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Date Reviewed: September 6, 2018
Amy Lee, Robert Poch, Mary Katherine O\'Brien, and Catherine Solheim
Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2017 (x + 137 pages, ISBN 978-1620363799, $27.50) This book is “for intercultural pedagogy” and the authors are clear about their goal: “to foster a deeper knowledge and skill base of pedagogical theory/practice and, in doing so, seek to advance a critical intercultural pedagogy that is ...
Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development
Amy Lee, Robert Poch, Mary Katherine O\'Brien, and Catherine Solheim
Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2017 (x + 137 pages, ISBN 978-1620363799, $27.50)
This book is “for intercultural pedagogy” and the authors are clear about their goal: “to foster a deeper knowledge and skill base of pedagogical theory/practice and, in doing so, seek to advance a critical intercultural pedagogy that is capable of supporting a profound shift in daily practice” (3). In arguing the need for this work, they critique universities for undervaluing teaching and failing to engage doctoral candidates in programmatic teacher preparation (8). The authors provide this sobering take: “Centers for ‘teaching and learning’ have closed, merged, gone ‘online,’ and become centers for ‘educational innovation,’ a discursive marker of the emphasis being on research and not on the people or process of teaching and learning” (18). This is a bold claim to leave hanging. Less controversial is their assertion that “you are teaching in and experiencing intercultural classrooms regardless of whether you want to, whether you are aware of it, and whether you think it is your responsibility or relevant to your discipline” (15). Readers will be hard pressed to leave this book with any doubt concerning the importance and relevance of intercultural pedagogy.
The authors strike an admirable and concise balance between theory and practice. They aim to “disrupt” current teaching norms with a “commitment to make intentional, informed decisions that enable our courses to engage and support diversity and inclusion” (15). In their second chapter, they emphasize three values toward this end: (1) the pursuit of equity and inclusion in classrooms, (2) pedagogical humility while recognizing the developmental nature of expertise, and (3) the importance of reflection and revision. These values are modeled through the rest of the book.
In chapter 3 authors Robert (Bob) Poch and Catherine Solheim share critical self-reflections on how their cultural identities, academic formation, and scholarship shapes their teaching. In chapters 4 and 5, Catherine and Bob provide case studies with specific examples of how thinking interculturally has changed their teaching practice. Helpful descriptions of actual classroom discussions and examples of modified learning goals, assessments, student work, and student feedback appear in abundance. Bob shows how his explanation-heavy PowerPoint slides of 2011 transition to primary source quotes, open-ended questions, and historical images by 2015. His transformed teaching “facilitated much more intercultural interaction” and “developed the capacity for each student to be an interpretive historian” (59). Catherine shows how the hard work of reflecting on the goals and outcomes for her “Global and Diverse Families” course prompted students to engage more deeply with cultures other than their own. The risks and benefits of her shift from a final exam to a synthesis-based summative assessment drawing on an ethno-narrative interview assignment are described with careful attention to detail and deep reflection.
Carrying the theme of disruption forward, this book does not shy away from challenges and pitfalls. The final chapter discusses “productive discomfort” by providing tips for facilitating difficult classroom conversations along with real-life examples. The memorable case of a teacher bringing a heated online exchange between students back to a place of respect and collegiality is examined with characteristic humility.
With numerous case studies and bracketed “Invitations for Reflection,” this slim volume practices a pedagogy of its own and is well-suited for individuals and groups seeking opportunities for practical and meaningful reflection on intercultural pedagogy.
Date Reviewed: August 11, 2017
Renee Hobbs’s collection of personal narratives from leading thinkers in digital and media literacy is not only a fascinating foray into the field; it also presents various authors’ stories of encounters with dominant theorists across multiple disciplines. Sixteen authors from a myriad of academic disciplines (philosophy, education, communication studies, language and literacy, media studies, and fine arts, among others) spanning a number of occupations (professor, writer, teacher, director, and more) write out their intimate interactions with the theories and theorists (McLuhan, Heidegger, Bakhtin, Barthes, Foucault, Postman, Dewey, and others) that shaped their scholastic and personal lives. Each contribution in this collaborative work is a self-reflection, a collage made up of sundry parts of theory, experience, and practice. This collection started with Hobbs’s desire to unearth the historical origins of media literacy and trace the complex genealogy of media literacy. Hobbs diverges from the traditional historical treatise, in form as well as in content, by soliciting personal narratives from contributors, asking them to search out their intellectual grandparents, to map the DNA of the theories that shaped their lives and their work. While the subject is fairly standard, the vehicle (personal memoir) adds a compelling nuance to the investigation. If we take Marshall McLuhan at his word and the medium is, in fact, the message, then Hobbs’s collection is not only an exploration of media literacy but is also an embodiment of it.
Although reticent to endorse one orthodox definition of media literacy, Hobbs describes media literacy as “the knowledge, competencies, and social practices involved in using, analyzing, evaluating, and creating mass media, popular culture, and digital media” (9). Media represent any form of communication and literacy, the ability to decipher said communication, and reaches far beyond the bounds of print. And media literacy, according to Hobbs, invites a deeper exploration of important issues concerning “heightened critical consciousness,” “the social nature of representation and interpretation,” “the dialectic of protection and empowerment,” as well as “the role of art in the practice of civic activism,” to name only a few (9). It is clear that development of media literacy is crucial not only for sustaining a world economy, connecting global communities, and engendering personal enrichment, but also vital for the creation of informed and engaged citizens.
The whole collection is engaging and picking favorite contributions is a difficult task. However, I found David Weinberger’s description of his college-age identity crisis, subsequent nihilism, and profound encounter with Martin Heidegger’s concept of “Dasein,” intriguing and not a little humorous. Weinberger’s view of life and language (and therefore media), as inherited from Heidegger’s philosophy, emphasizes the inherent shared nature of media. Cynthia Lewis’s chapter explores media literacy via the theory of Mikhail Bakhtin and provides another example of the shared nature of media and how, as Bakhtin emphasized, “the word in language is half someone else’s” (78). Lewis succinctly summarizes Bakhtin’s view of language as “foundationally dialogic, intertextual, and heteroglossic” (78). Lewis also relates how her familial connection to Rabbinic Judaism’s love of dialogue, her suspicion of authority and institutions, her research interest in discourse analysis, and her role as a teacher of workshops on critical literacy brought her to love Bakhtin’s view of language as infinitely nuanced and beautifully complicated.
Although previously familiar with Heidegger and Bakhtin, the work of Jerome Brunner, a cognitive psychologist, and scholar, was completely unknown to me when I picked up this book. In Hobbs’s chapter, she relives the three times she encountered Bruner’s work: as a child, in graduate school, and when she actually met Bruner - and how this fortuitous encounter led her to create this book. I am personally enamored with the role that narrative plays in personal and communal lives so Hobbs’s synthesis of Bruner’s view of people’s personal life stories as constructed, culturally shaped “variations on the culture’s canonical forms and stories” speaks to me (192). As I experienced, Hobbs’s collection about media literacy performs the function of media literacy as it explains the higher functions of media literacy.
I highly recommend this collection for anyone interested in the reflexive relationship between scholarship and the personal (faculty, administrators, graduate students, academic advisors, and lay people alike). Although not a primer text on theory, this collection, by utilizing the lens of personal experience, makes an engaging text for those with even a moderate interest in theory and literacy.