Feminist Pedagogy after Roe

By: Clare Daniel and Karissa Haugeberg

May 10, 2022

The recently leaked SCOTUS draft decision on Dobbs v. Jackson has generated turmoil in the lives of many feminist educators and their students. Although the final decision will not be released until this summer, experts agree that it is unlikely to change much from the leaked draft. Long-time activists, advocates, and scholars of reproductive rights, health, and justice are preparing for the impending social, political, and health crisis that will ensue.

As practitioners of feminist pedagogy, we must ask ourselves what this means for our classrooms, both onground and online. Given women aged 20-24 received 27.6% of abortions performed in 2019 and that woman-identified students made up 59.5% of college students in the 2020-2021 school year, the loss of abortion as a constitutional right will surely affect our students. Trans and gender-nonconforming students capable of gestating, already stigmatized and marginalized in many healthcare settings, will also be affected by this change. All students and instructors who are capable of gestating and those who love them will encounter new challenges. These difficulties will be experienced differently by those who use prescription birth control and those who require or desire abortion services while studying or working in states like Louisiana, where we teach. In other words, the criminalization of abortion–and possibly birth control, too–will exacerbate gender-, race-, and class-based inequalities.

Without the federal protections offered by Roe, Americans’ access to abortion care will vary by state. Students, faculty, and university personnel who live in states that criminalize abortion will be forced to travel long distances, draw upon vacation or employers’ goodwill to miss class and work, and spend large sums of money in order to obtain safe, legal abortions. Others might turn to the illegal, unregulated marketplace to end their pregnancies. 

When abortion was a crime, those who turned to the unregulated marketplace encountered a range of providers. Some found brave physicians, nurses, and midwives who risked prosecution for providing safe, yet illegal abortions. Others lost their lives to charlatans. Unlike in the past, states now appear to be more willing to prosecute those who seek abortions in addition to those who perform them. For instance, despite the overall safety of self-managed medication abortion early in pregnancy, legislators in Louisiana and other states are seeking to make it a crime. The risks, hardships, and stigma of criminal abortion laws will not be experienced equally: those capable of carrying a pregnancy, those who cannot afford to travel, and those who do not have the social connections to navigate the new abortion landscape will suffer the most.

States that severely restrict or criminalize abortion altogether will likely see higher rates of poverty, maternal and infant mortality, and other negative outcomes that will affect our ability to teach and students’ ability to learn.

The editors of Feminist Pedagogy for Teaching Online have initiated a new section of the guide devoted to social justice issues. They will collect resources useful for implementing feminist pedagogy to teach about abortion as part of a larger subsection on reproductive justice. The social justice guide will also include resources for teaching racial justice, environmental justice, and other social justice topics.

Keep your eye out for this new section and please help make it robust by contributing any resources you are aware of via feministpedagogyonline@gmail.com

For now, though, here are a few items to get started thinking about feminist pedagogy and abortion:


About the Authors: 

Clare Daniel is an American Studies scholar and an administrative associate professor at Tulane University’s Newcomb Institute, where she conducts research, teaches, and creates student programming related to reproductive rights, health, and justice. Her book, Mediating Morality: The Politics of Teen Pregnancy in the Post-Welfare Era (University of Massachusetts, 2017) examines political and popular discourses about adolescent pregnancy at the turn of the twenty-first century. She is a founding co-editor of Feminist Pedagogy for Teaching Online. You can find her on Twitter at @ClareMDaniel.

Karissa Haugeberg is an associate professor of history at Tulane University, where she teaches courses on US women’s history, legal history, and the history of medicine. Her first book, Women against Abortion: Inside the Largest Moral Reform Movement of the Twentieth Century (University of Illinois Press, 2017), examined women’s participation in antiabortion activism since the 1960s. Haugeberg co-edits the textbook Women’s America: Refocusing the Past (Oxford University Press) and is completing a book on the history of nursing in the United States since 1964. You can find her on Twitter at @shesareader1.

