This line of questions continues some of the thoughts from hooks and last week's online discussion, but also takes them in a new direction.
- Do you think it is appropriate and/or useful to present material related to pedagogy, and particular feminist and/or liberatory pedagogy in the classroom? If so, when? What kinds of classes or for what kinds of students? And, have any of you had instructors who intentionally included readings or lessons about collective learning and pedagogy? If so, how did it work out?
I ask this because it seems to me that, if one truly wants to have a more democratic classroom, then it might be both ethical and useful to actually bring this to your students in a more formal way. I am torn between two different sentiments about the instructor/student relationship in this context. On one hand, I fee that it's an instructor's decision to decide how best to achieve the aims of the class, and perhaps that means not having students know why they are doing certain things (like group projects, sitting in a circle, blogs, grades for participation, etc), that in some way maybe knowing the ends would jeopardize being able to achieve them. On the other hand, it seems that this is a very instructor-centric and undemocratic way to go about it. Particularly when "normative" education does not often articulate the why behind its methods, perhaps incorporating pedagogical strategies into our classes will help students think more critically about education as a process.
And it also would demonstrate that some things that "we" do differently than hegemonic education processes are not merely the whim of an instructor, which I think they are often viewed to be. I think that maybe we should be more transparent about why and how we use feminist/liberatory pedagogy. And perhaps it is a bad assumption that the moves we make to democratize the learning process will be understood (correctly) by the students. Finally, what kinds of challenges would this present in different kinds of classroom environments? What would it mean to communicate to and with students of all ages and locations about why we are doing things one way instead of another?
I have only had a couple, very brief encounters in which the instructor shared literature and/or ideas about pedagogy in the classroom, and I was a Women's Studies major. I was fortunate enough to have classes that generally did things more progressively than is typical, but it wasn't until one instructor actually articulated the why behind it that I understood these choices as political ones, and not necessarily about the disciple or teacher's preference.
- Along the same lines, what are your experiences as a student or teacher with collaborative syllabus planning? Have you ever had an opportunity as a student to revise or contribute to a course's plan? As an instructor, have you ever opened the door to this kind of input? Do you think that this is a logical extension of democratizing the learning experience? Or is it foolish or unfeasible or something else all together?
In high school, I spent a year as an exchange student in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I attended a Danish high school I was confused and a bit shocked when, in the first week of school, we helped decide what it was we wanted to learn that year. Yes, there was a lot less flexibility in Physics and Pre-Calculus, and other classes had certain requirements. For example, in Art we had to choose one technical skill (we chose figure drawing - yes nude models in the high school!), one 19th century movement (Pre-Raphealites) and one 20th century (Graffiti). The same happened in our geography, Danish lit, English lit, and French courses. I can't really explain how bizarre yet wonderful this felt to me, as a 16 year old who had come from a very tightly controlled public school system.
What possibilities do you see for this in your own field and with your own students? Clearly there are some technical difficulties in different locations (like preparing students for mandated exams), but I wonder if our hesitance to do so comes more from fear of losing control or the fear of acknowledging the limits to our knowledge and expertise?