found, and worked together on the following questions.

On this first gathering we also carried out some artistic collaboration. Inspired of the Fluxusgroup, that was an international, interdisciplinary community of artists, composers, designers and poets during the 1960s and 1970s. We explored movements and music, bodies and instruments and improvised together a composition called “Swell piecewritten by (James Tenney). Challenging but funny, experimental and exploring and certainly a good aesthetic exercise in teamwork towards a common goal.

Gathering 2 (10. March 2022, Led by: Elin and Rose) Mine and our teaching responsibilities

At the second gathering, we focused our teaching responsibilities. After having worked together for several years, there was established some ‘un-spoken’ norms about who taught which courses, programs and students. First, we mapped out what courses and programs MDD took care of (MGLU, PPU, 2-year master, PhD-courses). It turned out there existed several courses, educations and teaching responsibilities that not all of us even knew about. From this, we had a round around the table, and wrote on the map that we had collaboratively created, our wishes and visions. These three questions worked as a start-up for the writing and further questions:

Gathering 3 (2. June, Led by: Sunniva, Egil and Rose)

The third gathering had two focuses. The first concerned inclusion/exclusion where we focused on our own experiences with inclusion and exclusion through drawing, sharing and discussing. We have a wide range of experiences of inclusion and exclusion, and some of us realized that we have been living a quite privileged life, not really felt excluded in any settings, while others had a variety of experiences in both inclusion and exclusion. Something that became obvious was that despite our experiences in inclusion and exclusion, none of us had been excluded due to skin-color, ethnic identification, or religion, as far as we discovered. This says something about us as a group as well. We are in general a quite privileged group where there is a lack of diversity due to ethnic identification, skin color and religious belonging, and this is something we wish to work actively to do something about. After a coffee-break we had tech-workshop, where we played around and made noise with different MIDI-controllers connected to computers. Many of us got a real kick out of it and did not at all want to stop playing around in this wonderful environment. From this, we discussed possibilities and pitfalls for technology as a means for inclusion and participation in music, in school and teacher education.

Gathering 4 (18. August, Led by: Egil and Rose)

The equipment and spaces that MDD has

Within this session the attention turned to the space around us. As a group we have the privilege of rooms and equipment dedicated to music, dance and drama. However, the awareness of what we as a group cared for and who took responsibility for this within the group was not as transparent as it could have been. We collectively identified the spaces and equipment we had, we mapped out a shared plan for looking after this moving forward, and then we went through a practical process of tidying and sorting the spaces and materials we had – a collective action to care for the spaces we work in.

Gathering 5 (22. September, Led by: Elin and Rose)

Research groups, a discussion and exploration & Planning course revisions

This gathering moved forward, focusing our participation and leading of research groups/projects and networks. First, we mapped out the diverse research groups that existed, related to the MDD-group at ILU. Then we answered these five questions individually, shared in pairs, and talked around them as a group. The experiences from participating in and leading such groups were quite diverse. Some of us have huge responsibilities as research group leaders/participants, others have less. There exist no precise guidelines on this kind of work. Sharing these experiences gave us a better view on the different practices, visions, and demands that the MDD-group holds, in research group responsibilities.

Gathering 6 (1. December, Led by: Sunniva, Egil and Rose)

This gathering was taking a step from what we do and where we feel we operate, into one of the issues we need to move into, as none of us feel that we sit with any expertise to educate our students satisfactory on Sámi musical and artistic knowledge systems and practices, even though we live in Southern Sápmi.

We focused the first half of the gathering on the following questions:

  • What have you been robbed of as a consequence of the Norwegian colonization of Sápmi?

  • How does it make you feel?

  • How does this affect your work?

We worked through discussions, sharing, drawing, scribbling and thinking forward for what we need to do.

Some felt they had been robbed of knowledge, connection to Norwegian Sami culture and population, sensitivity towards challenges people of Sápmi face, ways of doing music. Some didn’t feel they had been robbed of anything but that the lack of knowledge makes it difficult to teach music teacher students what they are obliged to teach their students. For some it was no feeling of being robbed as they have not been growing up in Norway, but a surprise of how little connection and knowledge there has been in the past on indigenous people in Norway. We came to the conclusion that this is a topic we have to work on thoroughly and fast. The first gathering in 2023 will therefor also be connected to Indigenous artistic knowledge systems and practices in Sápmi, with an aim of establishing a strategy to move forward for the whole group.

Sámi and indigenous knowledges and practices and MDD. Making a clear and concise collective vision.

At this gathering we also had to say goodbye to our dear MDD-leader, Professor Rose Martin, who from 2023 will head off to a new position as Dean at Nord University. Rose has been a driving force for these gatherings to happen, and for our community to grow in respectful, participatory, and creative ways. Thank you Rose for a magical journey!! We will miss you deeply and continue on these paths in following seminars gatherings

January 2023: Summing up and heading forward

To develop our community we have explored identities, visions, and hidden/formalized agendas. We have encountered ourselves, our nearest colleagues who was both more alike and different than what we might have thought. We have dived into our different backgrounds, cultures, and traditions, and learnt what they enable us and disable us to see, appreciate and grow. We have played, puzzled, written, spoken, laughed, and cried. This exploring has enabled us to grow a collective ‘we’ – with more insight and respect of each individual – and thus our groups different strengths and qualities. Hopefully this also contributes to making us more open, attentive, and respectful to our students, colleagues also outside the MDD-group, to pupils, teachers, schools and the society. With the frictions as a starting point, we have thematized some of our challenges, issues, and differences. We have several left, new gatherings are planned and we will continue. Creating a collective we seem never-ending, and luckily so, as it seems this exact process is the fuel for a living and developing group.