Invitational rhetoric is powerful, but it needs a collective!

By: Aspen Grove Collective: Liz Bolton, Audrey Coble, Delcenia Cosman, Tara Knight, Diana Saverin, and Sarah Stanley

April 15, 2022

In the fall semester of 2021, four first-year graduate students, and one adjunct instructor and academic advisor, were connected to team-teach an asynchronous, first-year composition course. Our approach to team teaching used invitational rhetoric as a strategy to help students feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and writing since it deemphasizes argument and emphasizes the sharing of multiple perspectives (Kirtley, 2014, p. 340). Invitational rhetoric, at its core, is a style of writing largely rooted in feminism that encourages experimentation (even fun!), reader-audience connection, and empathy over values of “traditional” (and often patriarchal) academic writing like authority, persuasion, and argumentation.

We embraced invitational rhetoric as a style of writing, but we also expanded it to inform our entire pedagogical approach—with the explicit goals of fostering a sense of community, belonging, and safety among our first-year students. We tried to make these values clear at the start of our course by discussing them openly and encouraging our students to practice these values in their engagements with one another, as well.

We chose Slack to incorporate invitational rhetoric into our large, online class; students were invited to post weekly memes and digital postcards through designated Slack channels. Slack was also used as a private, instructor-only space to hash out ways of respoanding to student concerns.

A few weeks into the semester, an instructor noticed that a student had posted several memes about suicide, suggesting the student was struggling. The below example was taken from the private Slack channel the instructors used to discuss the situation. We include timestamps and profile pictures alongside the discussion to highlight responsiveness; students’ names have been changed, and we have IRB permission to use the private Slack channel for scholarship. 

Liz  10:13 AM

Morning all! Is anyone seeing the memes that Christina has been posting? I think there were 7 this morning, all relating to depression, not wanting to get out of bed, and one even talking about “the one non-suicidal brain cell trying to keep you alive…” I am happy to reach out, unless one of you knows them from your small Aspen group and wants to do it/knows they’re joking?? I haven’t engaged with this person so it’s hard for me to tell what’s happening. Kevin reached out to say, “I get it, things will get easier, not every day is like this,” which I thought was awesome. Just thinking one of us should step in too.

Sarah  10:14 AM

yes private message her Liz

10:14

I think ..hey saw your memes…you ok? can I connect you to some resources

:+1:1

Tara  10:15 AM

Hey Liz!

10:15

Christina is in my aspen channel, and I’ve DM’d her before.

10:15

I can reach out. Thanks for letting me know!

:+1:1

Diana  10:16 AM

Thanks, all. Appreciate you spotting that, Liz!

Tara  10:16 AM

@Liz Does that work or have you already reached out

Liz  10:34 AM

“Hi Christina! I saw your memes this morning and just wanted to check in… you doing okay? Beginning of the school year can be tough. If you’re struggling, I can connect you with resources at UAF, people to talk you through big feelings you may be having. Please reach out to me or to Tara, who runs your small Aspen group, if you’re wanting some help or support. We’re very happy to have you in class and want to make sure you’re alright. :heart:

:heart:2

Tara  10:35 AM

Looks great, Liz.

:pray:1

Audrey  10:41 AM

I suspect this is niche humor, but still support reaching out! If Christina confirms she’s okay, this could also raise a question about writing for contexts/audiences. Students growing up posting/writing to algorithms that show you only to other people who have similar identities/experiences to you may lead to an assumption that your writing is always for an audience that understands your context

:bulb:21:pray:1

Liz  10:45 AM

ONE HUNDRED PERCENT! She’s a high school student, so it’s actually kind of important information for her before she heads out into the wider world.

:raised_hands:

Liz  11:06 AM

Here’s the response I got from Christina: Oh wow! Thank you for checking in on me and I am sorry for causing a fuss! I am just having a little trouble with grades and I decided to send my meme arsenal. Thank you for caring though!

