By Group Co-Facilitators Kate Bengtson and Karen Pezzetti
The Critical Instructional Design Reading Group that we announced back in February has met twice, marking the halfway point for this project which was funded by a grant from the Center for the Critical Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE). This milestone seems an opportune moment to briefly reflect on our first two meetings and our hopes for the rest of the project. Please enjoy our Reading Group Halftime Report!
Reading Group Meeting #1 – February 23, 2023
On February 23, more than a dozen faculty and staff convened in-person at Shain Library and virtually on Zoom to start our discussion of Towards a Critical Instructional Design, an anthology compiled by Hybrid Pedagogy. With such a large group in attendance, we started out by breaking into trios to introduce ourselves and discuss what brought us to this reading group. These small groups each hosted one staff member, one faculty member, and one library staff person so that we could discuss topics from multiple perspectives, a process that was well received by participants.
The bulk of our discussion focused on the article “Centering the Margins Through Critical Instructional Design”. In our small groups and further in the large group, we discussed our main takeaways from this article which included:
- Building in flexibility for students is a key factor in critical instructional design – but what happens when that flexibility comes at the expense of the cognitive and emotional resources of the instructor?
- Students should be able to bring their whole selves to class, no matter what modality they attend, and the pandemic brought this idea to the forefront of our course design process.
- We continue to grapple with issues of equity in grading, assessment, and technology even as we move away from (or lean into?) pandemic-era teaching strategies.
If you want to experience a little of what this first meeting was like, try out our ranking activity based on the concrete strategies listed in the article!
Reading Group Meeting #2 – March 3, 2023
We initially prepared for this second meeting by assigning and preparing to discuss the following articles from Toward a Critical Instructional Design:
- “Towards a Critical Instructional Design Framework” by Katrina Wehr and
- “On Practice: Instructional Designer” by Autumm Caines.
- “Building From Our Sensitive Edges” by Kreiger & Colman.
- “Building a Framework: Critical Pedagogy in Action” by Burnett.
- “Indigenizing Design for Online Learning in Indigenous Education” by Sam, et al.
Another major tenet of critical instructional design is the importance of establishing students as co-creators of educational spaces. In an effort to put these theories into practice, we asked participants to choose which article they were most interested in reading with the ultimate goal of facilitating a jigsaw activity. In a jigsaw activity, students effectively become instructors as they are charged with sharing their newfound expertise on a subject within a small group.
The timing of this meeting brought forward an opportunity to experiment with another principle of critical instructional design: flexibility and attention to students’ whole selves. We held our second meeting amidst a difficult time on campus when students, staff, and faculty were all experiencing elevated levels of stress, frustration, and uncertainty that impacted our ability to do the work of teaching and learning. We realize that this might mean that the most well-planned discussions and activities must take a backseat in the classroom in deference to issues or topics that are more pressing to students.
It was perhaps, therefore, a very practical application of our discussion when we opted to toss out our initial plans in favor of a more informal conversation about teaching and learning in the midst of the current campus events. The discussion still touched on valuable takeaways from our reading and past discussions while also providing space for faculty and staff to process the campus environment. Feedback from our participants was positive, and we all look forward to resuming our previously scheduled discussion when we return from the spring break!
Looking Forward Towards Act 2
As we prepare for our final two meetings, we are looking forward to finishing our discussion of the first anthology and moving onto the second, Designing for Care. We also look forward to brainstorming practical strategies for instructors that can be supported by the Instructional Technology and Research Support Teams. Stay tuned for another blog post detailing our final two meetings!