In the middle of the spring 2020 semester, when many of us crashed up against a massive teaching paradigm shift, the feminist institute where I work, Newcomb Institute of Tulane University, tasked a colleague and me with helping our fellow instructors rapidly shift to teaching online. Tulane’s Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning and Innovative Learning Center had launched a number of initiatives to transition faculty to teaching through the pandemic, so Jacquelyne Thoni Howard and I asked ourselves what unique perspectives and skills we might have to offer faculty that may not be available through existing resources. Given our training as feminist scholars and educators, the answer was clear: feminist pedagogy for online teaching.
As feminist educators, we had employed many tenets of feminist pedagogy in the classroom for years: treating students as co-educators; working to build equity, trust, mutual respect, and support; examining how knowledge is constructed and how gender, intersecting with other social categories, shapes our lives, learning, knowledge production, and access to resources. But in our new pandemic-induced context, the learning curve was steep to figure out how to create similar practices in distance education through digital technologies.
Luckily, Jacquelyne has a background in instructional design, and I have some familiarity and comfort with tech tools for teaching, so we began collecting resources and recommendations to share with our colleagues. Our goal was to provide online options for ensuring our time-honored, in-person feminist teaching practices were not abandoned in the switch to virtual classes. As our collection of resources grew, we knew we needed to house it somewhere easily accessible, and thus, our Feminist Pedagogy for Teaching Online digital guide was born in the fall of 2020.
Originally meant as an internal resource, the guide was shared on Twitter and soon we had thousands of views. There was a strong desire amongst feminist instructors, and instructors in general, to revisit their pedagogical priorities as they confronted new realities at work and at home. Indeed, as educators began to accept the new situation—no longer a sudden make-shift response to a temporary problem, but an enduring new normal—they were hungry for discussions about how to create communities of care, keep students engaged, and develop critical thinkers.