Designing Counter-Narratives: Constructing Culturally Responsive Curriculum Online

Designing Counter-Narratives: Constructing Culturally Responsive Curriculum Online

Xeturah M. Woodley (New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, USA), Gaspard Mucundanyi (New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, USA) and Megan Lockard (New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJOPCD.2017010104


The growing field of online education has developed inside a cultural context rooted in racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of inherent bias. Likewise, the design and development of online curriculum is not excluded from the biases that have historically plagued face-to-face curriculum. In this article, the authors call online teachers into action by encouraging them to adopt an engaged instructional design praxis that builds learning environments inclusive of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. Through the use of culturally responsive teaching, online teachers can create spaces of counter narrative that address curricular blindnesses and promote social justice.
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As social justice teachers, it is important for us to understand the political, social, and cultural contexts in which the burgeoning growth of online education is occurring. Racial, gender, and ethnic biases that teachers bring with them into the virtual classroom can directly impact the ways in which they engage students, especially students of color. Not only are teachers changed by the hidden ideologies they maintain but their students are also negatively affected. When teachers bring their inherent biases into their classrooms, those biases impact students’ self-efficacy and confidence. In her essay, Audre Lorde (1978) referred to the inherent biases of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia as “human blindnesses” that are rooted in “the inability to recognize or tolerate the notion of difference as a beneficial and dynamic human force” (p. 31). Human blindness and the devaluing of human difference create what we term curricular blindnesses. Curricular blindnesses are policies and practices rooted in racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia—blindnesses that fail to recognize and value diversity in the curriculum. Unacknowledged racist beliefs and discriminatory practices of teachers allow for the vicious cycle of deficit thinking to continue in American education, which subsequently maintaining the curricular blindnesses both in traditional and online education (Solorzano & Yosso, 2001).

The purpose of this article is to provide critical reflections on racial and gendered curricular blindnesses within the curriculum, both classroom-based and online while providing culturally responsive alternatives through the use of critical teaching and design practices. As co-authors of this article, we generally talk about curricular blindness that occurs within online courses in higher education without focusing on a specific discipline because we are aware of the far-reaching impact of inherent racial and gendered bias across disciplines.

Critical reflections and culturally responsive design practices addressed in this article are grounded in education for social justice. Through the use of critical race theory (CRT) and Black womanist theory (BWT), we introduce key components necessary for developing critical online pedagogy as a means of addressing the human and curricular blindnesses inherent in higher education. In short, we agree with Christian and Zippay (2012) in that “teachers must develop a knowledge base that includes knowledge about culture—their own and that of others and attitudes and beliefs necessary to teach diverse students effectively” (p. 38). As the field of online education continues to expand and grow, especially with massively open online courses (MOOCs) that reach the world, it is of vital importance that teachers become leaders in developing curriculum and course offerings that act as counter-narratives to the dominant narratives of White supremacy and gender oppression.

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