Letting Students in on the Design Secret

I’ve been wondering about how to let students in on the instructional design secret.  I know it’s not really a secret, but it often seems like a black box that students never really get to occupy with the teacher.  Even when we give them choice in assignments, this isn’t giving them a say in what really undergirds a class- those design principles.  What would it then look like for students to co-construct and negotiate those principles with teachers, prior to and during a class? How might they help us design for equity, beauty, voice or anti-oppression? I’ve got perspectives on these concepts- what are my students’?

This seems especially important when trying to teach critical pedagogy through a critical pedagogy lens.   I have the privilege of doing this with K-12 teachers every summer and fall, as they become introduced to the principles of critical theory and pedagogy, as well as think about what this means for their own teaching.  It’s a sort of Russian nesting doll situation where I am teaching through critical pedagogy, about critical pedagogy so that students can then perhaps become critical pedagogues themselves.  This is all to say that it seems that much more important to then model how to create as much agency as possible, especially in a digital environment that is so "built for them".

My current ideas are to be explicit about my design principles up front (in the syllabus), letting students know that there are principles that have guided the design of this course and that these are up for grabs, negotiable, partial and contingent upon all of our personal histories and experiences.  I can also note that this is part of the project of critical pedagogy- being explicit about the underlying assumptions we are making about what teaching and learning ought to look like.

Over the course of the semester, there can perhaps be some way for students to come back to these principles, commenting on how they have or have not been put into practice in the classroom, make suggestions about ways forward, new design principles, etc.  Thinking of linking this to a regular student self-assessment practice.

This is, of course, all taking place within the confines of the course as it exists (other assignments, discussions, etc.)- so there are some logistical items to attend to (time!).  But, it seems to me that we so often obscure the design process from students when they may be the very ones to provide the most insight into our success in reaching the goals of equity, beauty, voice or anti-oppression.

 

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