Critical Resistance and Underground Teaching: a #digped Discussion

This Friday, August 1 from 12:00 – 1:00pm Eastern, Hybrid Pedagogy will host a Twitter discussion under the hashtag #digped to consider ways to enact what Kris Shaffer calls “underground teaching”. Critical pedagogy calls for our teaching to be ethical, to strengthen agency in our students, and to abdicate the authority of the podium in our classrooms. But this isn’t always easy given institutional expectations and restrictions on how we teach. As Kris says in his article, “Three Lines of Resistance: Ethics, Critical Pedagogy, and Teaching Underground”,

As a critical pedagogue, I can go along with something less effective much more easily than with something that goes against my newly pricked conscience. So when I disagree fundamentally with the direction something is headed, but am powerless to change it singlehandedly, what do I do? Do I forget about it and wash my hands of the situation? Do I leave in disgust? Do I bide my time until I can really do something? (And hope it doesn’t get worse in the mean time!) Do I try to make incremental changes, appeasing my conscience with the knowledge that I am improving things, albeit slowly?

Finding ways to implement changes that make a difference, that begin to get at a pedagogy more in line with our ideals, can be a challenge.

In fact, we’ve often faced this challenge within our #digped chats themselves. As often happens, we begin with a premise that we’ll consider education through a critical lens. No matter how optimistically we may set out to accomplish this, conversations sometimes turn pessimistic, with participants expressing frustration about how changes can’t take place at their institutions because of _______________ [administrative control] [state-mandated curricula] [the contingent nature of their jobs]. Each one of these — and many other obstacles not mentioned here — may or may not prevent small changes from taking place. What’s most important is that they keep the conversation about solutions from happening.

In her article, “Hybrid by Choice: Increasing Engagement in a High Enrollment Course”, Catherine Amoroso Leslie illustrates the technique of creating optional online content to replace in-class discussions for students unable to come to the face-to-face class. She states about this innovation that it “presents one possible innovation to that model, starting the process and championing the sentiment that agency must be granted in any reasonable way possible for progress to be made.” In this week’s #digped chat, we want to begin the conversation not with the obstacles, but with ideas for making progress in any reasonable way possible.

Here are some questions to consider in advance of the conversation:

  1. What successes have you had? How have you innovated under the radar?
  2. Should we be trying to teach underground? What are the benefits of taking advantage of whatever autonomy we can muster, and what drawbacks might we face?
  3. How do we utilize communities like this #digped community, or other professional learning networks, to make these efforts not only more successful, but also more expansive?
  4. When teaching underground isn’t enough, how do we begin to reach out to the administration and the bureaucracy of education to make change?

If you are interested in these and other related questions, please join us on August 1 at 12:00pm EST. For those unable to join the conversation this week, Hybrid Pedagogy’s #digped recurs monthly, on the first Friday of every month. So our next #digped conversation will occur on Friday, September 5, same time, same place. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments on this entry or tweet them to @slamteacher or @hybridped.

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