:laughing:31

Supporting each other through tiered networks of care

Because the asynchronous delivery method of the course made it difficult to know whether students had a “niche sense of humor” or whether they were really struggling, the emotional labor required to keep tabs on students was sometimes taxing. Like many instructors who taught through the pandemic, we found that our students were often grappling with a host of even more difficult circumstances than usual, including illness, loss, and enormous life changes. We, as a group of (mostly) new instructors who were also dealing with pandemic circumstances, sometimes had difficulty determining how best to show up and care for our students.

However, having a team of other teachers created tiered networks of care, allowing instructors to support and care for each other, granting us additional capacity to care for our students. Additional support helped us be more intentional about our follow-up with students, as we held each other accountable and shared the labor of outreach. Invitational rhetoric also supported the community emerging in the course, which can be seen in the way another student in the course, Kevin, responded to Christina’s memes. Overall, students seemed to embrace the tenets of invitational rhetoric throughout the semester by helping us build a safe, inclusive, and caring online writing community. 

Based on the success of this course, we find invitational rhetoric to be an effective method for building community and care into first-year writing courses, and team-teaching helps make the invisible labor that it requires manageable.

References

Kirtley, S. (2014). Considering the alternative in composition pedagogy: Teaching invitational rhetoric with Lynda Barry’s What It Is. Women’s Studies in Communication, 37(3), 339-359. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07491409.2014.946166


About the Authors

Liz Bolton, Delcenia Cosman, and Diana Saverin are all first year MFA graduate students in Creative Writing. Each was supported by a teaching assistantship their first year in the program and willing to learn through team teaching as peer mentors.

Audrey Coble is a first year MFA graduate student in Creative Writing who also works full-time for the University of Alaska. Audrey enrolled in the graduate seminar and was willing to learn through team teaching as a peer mentor.

Tara Knight is an academic advisor and adjunct instructor of writing, who co-taught with the graduate instructors during the first semester of their teaching assistantship and served as a mentor and resource to one teaching team.

Sarah Stanley is an Associate Professor of English who taught the graduate teaching seminar. This class provided weekly curricular scaffolds for teaching teams to apply in their own classrooms.

Considering the Consequences of Continuing on as Normal

By: Anthony Lince

April 1, 2022

As students reviewed the prompt for their second essay of the semester, I started to get nervous. I could sense, almost tangibly, an overwhelming feeling of burnout from everyone. In my first-year writing courses, some version of this happens right around the fourth paper of the semester. To try and ameliorate those issues, I typically end up cutting one small assignment—like a reading response or short writing task—which usually helps students push through. 

But, of course, in the fall of 2021, things were anything but usual. We were enduring a second year of the COVID-19 pandemic (with no clear end in sight). Many students had dealt with—and, to this day, continue to deal with—loss, trauma, anxiety, and depression (again, with no clear end in sight). This wasn’t a typical semester at all. With the heavy weight of all that students had endured, it was no wonder that they felt the way they did. 

And yet, foolish as it might sound, I tried to move those thoughts away. “This will probably clear up the next class session. We just need to keep on pushing through,” I thought to myself. This essay assignment is important. 

Next class session. Things weren’t better; in fact, they were much worse. That feeling I had gotten only two days before now seemed to permeate through everyone more intensely. 

At this point, I was faced with a difficult decision: should I continue with this major essay or cancel it? As an educator, I’ve always tried to adhere to the feminist pedagogical tenet of building equity, trust, mutual respect, and support. Continuing with the essay, it seemed, would be going against this tenet, especially in providing support for students to succeed in the class. Canceling the paper appeared like the right thing to do, but what about upholding rigorous standards? What about helping students learn as much as they could? Although I considered myself to be flexible, outright getting rid of a major essay is something I hadn’t ever really considered before. That felt like a step too far, because the content and outcomes were important. I wasn’t sure what to do. 

