Pedagogy is a strange beast

Many teachers first hear the word pedagogy when they enter graduate school. Until then, we are surrounded by it — we see it being modeled, enacted, and refined by our teachers — but we don’t talk about it explicitly. The term is foreign, as Cathy Davidson pointed out recently:

The difference between the terms is significant and often overlooked.This question from Cathy’s student prompted a meta-level consideration of what pedagogy is and where the boundaries are. Pedagogy encourages analysis, discussion, and reflection more than teaching does:

This led to thoughts about how difficult the word is to access:

One way to explain that distinction is to isolate the philosophy from the practice:

I’ve many times been faced with the problem of explaining the term to freshman undergraduates, any time a class looks at an article from Hybrid Pedagogy, students struggle to make a meaningful connection:

“Whatever it means” may be tough to explain, but it’s troublesome that students aren’t more familiar with the term, especially since pedagogy (and its implementation) affect them so much. While a comparison with teaching might make the term pedagogy more accessible, it omits much of the latter’s implication. Pedagogy requires a different sort of attention and a different sort of analysis. It cannot be scripted, bought off the shelf, or made predictable. Instead, pedagogy is negotiated — a conversation brought about in the moment by the people interacting in a situation.

Pedagogy is deeply personal

Sean Michael Morris points out that a class can (and should) “do more than just prepare students to pass a test.” There’s no learning involved in tests; there’s only assessment, which often distracts students from their learning, rather than focusing them or their teachers on it. Today’s tests are impersonal to a fault. They flaunt standardization. Even students’ names are pre-printed on a test book or represented by a grid of filled-in bubbles, so that a machine can read it. So that a machine can score it. So that a machine can label the responses bubbled in with a #2 pencil. Are we producing #2 students, programming them to be expert bubblers to feed machines that will score society?

Pedagogy abhors tests because pedagogy requires examination of the needs of the students, of their understanding, of their curiosity. Pedagogy requires teachers to listen to those students, to understand where they are, what they wonder, and where they’re heading. There’s connection inherent in that understanding, making the entire endeavor personal. Not standardized, but individualized. Not measured, but explored. By people, together.

Pedagogy is performed

We cannot merely believe in a pedagogy and make it our own. We cannot put on a pedagogy as we would a coat, removing it when we get uncomfortably warm or swapping it for another at the approach of a season. Pedagogy requires an element of action — it is practical, practiced, praxis. Pedagogy cannot be merely thought/talked about; that’s called theory. Pedagogy cannot be merely acted upon; that’s called teaching. It is when the theory and the action meet — at praxis — that pedagogy develops. We expose our pedagogy only through its performance. We improve our pedagogy only through reflection.

It is that reflection, that consideration of our practice, that Hybrid Pedagogy exists to develop. This journal advocates for a specific kind of pedagogy, one that demands scrutiny and conversation. Hybrid Pedagogy works to encourage that conversation. To that end, we rely on the labor of a wonderful team of editors and an amazing (and ever-expanding) collection of authors. Each of our editors works with this journal as a form of advocacy, working to improve the conversation around critical digital pedagogy. Each editor has a specific perspective in this conversation, and each finds different voices that speak the loudest to them.

We have compiled a list of the articles we believe best represent Hybrid Pedagogy and contribute to our ongoing conversation. These articles warrant (re)discovery, exploration, and reflection. They challenge our thinking and encourage our development — as teachers, as learners, as individuals. If you’re new to the journal, looking for a new favorite article, or seeking to challenge your own pedagogy, these articles are a great place to start.

Maha Bali

Hybrid Pedagogy for me does two important things: it challenges traditional (often oppressive or at best uncritical) notions of education or scholarship, and it offers real-life alternatives by real pedagogues. All these articles represent that in some form or other: challenging academic rigor, traditional scholarship, assessment, best practices.

