Antiracist Practice in Study Abroad HE Programs (Bonus Post)

Recently, Dean DePauw announced a call for applications for the “Future Professoriate: Global Perspectives” study abroad program.” From the first time I heard Dean DePauw describing the Future Professoriate Graduate Certificate and mentioning the study abroad opportunity, my ears perked up and I was all in. Besides my love for travel, I always wanted to engage in study abroad since high school but finances, GPA, or courseload provided many missed opportunities. I knew that a study abroad trip would allow me to engage in experiences I would not otherwise experience while in the United States of America. The “Global Perspectives” program is another chance to fulfill my study abroad dreams, and this time, none of the factors that held me back in the past are factors today. Unfortunately for other minorities financial, GPA, and other concerns are still a reality of debilitating factors when hoping to engage in study abroad.

In “Can study abroad advance antiracism in international HE?,” Motun Bolumole and Nicole Barone (2020) are concerned argue that although study abroad programs are said to extend students’ world view they in fact perpetuate racism. A couple of these concerns are that (1) minority students face discrimination by their peers while on study abroad trips, and (2) 70% of study abroad participants are white students. Bolumole and Barone propose universities provide funding for minority students who would not otherwise be able to participate in study abroad and reconsider GPA requirements. Also, universities should develop an antiracist curriculum for study abroad that provides antiracist learning objectives.

I noticed that the Global Perspectives program has prerequisites that help students develop a cultural lens/worldview of higher education prior to attending the trip. Students are required to take a future professoriate and contemporary pedagogy course, and both courses have discussions about diversity, inclusion, and implicit bias as well as learning about international higher education. These courses are the first step towards an antiracist curriculum. Next, students accepted into the program must attend a series of sessions as further preparation.

This article helps elucidate the underlying racism in study abroad programs that we may otherwise overlook as oppressive to a community when we’re in a position of privilege.

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Reference:

“Can study abroad advance antiracism in international HE?” by Motun Bolumole and Nicole Barone (2020)

https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20201104095902644

The Future of Diversity at U.S.A Universities

In Spring 2020, I started to take issue with how universities are addressing diversity concerns and whether or not the needs of minority students are being addressed to mitigate mental health issues. I believe the future of the university within the United States is entangled with issues birthed from systemic racism.

According to NCES (2020), 43% of hate crimes on college campuses are racially motivated. Minority students continue to experience pervasive racism in academic spaces. To address racist incidents, predominantly white institutions (PWIs) use campus climate surveys to measure student demographics and capture insight into student experiences. I argue that climate surveys perpetuate racism by what Hoffmann (2020) calls “data violence.” Data violence is data science and technology that facilitates material and symbolic violence. I posit that the method by which universities use climate surveys perform data violence by perpetuating racism and collecting culturally insensitive information about multiply-marginalized communities. I am reviewing existing research in technical and professional communication (TPC), higher education, and other disciplines concerned with imbued racism in data collection and recruitment efforts. The research I will move forward with will help me reimagine an anti-racist data collection and response process that will hold institutions accountable to multiply-marginalized communities.

If universities continue to invest in diversity recruitment initiatives, they also need to ensure that they invest in inclusive climate initiatives. Currently, universities track their diversity initiatives with climate surveys. I do not believe that surveys are the right tool for supporting multiply-marginalized students as they attend PWIs for multiple reasons. Surveys lack the required expediency to address critical campus climate issues; they use classification structures that are oppressive and lead to data violence.

Scholars such as Aimee Kendall Roundtree (2016) examines TPC programs’ desire to have diverse students in the field, reflecting the diversity of the global industry. To that end, Roundtree identifies effective recruitment strategies for possible implementation by TPC. Some impediments to diversity recruitment include “inadequate financial resources and lack of commitment to recruitment efforts and policies are common obstacles” (p.3). Roundtree highlights issues linked to diversity recruitment, and my research will build on her work by confronting issues with the inclusion efforts.

