Collaging for Social Justice by Marcellus C. Taylor

The work of social justice requires a proclivity to situations of vulnerability and introspection. Often the discussion of social justice-related topics end in fatigue and further disagreements (Furman, 2012; Shields, 2010). Colleges and universities must develop engaging pathways that allow for an introductory conversation to the beauty and complexity of social justice. The methods of collaging and collage quilting can serve as initiators of a continual conversation on humanity, dignity and inclusion. In my experience these activities have created change in the minds of folks who purposefully, (or unintentionally), were neutral, (or opposed), to the concepts of social justice.

Heron (1992) suggest that there are multiple ways of knowing of which presentational knowing is one of them. According to (Yorks and Kasl, 2002),  Presentational  Knowing is “the intuitive grasp of the significance of imaginal patterns as expressed in graphic, plastic, moving, musical, and verbal art forms” (pg. 187). Collaging is the “process of using fragments of found images or materials and gluing them to a flat surface to portray phenomena” (Butler-Kisber & Poldma, 2011 pg. 2). Collage quilting happens when multiple collages are placed together to form a single image. Collaging grew in its artistic popularity in the  early 20th century in part due to the artistry of Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp (Davis & Butler-Kisber, 1999).

The process described below highlights my use of collaging and collage quilting as an introductory conversation for social justice. After the collage and collage quilting activity had concluded, I led a brief (20 minutes) talk on the historical underpinnings of social justice movements in America, I also gave out resources that students/participants could use for independent study of the topic. Finally, I made fliers of events and activities on campus that would further increase their knowledge and practical understanding of the phenomena collaging and collage quilting are not the only ways to lead an introductory workshop on social justice, but it can be a transformative process for all participants.

The Collage Making Process

1) Each student / participant was asked to bring a magazine to the session/workshop from any genre. I encourage the facilitator to bring at minimum 10-15 for different genres.

2) I (the facilitator) provided the paper for collaging.  I used an 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 paper that I cut down from the original 8 1/2 x 11 size.

3) At beginning of the session/workshop I asked students an overarching question


What is social justice?

Who is social justice for?

What do you know about racism in America?

4 ) After I  asked the question, I  gave each student/participant a  8 1/2 x 8 1/2  paper.  I encourage you to use multiple colors it adds to the aesthetics.

5) I then challenged each participant to use the magazines and design a collage as their way of answering the question from above. I told them that they could cut out images, words or a combination of both and glue them to the 8 1/2 x 8 ½ aforementioned.

6)  I allowed time for participants to design their collage. I suggest a minimum of twenty minutes and a maximum of forty minutes.

7) After all the students/participants finished their collage, I went around the room and asked them to share out about their collage and how it answers the overarching question. I recommend that the facilitator share their collage after students/participants share out.

The Collage Quilt Making Process

After everyone shares out,

1) I place each collage on a large white paper. I used a gigantic roll of white paper as the background for the quilt.

Before you place the collages on the “quilt “, I would write a hashtag at the top of the “quilt”, this allows for post collage engagement and can be a tool to bring in voices from outside the session/workshop

2) I then placed them by rows of 3 (the below image is 3×4).  If you have an odd number you can play around with the design or the facilitator can make more than one.

 For ease of facilitation, the facilitator(s) should make their collage(s) before the session/workshop.

3) After the collage quilt was completed I asked each student/participant to note any themes they see on the collage quilt.

You can discuss the importance of themes and how a collection of various ways of knowing can lead to community building and understanding. 

Materials List

1) Glue Sticks

2) Scissors

3) Magazines

4) 8 1/2 x 81/2 paper cut outs (You should have enough for each student/ participant and a few extra).

5) Large White Paper Roll

6) Painters tape to hang the collage

7) Good Working Music for when participants are collaging, I use the musical playlist from the film Hidden Figures

Figure 1: A Collage Quilt centered on the theme of curriculum

 Quilt M. Taylor.png


Marcellus C. Taylor serves the Penn State Harrisburg Community as the Assistant Director of Student Life in the Office of Student Life & Intercultural Programs. He received his master of education in Training and Development from Penn State Harrisburg and is currently pursuing a doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his role at Penn State Harrisburg, he is an Empowerment Coach and author. His research interest is in the areas of Black males in educational doctorate programs and the impact of Student Affairs practices on Black male undergraduate holistic development. . To contact Marcellus please email


Butler-Kisber, L., & Poldma, T. (2011). The power of visual approaches in qualitative inquiry: The use of collage making and concept mapping in experiential research. Journal of Research Practice, 6(2), 18.

Davis, D., & Butler-Kisber, L. (1999). Arts-based representation in qualitative research: Collage as a contextualizing strategy. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting, Montreal, Quebec (session 1)

Furman, G. (2012). Social justice leadership as praxis: Developing capacities through preparation programs. Educational Administration Quarterly, 48(2), 191-229.

Heron, J. (1992). Feeling and personhood: Psychology in another key. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Shields, C. M. (2010). Transformative leadership: Working for equity in diverse contexts. Educational administration quarterly, 46(4), 558-589.

Yorks, L., & Kasl, E. (2002). Toward a theory and practice for whole-person learning: Reconceptualizing experience and the role of affect. Adult Education Quarterly, 52(3), 176-192.

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