Woke Pedagogy

*This post is written with college faculty in mind. I also reflected on some suggestions for hosting a faculty retreat on diversity/race/racism and those notes are include here.*

A friendleague (when your colleague also happens to be your friend) asked today about techniques for utilizing the Colin Kaepernick Syllabus (as well as other recent collective syllabi that have been put together such as the #LemonadeSyllabus from Candice Benbow and #CharlestonSyllabus from Chad Williams, Kidada Williams, and Keisha Blain). A few ideas immediately came to mind as we started discussing my institution's efforts to respond to the ceaseless barrage of current events related to race, inclusivity, diversity, and social justice.

As a clinical psychologist primarily interested in intra- and inter-cultural phenomenon I got giddy thinking of ways faculty can do this. What arose were a few educational strategies. While writing out this e-mail, I started to wonder if this list of strategies may have wider relevance to other colleges and universities. Thus, I present to you the Off the Top of My Head List of Educational Strategies that I have fondly dubbed:

Woke Ass Pedagogy.

NUMBER ONE: What is Woke Ass Pedagogy (or its tamer, more mild-mannered sibling: Woke Pedagogy)?

Woke Pedagogy is an overarching educational strategy that incorporates current issues of race, social injustice/activism, and culture, framing these issues in their wider historical context. It is about the content and process of teaching. Woke pedagogy takes a dynamic, action-centered and culturally-informed approach to the art and science of teaching.

NUMBER TWO: Why does Woke Pedagogy matter?

If your pedagogy isn't woke, its broke. (Yup. I just made up that cheesy tagline and I am not going to apologize). Our United States of America are diverse (isn't it wonderful?!). We live in a time of lively, often ferocious, debate. We must equip our students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to engage with these issues in productive, meaningful ways. Students increasingly demand this sort of responsiveness to culture and identity. We don't live in a homogeneous world. We can't teach like we do.

NUMBER THREE: How do you know if you're a Woke Educator?

  • After hearing about a major current event, do you find yourself furiously hovered over your laptop re-working a lesson plan the night before to find a way to incorporate it?

  • Have you taken time to or encourage your students' to explore their own identities and acknowledged that individuals from different backgrounds and ways of knowing will engage in myriad ways with the content your present (yup, even you Organic Chem profs!)?

  • Do you consider how your inherent biases and cultural lenses play a role in all aspects of your teaching (e.g., mentoring, grading, lecturing) and engagement with students?

  • Do you feel that one of major goals of education is to fuel change to promote progress of all people?

If you answered yes to these questions, then -- Congratulations! You just may be a Woke Educator. If you aren't, I would love to hear more about why you not. If you'd like to try it out (no commitments necessary at this point, folks!) here are so straight-forward strategies you can experiment with today:

  1. Stay Informed. Set up a Google Alert, read a news source that focuses on a specific racial/ethnic group (e.g., The Root), and/or check out various news sources sub-sections or r/e (e.g., The New York Times', The Guardian, US News & World Report).

  2. Bring It To Class. Look for intersections between the news and the content of your class. Pull up an article/video clip and set aside a structure amount of time to discuss the events. You may be thinking right now -- "But! I am an accounting professor! What does race/ethnicity have to do with accounting?!" What are the modern implications of Claude Steele's stereotype threat for representation in the accounting profession and/or the way that people from historically disadvantaged backgrounds approach financial management? If you are having trouble seeing clear, direct links, you always can ask students what connections they might see.

  3. Reflect on Who You Are. Reflect on your identity, specifically your cultural history, biases, and lenses. List three risks and three opportunities that your unique identity can offer your students.

As always: