The beginning

The path to the first iteration of the Critical Pedagogy Framework (CPF) was not a straight line for me. I started my Ed.D. program with the intent to simply get through it. I initially pursued a dissertation I knew I could finish and find my research and practice passions later, but I landed squarely in the realm of critical pedagogy instead. Having experienced the last nearly 20 years in education, it felt like 2018 should not have been my first introduction to critical pedagogy. But there I was…reading Freire for the first time and fuming mad about it.

As I processed through not only my frustration at my late introduction to critical pedagogy, I sank into the ideas and philosophies of freedom, agency, and equity. I felt the fire at my feet and changed my plan. I wanted to abandon my current research to focus solely critical pedagogy, seeing what it could really do in an online classroom. I spoke with my Vice Dean about this idea, that I wanted to use critical pedagogy to design online courses, and her response tipped the scales for me. “It’s a solid idea, but how will you know when you’ve done it?”

Well, I don’t know. How does anyone know they’re doing anything successfully? So I set about finding a way to make that happen. What if there were some kind of tool faculty and instructional designers could use to improve their courses using critical pedagogy?

Asking that question in the room with a handful of folks at the Digital Pedagogy Lab in 2019 yielded some healthy (and valid) skepticism:

  • Critical pedagogy is an advanced pedagogy and asking folks hired to teach in higher education with no pedagogical experience to apply it is simply asking too much of them.
  • To frame critical pedagogy is to limit its application.
  • Applying critical pedagogy in online courses, particularly the high-enrollment courses I was talking about, is difficult, if not impossible.
  • Telling people how to apply critical pedagogy removes their agency, and can you call it critical pedagogy if the faculty have no agency in applying it?

To be clear, I am an enthusiastic participant in Digital Pedagogy Lab, and I adore the folks I have interacted with there. They are passionate people who are intent on doing the hard work of critical pedagogy, antiracism, and social justice. They were doubtful but not discouraging, and none of what they said was all the way out of bounds anyway. Neither, though, did any of it really allow for the possibility of the task. None of the obstacles felt like enough justification not to at least try, so I used them to guide the path instead. This felt more like a call to arms for me. There must be a way; there’s always a way. So I started talking to people. I found a group of passionate and willing people to join me. I spoke with folks outside the boxes, and got a little momentum going. I used that momentum to carry me through the ups and downs of dissertating during a pandemic and building something some might believe to be unlikely, unhelpful, or impossible.  

In any case, we got there. I gathered some folks around Watts College (faculty, staff, and students), did some interviews, had some meetings, and we built a framework together. So while it needs work, and I have some ideas for the next iteration, we do have a thing. I am designing our CPF 2.0 based on the obvious pain points and feedback we received for the current version.

If you’d like to read about the original framework and the process we used to create it, take a look here:

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