Nevertheless, about an hour after much deliberation with myself, I sent a Slack message to my class, letting students know the second essay was canceled because of the current circumstances of the pandemic and issues it engendered. Even though I had a great deal of guilt after sending that message, it only lasted about a minute. The student responses that quickly followed absolved me of my worries and let me know that I made the right decision. 

Some students said that this helped with their mental health more than I could understand. Others said that they were able to focus on homework and tests for other classes. One comment, in particular, really stood out to me. A student noted that I was the first instructor to ever really care about what students were going through. 

I share that last comment not to brag, but to reflect on its implications. Currently, the mantra in educational spaces—and, more broadly, in the US as well—seems to be to “continue on as normal, to do as we have always done.” In my eyes, this means continuing to focus on the content, course outcomes, and the learning objectives. But doing so—attempting to move forward as if everything is fine (much like I was thinking of doing)—is likely to create major issues. Not accounting for the very real concerns that students are dealing with, for me, seems like the most pressing. In effect, continuing on as normal keeps the focus on education, but not on the people getting that education. 

In canceling the second paper of the semester, I quickly realized I wasn’t letting students off the hook or being less rigorous. Instead, I believe my action demonstrates that I was trying to be in tune with student struggles—that I was paying attention to their current realities. Really, as part of my feminist pedagogy, I could see that I was ultimatley attempting to create a culture of support and care, one that listened to the troubling circumstances many students were enduring. The student comments I shared earlier demonstrate that they were happy to have an educator that created an environment of support, that this idea would be upheld over all else. 

I’m not going to write and say I’ve completely reckoned with the aftermath (if I can even really call it that considering we aren’t in the after part yet) of the COVID-19 pandemic. But I feel as if I’ve at least started to grapple with some of its consequences. Moving forward, as an educator, I’m going to intensely consider the assignments I have students do. “Is this amount of work necessary, given our current reality?” I might ask myself. The answer, I presume, will most likely be no. I think that the same amount of quality learning can happen with less. In fact, I actually think I might see an improvement in engagement with the course material because there will be less work. Always rushing from assignment to assignment, doing as much as possible, and getting burned out along the way is never a recipe for success, so doing less seems like a step in the right direction. 

I’m not suggesting that our work isn’t important, or that it doesn’t matter (or, even, that it’s always possible to cancel major assignments, especially when considering institutional requirements), but continuing on as normal is surely a difficult argument when it could cause burnout and mental health issues for students. If students get to that point, our work will be the least of importance to them. Instead of trying to do things as we typically have, what might be more important is to slow down, to consider what students are going through, and to make the necessary adjustments so students can thrive—with their academics, yes, but also with their mental health. 


About the Author

Anthony Lince is a Latinx scholar, a student-centered teacher/instructor of English and first-year writing courses, and a qualitative teacher-researcher. His current research centers around equitable assessment practices. He can be found on twitter @linceanthony and on his website at anthonylince.com.

Complicating “flexibility” in online learning from a feminist perspective

By: Sarah Silverman

March 15, 2022

The Best of Intentions

When I put together the syllabus for my “Introduction to Critical Disability Studies” class this term, I deliberately made the schedule, assignments, and grading policy maximally flexible (and I was proud of the final result). These decisions included a fully asynchronous format, multiple options for how to engage with each assignment, complete/incomplete grading for all class activities, and flexible due dates. 

 No sooner had I distributed the syllabus to students than I began to understand some of the flaws of my plan. For example, I had set up the “weekly rhythm” of the class so that I would post materials on Sunday, one discussion assignment was due each week on Thursday, and another was due each week on Sunday (again, these are not firm due dates, and there are no penalties for late submissions) (Figure 1). A student approached me to discuss questions about class about a week in, and I was surprised when she said she might need to drop the class because the schedule did not work well with hers. “The class is asynchronous, and assignments can be turned in late,” I thought to myself, “How could that model create a conflict with a students’ schedule?” 

