Reflection, Agency and Advocacy as Feminist Pedagogy: Rethinking Online Environmental Education
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.