35 The Pedagogues Our Students Deserve

Kim Livingstone

Culture changes slowly. It requires people to take risks and share their truths. And, it is best done in collaboration with others.

One of the most striking take-aways from our work together has been the chances taken by my colleagues.  I have admired the chances many have taken to share their truths.  In our last meeting, Whitney shared her revised perception of her work with students and related it to her own life experience.  I was in tears with her as she shared how her work with the CPLC has changed the way she sees her own work with students.  Cathie shared that this work gives her hope.  Matt shared his processes to de-colonize his syllabi, including work he had privately done to avoid potential retribution (this work was prior to PSU).  I am inspired by their vulnerability.

Taking risks is ingrained in the work that we did this summer, and the hard work happening across the University.  We are paving a new way through challenges plaguing higher education, ones that we have no control over and challenges that are much larger than our University.  I am hopeful that this new way will be paved by leaders in the CPLC, individuals who are passionate about and compassionate to student experiences.

In particular, our work around student regulated learning- and its connection to the power differential between teacher and student- has been particularly thought provoking.  Matt’s comment, “Because I said so” has rung in my head since his talk at University Days.  I have thought and talked a lot about how to “walk the walk” of student centered learning.  To be truly student centered, we need to make room for student agency.  We need to acknowledge the power we exert upon students’ learning and make conscious changes to invite students to use their agency.

My research is centered around how people who have experienced homelessness define “home” and the effect their sense of home has on their interest in moving, even when moving would likely improve their living conditions.  What I know from my research is that people want to feel at home and they are likely to feel at home when they are comfortable and feel like they have control over their environment. With this background, I put a lot of thought into physical spaces, including my office. My office should be a place that invites students in, where students feel comfortable and that they have some control over the learning that happens there.

This week I worked in my office to prepare for the Fall semester with thoughts from the CPLC ringing in my head.  I have always had a desk in my office, most people do.  In the past, a student would come to my office.  I would sit at my desk and the student would sit in a chair facing me.  This week I decided to get rid of my desk and plan to work from a round table instead. I plan to add a coffee maker and the rest of my books from home, but this is the result so far:

The changes in my office are a gesture; they are one small example of how my work with the CPLC has changed me.  I see my work with students differently now and I feel empowered to make changes to improve it.  With that said, I have found that there are different levels of understanding and acceptance across the University about the relationship among power, student agency, and self-regulated learning.  Each member of the CPLC (and PSU) community is uniquely situated with varying levels of security, effecting each person’s ability and willingness to take the risk of doing something some may view as “radical pedagogy.”  All members of the PSU community are not equally situated to safely take the risks of being change leaders.  I am hopeful that if enough people take the risk and share their truths, more people may feel empowered to be the radical pedagogues our students deserve.

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