The Deliberative Pedagogy (DeeP) Faculty Collaborative consists of 15 faculty from Davidson College and five other Associated Colleges of the South institutions who are committed to learning and implementing new ways to improve and deepen the quality of their class discussions. Throughout the 2021-22 academic year, these faculty, who come from a wide array of disciplines, studied and discussed different deliberative pedagogy methods, shared their ideas and questions with one another, and worked to embed deliberation in their classrooms. In this special blog series, members of the Collaborative describe and reflect on their experiences developing and teaching their deliberation-involved courses.
The most important thing I learned from intentionally incorporating deliberation in my class (Introduction to Gender & Sexuality Studies) is that deliberative practices can be closely aligned with feminist pedagogy. Based on what I understood, at the time, about the primary domains of deliberation in rhetoric, philosophy, and political science at the start of DeeP, I was not expecting to encounter a high level of alignment with the feminist pedagogy I have been engaged in for almost two decades.
Given that I am often engaged as a teacher-scholar with cultural and feminist studies that not only study the racialized impacts of nationalism (Bebout 2016), but that also critique the very foundation of commonplace notions of citizenship and democracy (Beltrán 2020, Brandzel 2016), I knew that I could not approach the idea that developing deliberation skills makes us better citizens in any straightforward way. I wondered if there would be enough common ground to bring deliberation into my gender and sexuality studies classroom in a highly productive way. So, I entered the group with my own baggage and biases, as we always do. And I did start there; namely by reflecting on how I could expand our learning about cognitive biases in a way that both set the stage for the development of deliberative dispositions and engaged feminist, anti-racist, and queer ways of knowing.
Despite the fact that the DeeP readings from political science and philosophy did not engage feminist studies, I found from the first day that there was fertile ground for thinking through some of the common aims of deliberation and feminist pedagogy. First, the communal orientation and egalitarianism were clearly compatible with feminist pedagogy. For my course, the communal orientation of setting up shared guidelines for deliberation dovetailed with my existing practice of collectively reviewing and revising shared agreements for our discussions with all students in the course, with the aim of establishing guidelines for discussion that are as inclusive as possible. I expanded the amount of time spent on gathering student input about what harms they had previously experienced, in classrooms that had shut down the sharing of ideas. This allowed us sufficient time to reflect on, revise, and commit to the shared agreements that would govern our class discussions and deliberations. I collected student experiences anonymously, using slido.com, and I also used this tool multiple times throughout the semester to foster a safer, more inclusive way of observing our own community’s range of experiences and perspectives on controversial issues, such as abortion.
As DeeP progressed, I thought about how the broader definition of citizenship deployed by the DCI, alongside its focus on engagement with public life, was largely compatible with the forms of activism we study and analyze in Introduction to Gender & Sexuality Studies. Reflecting on this overlap inspired me to alter the Theory to Praxis assignment used in class. Instead of a proposal for a grant to effect change (a previous iteration of the assignment), students workshopped, drafted, peer-reviewed and produced a final version of a Deliberation Guide, using previous DCI guides as models. Workshopping and peer-reviewing the Deliberation Guide required them to collaborate intellectually across their differences, as did many mini-deliberations in class. Repeatedly, students observed that they were encountering previously unknown perspectives on different aspects of the human experience, which is expected in this course, and they engaged these with curiosity and respect for difference. I observed that intentionally incorporating deliberation in the class allowed for more metacognitive engagement with the benefits of active listening and shaping questions that invite more divergent than convergent answers.
What inspired me to get involved in DeeP was knowing that, whenever and wherever teacher-scholars get together to share their strategies and stories about the classroom, magic happens. This proved true. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover the ways that intentionally and explicitly featuring and studying deliberation enhanced the inclusivity of the classroom and extended the reach of my feminist pedagogy. I believe that next semester, I can use my reflections on my own biases and engagement across difference to help students better understand the aims and outcomes of deliberation.
Bebout, Lee. Whiteness on the Border: Mapping the US Racial Imagination in Brown and White. NYU Press: 2016.
Beltrán, Cristina. Cruelty as Citizenship: How Migrant Suffering Sustains White Democracy. Minnesota UP: 2020.
Brandzel, Amy L. Against Citizenship: The Violence of the Normative. University of Illinois Press: 2016.