(Co)Constructing Critical Pedagogies

Collaborative conference presentation & manuscript for publication

This project reflects the work of the Penn State German department’s Antiracist Curriculum Working Group. We shared our experience enacting curricular change and the challenges we faced in a conference presentation and subsequent manuscript submission.

Presented at the Symposium on Language Pedagogy in Higher Education (SOLPHE) 2021 as “(Co)constructing antiracist pedagogy: An open dialogue reflecting on standing departmental approaches within institutional systems” with Anna Piotti (Penn State) and Alexis Chin (Penn State)

Presentation Abstract: This presentation highlights our (re)evaluation of current practices of institutional injustice intensified by social unrest and a global pandemic through the lens of Bass’ (2020) concept of “wicked problems” (ones difficult or impossible to solve) in higher education. Our antiracist pedagogy committee of German Ph.D. students and language coordinator draws on Bass’ argument that educators face the task of “reimagining education […] so that it plays a meaningful role in creating a more just society.” Analyzing departmental learning objectives and course materials, workshopping specific texts, and discussing antiracist literature, we work towards (co)constructing a language curriculum that combines antiracist pedagogy (see: Blakeney 2005) and Communicative Language Teaching (Richards and Rogers 2014) to more accurately and critically depict German-speaking places, their populations, and current events.

As we face obstacles in this (re)design, we recognize how this work is embedded in a community, shaped by institutional systems, and situated within an ecosystem of social and economic forces (Bass 2020). For example, our department’s instructors of both synchronous and asynchronous German classes hold myriad perspectives on language, teaching methodologies, and curricular structures, which affect conversations and decision-making processes at different levels of institutional power. Additionally, we find that the traditional bifurcation of our department into lower-division language courses and upper-level content courses further complexifies the task of curriculum/course (re)design.

We bring the questions we’ve explored to this presentation: How do we work productively within these institutional systems? Introduce diverse authors and perspectives–without tokenizing or alienating–within a system of objectives and materials? Foment diversity in the classroom if working with resistant students, instructors, and/or institutional bodies?

Collectively investigating this (re)vision process may galvanize change. Thus, we share our experiences to open a collaborative dialogue, which we believe has practical implications for all instructors of all languages.

Project Updates

June 2022: Our peer-reviewed article was officially accepted to Second Language Research & Practice! We can't wait to see this project published.

April 2022: We are excited to have won 2nd place in Design at Penn State’s annual Graduate Exhibition for this project! View below.