Feminist Critical Digital Pedagogy
The University Cannot Love You
A recent study of publishing on Covid-19 itself shows a precipitous decline in women’s participation in journal submissions, as does a review of submissions in political science (Dolan & Lawless, 2020; Pinho-Gomes et al., 2020); academic women are increasingly speaking out about their inability to do their jobs completely, not only due to unpaid labour at home but due to unrecognized pastoral care work within the university (Burzynska & Contreras, 2020; Gabster et. al., 2020). For many of us who work in educational technologies and faculty or student support, resisting or refusing care has an immediate and harmful impact on our colleagues and students. And so, as the work of care in the pivot to digital—both at home and at work—falls disproportionately on women, we find ourselves facing burnout. If we can’t trust the university’s capacity for care, what happens next? Rooted in feminist ethics of care thinking and an embodied approach to pedagogy and scholarship, this chapter reviews the most recent research into gendered participation in the academic labour force, care work, and the pressures on women academics at work and at home to argue urgently for a radical rethinking of how care is enacted within the university.
Reflection, Agency and Advocacy as Feminist Pedagogy
This chapter describes the evolution of one online class, Foundations of Environmental Education, which has typically been offered to graduate students at a liberal arts university in St Paul, Minnesota. The class, developed some 15 years ago by another faculty member, was originally structured in a traditional way, based on a teacher-student hierarchy, with teacher-identified outcomes, priorities, learning tasks, and assessments based on specific outputs defined and evaluated by the teacher. My position as an ecofeminist educator is that environmental education courses should be grounded in care, particularly since so many people are motivated to learn about and act on behalf of the environment as a result of their own positive feelings toward nature and animals. My belief was that the course needed a full deconstruction, reorganization and reconstruction grounded in an ethic of care. I wanted to disrupt the existing approach and move toward a more student-centered, care-oriented experience that valued students’ lived experience, their own passions and questions, and explored issues that they identified as important. I also wanted to facilitate their own process of self-evaluation, and free them from any pressure that a traditional grading structure had previously created. I discuss my process of reflecting on student agency, and my impressions of the traditional, hierarchical structure of the original class and its impact on the student experience. Further, I describe how I applied feminist pedagogical approaches to my course, and share excerpts from student reflections and responses to these changes. In conclusion, I describe the impact the shifts had on my teaching and thinking, and how I have used the process to help me apply these principles to additional courses I teach.
Virtually De-Centered and Radically Hopeful
In Fall 2020, Pratt Institute's (US) Center for Teaching and Learning facilitated and participated in a Deep Dive Community on Feminist Pedagogies (FemPed Deep Dive Community). This fully online faculty development series used online platforms for collaborative research, conversations, community building and engagement. The program brought together a diverse faculty group from nine departments to examine readings on feminist pedagogy, apply critical lenses to classroom and administrative work, and set the task of enacting a Reflective Action Plan. The goal of the Plan was to both look back at the labor completed and its implications, and become part of a larger institutional tradition based in real action as individuals in our classroom practice and as a group in this Community, the first of its kind. Our chapter provides an experiential reflection on this virtual FemPed Deep Dive Community as our case study along with an exploration of practices that we have implemented in our community. We showcase how we put the pedagogical suggestions of “Don't Hate Me Because I'm Virtual” by Chick and Hassel (2009) into practice with colleagues as we gathered online. We reflect on the larger implications and what they mean for online teaching practices as well other feminist-pedagogy-inspired virtual faculty learning communities or groups.
Agency and Reciprocity in Digital Education
In this chapter, I share the lessons I learned while sewing handmade kamiks with my mother-in-law, an Inuvialuk elder. Drawing on the work of Ursula Franklin, I compare the holistic technologies of sewing in communities with the prescriptive technologies of mass production used to produce boots. Using this boot-kamik analogy, I explore the dynamics of mainstream prescriptive technologies that normalize neoliberalism and a culture of compliance by adopting automation, algorithms, surveillance and data tracking throughout educational systems at a massive scale. I then consider how women-led indigenous knowledge systems and technologies, in the form of needles, sinews might challenge digital educators to pursue more holistic, smaller-scale alternatives that acknowledge situated context, enable reciprocity and value direct experience.
Feminist-Oriented, Mixed Methods Action Research
In this chapter, I explore the potential for mixed methods action research critically evaluated from a feminist orientation to expand feminist knowledge building in online higher education programs, curriculum and instruction, in particular online grading and feedback processes. My approach is simultaneously reflective and forward focused. I also explore how digital tools might be used as part of this broader research approach to both promote and support feminist pedagogy and thinking. A recent mixed methods action research study that explored the impact of a web-based comment bank intervention on online pedagogy serves as a site of critical inquiry.