I engaged in preliminary research by analyzing my university’s climate surveys, and in my noticings, survey participants were subjected to polarizing identity classifications. Johnson et al. (2018) caution the use of classifications because they “[seek] to segment the world,” whereas “standardization is an attempt to connect the communities of practice” (p.64). Furthermore, I yield to Hoffman’s insight that “inclusion discourses can further rather than subvert vulnerability” (p.2) as data violence through the classification of identities reproduces stereotypes and othering. As a graduate employee of my university’s Reimagining Diversity Initiative, I benefit from access to various survey data to sharpen my critique on understanding the implications of classifications in climate surveys and other harmful language. As I foreground my research with scholars in TPC and other disciplines, I seek out how universities should collect and use climate data that centers the needs of their multiply-marginalized students.

I say all that to say—I look forward to how the American university continues to tackle diversity issues.


References:

Hoffmann, A. L. (2020). Terms of inclusion: Data, discourse, violence. new media & society, 1461444820958725.

Johnson, M. A., Simmons, W. M., & Sullivan, P. (2017). Lean technical communication: Toward sustainable program innovation. Routledge.

Roundtree, A. K. (2016). Program Recruitment.

Critical Pedagogy: This is Real Life!

In “Teaching As An Act of Love: The Classroom and Critical Praxis,” Antonia Darder (2002) draws from Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and the concept of teaching as an act of love is directly connected to educators who have passion for teaching to the extent that they may have had a lifelong dream to teach.

As a child I would always hear, “wait until you experience the real-world,” and it was my understanding that the real-world experience would occur post my undergraduate college experience or upon entering the working world as an adult. Because I was conditioned to think of the real world in this way, I sustained that same pattern of thought. As an adult, I found myself repeating the same thing to younger generations: “wait until you experience the real world.” With a passion to teach in higher education, I intended to influence the next generation by preparing them for—you guessed it—the real world. Friere’s perspective is that “anywhere where human beings are congregated and engaged in relations of power (as they are in schools) constitutes a real-world experience” (p. 98). Friere is absolutely right! I think somewhere in my mind I envisioned higher education as a microcosm of real-world experiences that encompass greater risks to our quality of life. The lack of consideration for higher ed as the real-world can impact the lens students use in learning new knowledge—students not forming their own connections between lessons and applicability of those lessons to their lives. Perhaps as instructors, we are working harder to incorporate “real-world applications” because we demarcated the academy from the rest of the world.

I am excited about Friere’s work because he demystifies ideologies we live by as pedagogues. Unfortunately, he made recommendations and expressed concerns with oppressive pedagogy over 50 years ago, and we have still managed to maintain these bad habits as standards. For example, earlier in the semester, we read Ellen Langer’s (2000) “Mindful Learning,” which discussed an approach where learning is framed as fun using play as a teaching method. Friere refutes learning as only fun in that students will face difficult concepts and educators should be prepared to support difficult moments. Essentially, learning isn’t consistently experienced as fun, which aligns with a real-world experience—-life isn’t always fun. We face challenges and ideally, we’re prepared to face them. As educators, we can help students understand how to manage the ebbs and flows of our reality because academia is the real-world. In critical pedagogy, I grasped the importance of embracing humanity in our experiences to meet the real needs of our students. Our pedagogy affects our student’s real lives.

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References:

Darder, A. (2002). Teaching as an act of love: The classroom and critical praxis. Reinventing Paulo Freire: A pedagogy of love, 91-149.

Langer, E. J. (2000). Mindful learning. Current directions in psychological science, 9(6), 220-223.

A Look at MOOCs and the Traditional Classroom

As I started to conduct research to find articles about how faculty in higher education are using or reacting to social media, MOOCs, or disruptive technologies, I could not find articles written within the past two years. Most articles were published around 2012 and as recent as 2016. I wonder if faculty are no longer having active discussions about digital pedagogy because many have accepted social media, MOOCs, and other technologies as ways to reimagine their pedagogical practices. Also, the articles I did find closely related to this topic, the faculty were situated in a country outside the United Studies working to implement social media or technologies. For example, “Utilization of social media platforms for educational purposes among the faculty of higher education with special reference to Tamil Nadu” by Vivakaran and Neelamalar (2018) is situated in India.

I read Elizabeth Losh’s “Introduction” in MOOCs and Their Afterlives: Experiments in Scale and Access in Higher Education (2017), and Losh states that the New York Times declared 2012 “the year of the MOOC,” which may explain why I noticed scholarship on this topic circa 2012. In this chapter, Losh elucidates the long-standing history of innovative education that often took the form of a mobile structure to make education accessible to those unable to attend the traditional classroom, as an act of social justice. Social media, MOOCs, and other technologies, in the same way, provide an alternative to the traditional classroom that makes certain knowledge-bases more accessible especially in the advent of mobile technologies. Some of the noted concerns regarding MOOCs is that they challenge the power dynamics between student and instructor as well as concepts of knowledge generation. Losh explains that MOOCs are in use by some to improve low retention rates by connecting traditional classroom elements with MOOC methods. Additionally, MOOCs facilitate inclusion for student participation in instances where students may otherwise be marginalized because of their identities in a traditional classroom. Lastly, this book is concerned with how copyrights are challenged when students are sharing work (like in a photography course) or instructors sharing course materials.

Prior to reading about MOOCs, I was familiar with Coursera because my mother heard about it and recommended that my niece consider taking available courses, but I did not know it was defined as a “MOOC.” I understand how faculty can consider social media, MOOCs, and other technologies as disruptive to the traditional classroom. But, now that we are moving further away from a traditional classroom, especially with how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced education to an online presence, I think it’s beneficial to incorporate concepts from digital pedagogy into our current pedagogical practices.

Reference:

Losh, E. (Ed.). (2017). MOOCs and their afterlives: Experiments in scale and access in higher education. University of Chicago Press.

A Glance At Digital Pedagogy

After reading “Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1: Beyond the LMS,” Morris’ statement “not every teacher is a pedagogue,…pedagogy is a scholarship unto itself,…[and] pedagogy is also different from the study of education” immediately grabbed my attention because a research interest I intended to take up at the onset of my doctoral studies was pedagogy. In my naivete, I assumed pedagogy (or in my mind “how to teach”) would come by nature of pursuing my doctoral degree with a graduate teaching assistantship. Morris’ statement helped me to frame what pedagogy is and its value in the field. I am now left to make a real decision about my pursuits with a new understanding of pedagogy.

I agree with Morris’ concern about learning management systems (LMS) that “classes taught within its structure generally land with a dull thud.” If we think about the discussion board feature, it is not as dynamic as an instructor would hope. In my experience, students are not actively engaging with the discussion board thread to maintain an ongoing discussion about a particular topic. Often, the instructor will pose a question and the students will respond according to the number of times required by the assignment. Maybe it’s the LMS platform and the requirement to log in to see the status of the discussion and provide input. Social media platforms work well because of the notification feature; the sites are designed to keep you engaged even when you’re not thinking about the discussion threads. Basically, discussion boards within the LMS are a “set it and forget it” feature, which begs the question, are students learning from the discussion board interaction? Morris would argue that the LMS, in this instance, is controlling the learning/lesson and may not be the best method for what the learning outcome.

From my understanding, digital pedagogues are not bound by the LMS but taking advantage of the boundless digital landscape to support students’ learning and pedagogical strategies are organic according to what the students need in any given class. Digital pedagogues are willing to take a deep dive into digital epistemologies.

In “Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 2: (Un)Mapping the Terrain,” Jesse Stommel states “the digital pedagogues teach her tools, doesn’t let them teach her.” Stommel elucidates that the digital pedagogue does not conform to the digital tools, like the LMS, but extends the digital tool to help students’ understanding—not allowing the LMS to shape pedagogical strategies. Stommel draws from Fyfe to describe digital pedagogy as a “pedagogy of hacking.” I extend this metaphor in that hackers expose vulnerabilities in systems, and to view digital pedagogues as hackers would mean that digital pedagogues expose pedagogical failures to improve pedagogical strategies in the digital landscape. Lastly, I think it is important to make note that digital pedagogues dismantle educational hierarchies that obstruct the learning exchange between teacher and student. I am curious about ways to grow as an instructor and will incorporate what I have gleaned from Morris and Stommel about digital pedagogues.

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References:

“Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1: Beyond the LMS” by Sean Michael Morris
https://hybridpedagogy.org/decoding-digital-pedagogy-pt-1-beyond-the-lms/

“Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 2″: (Un)Mapping the Terrain”
https://hybridpedagogy.org/decoding-digital-pedagogy-pt-2-unmapping-the-terrain/