My teaching is informed by critical, feminist, and decolonial theories. Critical pedagogy prioritizes dialogic approaches that allow students to problematize social issues, identify strategies for intervening in social realities, and work towards transforming the world towards more equitable, just, and inclusive ends (Freire, 1970). While feminist pedagogy affirms these goals, it also acknowledges the importance of affective skills, such as empathy and relationship-building, in pursuit of liberation (hooks, 1994; Noddings, 2013). Finally, decolonial approaches to teaching and learning decenter Western knowledge paradigms and incorporate alternative forms of knowing and being in the world (Anzaldua, 2003; Spivak, 2012). Decoloniality emphasizes the importance of cultivating cultural humility in interacting with diverse others and centering the perspectives of underserved communities (Aydarova & Marquardt, 2016; Spivak, 2012).
These theories inform how I develop my courses and structure class sessions. In order to create opportunities for students to co-construct knowledge and engage in dialogic learning, I deploy a variety of active learning approaches. Throughout my courses, students conduct their own research, engage with primary sources, construct concept maps, design posters, debate ideas, write response journals, enact plays as reader’s theater, and participate in simulation activities. Using the format of an interactive lecture, I guide students through class discussions that allow them to grapple not only with new ideas but also with preconceived notions and biases that they bring to each situation. As students watch videos, listen to testimonies, and enact theater scripts, they learn empathy and skills of affirming those who come from diverse backgrounds. For example, I begin the session on linguistic diversity and linguicism by speaking only in Russian. As I lecture and show PowerPoint slides with the text in Cyrillic script, I call on students in Russian to answer questions and encourage them to take notes. As a result, students’ understanding of what bilingual students experience in the U.S. classrooms shifts towards greater care and empathy. Through these activities, students develop the intellectual tools and affective skills necessary to intervene in social reality as educators and democratic citizens.
Through class dialogues and assignments, I encourage students to consider opportunities for social change. Awareness-raising activities that bring students’ attention to inequities and injustices allow students to see themselves as historical and political actors able to engage in transformative interventions in the world. Using school- and classroom-based case studies, for instance, I facilitate discussions that help students define the problem, identify different perspectives on the problem, and develop several strategies for addressing the problem. For example, in the global educational policy class, we discuss the discrepancies in educational achievement that exist between different social groups through the human rights framework. Once students have found a way to redefine the problem through equity-, asset-, or justice-oriented lens (Souto-Manning, 2019), they collectively brainstorm steps for short-term actions or long-term policy changes. By mapping out their action plans, students rehearse possibilities for creating change and consider how they could be agents of transformation through advocacy and activism when they work in schools, communities, or non-profit organizations.