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Power dynamics and decolonizing classroom practices in a synchronous global classroom

Authors: Emily Van Houweling*, Regis University, Nina Miller, Regis University
Topics: Development, Geography Education, Higher Education
Keywords: decolonizing, education, pedagogy, development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 10:15 AM / 11:30 AM
Room: Virtual Track 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Master of Development Practice (MDP) global classroom at Regis University, uses a video-conferenced, synchronous classroom to bring students in Denver into conversation and horizontal learning with students around the world. Nearly all of our students are working in community development, and more than half are from low-income countries. In this environment we have been very deliberate about trying to mitigate power dynamics in the classroom and decolonize development studies. Over the last two years we have been collecting data through faculty and student focus groups, surveys and classroom observation based around the following research questions: How is knowledge transmitted and produced in the classroom? What are the dimensions and dynamics of power in classroom? How might creative and participatory teaching approaches help decolonize development studies? In this paper we will present our initial findings to these questions and also discuss some practical classroom strategies and approaches we have adopted towards our goal of decolonizing the classroom. Our strategies include frequent use of breakout rooms, the inclusion of indigenous topics, methods and theory, protocols guiding student participation in class, and the introduction of theater methods in the classroom to encourage our students to use their experiences, identities, and cultures as a source of strength, learning and engagement. This research can make a significant contribution to the scholarship of decolonizing education given the growing interest in synchronous and online teaching, our classroom diversity and our focus on development.

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