Third Space

Parachuting in an African postgraduate into the classroom to provide authenticity, and avoid the propagation of misunderstandings and misconceptions, is insufficient without an environment conducive to new learning. The active learning approaches used in the delivery of the African Voices programmes provided the space and time for pupils to engage directly with their African teacher to find out for themselves, first hand, honest and informed answers to the questions they wanted to ask. Homi Bhabha envisaged this learning taking place in a ‘Third Space’ where teachers and learners are prepared to acknowledge their own perceptual baggage, set it aside and engage with new information without prejudice or unconscious bias (Martin & Griffiths, 2011).

Bhabha adds to our understanding of what a postcolonial, intercultural space for learning might be like through his concept of ‘Third Space’. During an intercultural conversation, individuals occupy their own cultural space; it is only by stepping out of this space into the space between, that learning from the dialogue can take place. It is incumbent on both parties to do this and to create a Third Space in which new meanings and understandings can emerge. (Martin & Griffiths, 2011, p15)

This also applied to the African postgraduates recruited to deliver the African Voices programmes. It would be wrong to assume that they could engage equitably just because they were from Africa as they had their own perceptual baggage to acknowledge. The legacy of European colonialism influenced their perceptions of the UK and meant that they could also hold misunderstandings and misconceptions that could unintentionally propagate stereotypical views. In this respect, the training of the African postgraduates was vitally important. In addition to preparing them to deliver the activity programmes, the training also provided an opportunity for the African postgraduates to explore their own perceptual baggage in preparation for entering this ‘Third Space’ with the pupils in the classroom.

In the absence of an African Postgraduate to enter this ‘Third Space’ with the pupils the class teacher must fulfil this role on their behalf. For the learning to be successful it is incumbent on the teacher to set aside their own perceptual baggage as well.


Martin, F., & Griffiths, H. 2012. Power and representation: a postcolonial reading of global partnerships and teacher development through North–South study visits.  British educational research journal, 38(6), pp. 907-927.