  1. Beyond Rigor by Sean Michael Morris, Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel. Eloquently challenges traditional notions of academic rigor and gives concrete alternatives.
  2. HybridPod, Ep. 3 — Assessment and Generosity with Lee Skallerup Bessette, Chris Friend, Asao B. Inoue, and Kris Shaffer. Real teachers talk real experiences of assessing differently according to critical pedagogical values.
  3. Syllabus as Manifesto: A Critical Approach to Classroom Culture by Adam Heidebrink-Bruno. Challenges the formality and distance of the written syllabus and suggests an alternative.
  4. Best Practices: Thoughts on a Flash Mob Mentality by Janine DeBaise. An eloquent critique of best practices in education.

Robin DeRosa

I have triangulated my position around the core ideas that these articles raise. I’m using them to help me think about how to build a future for public higher education that is accessible, open, creative, and sustainable.

  1. A Letter to the Humanities: DH Will Not Save You by Adeline Koh
  2. In Public: The Shifting Consequences of Twitter Scholarship by Bonnie Stewart
  3. Open Digital Pedagogy = Critical Pedagogy by Jody R. Rosen and Maura A. Smale

Phillip Edwards

My favorite articles carry me alongside the author(s) to arrive at something revelatory together.

  1. Redefining Service for the Digital Academic: Scholarship, Social Media, and Silos by Janine Utell
  2. Learning from Early Childhood Education: Higher Ed and the Process of Becoming by Marisol Brito and Alexander Fink
  3. On Beauty and Classroom Teaching by Adam Rosenblatt

Sean Hackney

These articles exemplify the “critical” in critical pedagogy. After reading them — and returning to them many times — my teaching has shifted toward a stronger focus on my students’ contexts and backgrounds and has led to me approaching this immensely important work of teaching with even more grace and kindness, encouraging students to develop personal agency in their writing amid the rigid structures of public secondary education.

  1. Love in the Time of Peer Review by Marisol Brito, Alexander Fink, Chris Friend, Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, Rolin Moe, Kris Shaffer, Valerie Robin and Robin Wharton
  2. Multimodality as a Frame for Individual and Institutional Change by Kristin L. Arola, Cheryl E. Ball and Jennifer Sheppard
  3. The Maker Movement and the Rebirth of Constructionism by Jonan Donaldson
  4. #digped Storify: Assessing Assessment by Valerie Robin

Jess Knott

I study understanding. These articles helped me understand and re-frame what understanding is and can be.

  1. How Long Will Your Class Remain Yours? Academic Freedom and Control of the Classroom by Jonathan Rees
  2. On Beauty and Classroom Teaching by Adam Rosenblatt
  3. Exploring Innovation by Michael G. Strawser

Elizabeth Lenaghan

Hybrid Pedagogy reminds me that there is nothing about my teaching and learning that can’t benefit from questioning. My favorite articles provoke such questions by inviting me to look at mundane practices or objects in novel ways.

  1. Syllabus as Manifesto by Adam Heidebrink-Bruno. This was the very first Hybrid Pedagogy article I ever read. It challenged my ideas of what a syllabus both could and should be.
  2. An Open Letter to my Students by Kris Shaffer. This article reminds us why explaining our pedagogical decisions and hopes to our students can — at its best — be a heartfelt, personal gesture rather than a pedantic one.
  3. The Play’s the Thing by Sarah Heidebrink-Bruno. Reminding us of the virtues of our earliest learning experiences, this article does a lovely job of showing how they might translate into the college classroom.
  4. On, On, On by Kate Bowles. By drawing a haunting parallel between athletic doping and academic labor, this article reminds us that tacit practice is what creates uncomfortable realities.

Daniel Lynds

These three pieces combine wonderfully and present a triptych with a keen focus on all things DH and higher-ed.

  1. Interactive Criticism and the Embodied Digital Humanities by Jesse Stommel
  2. Learning as Weaving by Naomi Barnes
  3. Social Media, Service, and the Perils of Scholarly Affect by Lee Skallerup Bessette