Figure 1: Weekly schedule for asynchronous class – all “due dates” are flexible

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
   

 

Instructor overview video released 

   

 

Instructor office hours: 10:30am to 11:30am

   

 

Optional Zoom check-in: Time TBD based on student schedules

   

 

Small group reading response activity due

 

Instructor office hours: 7pm to 8pm

  Whole class activity contribution due  

 

 

Some weeks: Final project components or reflections due

 

Weekly readings/ assignments posted

The student further explained that she only had time to work on the course assignments on the weekend because she was taking care of her kids and working most of the weekdays. The weekly course schedule as planned did not allow her to have a full weekend each week to devote to the readings and assignments, especially the one released on Sunday and “due” on Thursday. She knew she could hand in assignments late, but that wasn’t appealing because it made her feel out of sync with the rest of the course, as she would need to hand virtually all assignments after they were “due”. I decided that I would adjust the schedule so that all assignments would be posted the Friday before the first assignment was due, ensuring that all students had a full weekend to complete all assignments. 

Flexibility for Whom?

Reflecting on this encounter, I realized that I had been working with a flawed mental model of asynchronous and flexible learning: that such learning environments are by definition accessible because they allow students to choose the time and place that they participate in course activities. Houlden and Veletsianos (2018) critique the “anytime, anywhere” approach to online learning in an article entitled “A posthumanist critique of flexible online learning and its ‘anytime anyplace’ claims.” The authors note that learning online takes considerable effort on the part of students (and I would add instructors) and that “this effort will be determined and constrained by multiple variables, from things like responsibilities in home life, ability and digital literacies, to financial resources and access to necessary technology.” Even when students can theoretically select the time and place that they participate in the course, the times and places they have to choose from vary based on identity and privilege. While an online asynchronous course is certainly flexible enough for a student without home Internet access to participate (perhaps they work an hour each evening at the library), their experience is radically different than a student with 24/7 broadband access at their home. My weekly material release schedule provides flexibility for a student whose weeks all look pretty similar, but what about a student who has substantial child care only one weekend out of every two?

Houlden and Veletsianos identify the “flexibility” of online asynchronous learning as a construct worthy of further scrutiny, and I suggest adding the flexibility of “ungrading” approaches (like my complete/incomplete grading plan) and general flexibility in the style of Universal Design for Learning to this category. All of these without a doubt could be described as feminist approaches to teaching. They invite students to exercise choice and agency, and complicate the paradigm of “instructor as authority” by giving students more control over their learning experience. They may also be compatible with the idea from disability culture known as “crip time,” which “bends the clock to meet disabled bodies and minds” rather than expecting them to conform to normative schedules and deadlines (Kafer 2013, Samuels 2017)  However, the implementation of these methods should not come at the expense of another key tenet of feminist pedagogy: honoring lived experience. To me, being a feminist teacher means resisting the idea that there is one silver bullet course design approach or pedagogy that can solve all inequities in one fell swoop, and that the “data” of lived experiences is bound to complicate (and improve) any teaching and learning approach that we engage with, including that of “flexibility.”

Flexibility, but Not Without Dialogue

After I made the change to the weekly schedule, another student approached me with some feedback from a student WhatsApp group chat of which I am not a part: Simply having two separate discussions a week was an excessive cognitive burden for some students, as were the two due dates per week, and created unnecessary stress. Could we manage with one longer discussion per week? This time I was less quick to defend myself by insisting that everything is still “flexible,” (so there should be no problem) and the students and I are now engaged in a conversation about how to make the workload manageable while still achieving most of their and my goals for the course. I am coming to learn that centering “flexibility” on its own without truly being in dialogue with students about how they are experiencing the course risks sidelining students’ lived experiences. Even having done the work to implement an inclusive pedagogy, we are “not free to desist” from the work of responding to students’ real interests and needs, and I thank my students for engaging in this dialogue with me. 

References

Houlden, S., & Veletsianos, G. (2019). A posthumanist critique of flexible online learning and its “anytime anyplace” claims. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(3), 1005-1018. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12779

Kafer, A. (2013). Feminist, queer, crip. Indiana University Press.

Samuels, E. (2017). Six ways of looking at crip time. Disability studies quarterly, 37(3). https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v37i3.5824


About the Author

Sarah Silverman (she/her) is an Instructional Designer and sometimes Instructor of Women’s and Gender Studies at University of Michigan, Dearborn. Her interests include Disability Studies, Universal Design for Learning, and Digital Pedagogy. She resides in New Haven, CT and tweets @sarahesilverman.

This article was later cross-posted at The Hub for Teaching and Learning Resources at the University of Michigan – Dearborn.

Welcome to the FPTO Blog!

By: Dr. Liv Newman 

March 1, 2022

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Feminist Pedagogy for Online Teaching Blog!  It is the hope of the Feminist Pedagogy for Online Teaching website curators that this blog will be a space for feminist educators to share insights and inspiration. 

Promoting the voices of feminist educators who have much to share is central to the vision the curators have for the further development of this community. For too many of us, there are limited opportunities for sharing and learning about the ways in which feminist online pedagogy fosters transformative learning experiences. We may each be the only person in our area who is interested in and employs feminist pedagogy in our online courses. This blog’s goal is to foster connections among online educators across the globe who are infusing their teaching with the tenets of feminist pedagogy.

As local and global contexts change (almost daily it seems) for us and our students, an outlet for real-time, thoughtful ideas and practices is needed. With ever-increasing demands for our attention, learning from colleagues about the transformative powers of teaching and learning in an honest and direct way will benefit feminist pedagogy practitioners and the students we seek to engage and support. While I want to read all the teaching and learning research published, there is too little time to do so. Furthermore, too many voices are not included in those texts. Many of us need concise, to-the-point portrayals of feminist online pedagogy that we can use in our classes now.

This blog seeks to provide a response to the dual needs of giving voice to a growing community of feminist online educators and providing relevant, timely, and honest ideas related to feminist pedagogy in theory and practice. You are invited to contribute your insights and experiences to this blog. The curators want the blog to be a space for and by this community dedicated to feminist pedagogy.

This blog calls for submission related to innovative ways in which educators integrate feminist pedagogy into online teaching and learning. This includes topics related such as:

  • Humanizing online teaching and learning
  • Creating cultures of care in online classrooms
  • Examining (dis)embodiment in virtual teaching and learning
  • Using technology intentionally to build communities and enhance learning
  • Feminist pedagogy in the era of big tech
  • The design, implementation, or evaluation of assignments that integrate feminist pedagogical tenets
  • Book reviews related to feminist pedagogy for virtual teaching and learning

All are invited to contribute. The submission process is simple. Once you are ready to submit your draft for publication, email the Google document link to feministpedagogyonline@gmail.com to start the editorial review process. You can expect a response form the editorial review team within two weeks from the submission date.

Guidelines for Blog Submissions

  • Posts should be 750 words maximum in length.
  • Be conversational in your writing.
  • Avoid jargon or technical terminology.
  • You are welcome to use “I” and “you.”
  • Consider using shorter paragraphs and subheadings throughout your text.
  • You are encouraged to hyperlink to resources in the text of your blog.
  • Include in-text citations and a reference list in APA 7th edition format.
  • Include a short bio, social media links, and other contact information.


About the Author

Dr. Liv Newman is an associate director at Tulane University’s Center for Learning and Teaching.  She teaches a variety of sociology courses on-ground and online at Tulane University and Loyola University in New Orleans.  Feminist pedagogy dovetails her commitment to social justice and providing exceptional learning experiences for students.  On a personal note, Liv considers herself to be a crafty person who enjoys sewing and cooking.