Teaching Black Internationalism, Part 1: Preliminary Considerations

That’s right! The Teaching series is back. I’ve been asked to teach a course, any course I want, for African and African American Studies. So like my Teaching K-pop series, I’m going to take you all along for the course design ride!

I had to make two decisions right away: what to teach and how.

What to Teach

I opted to teach a course on Black Internationalism, with a focus on popular music and visual culture. In the course, students will explore black culture through a transnational lens, examining how black culture cites and is cited by global cultures. I chose this topic for a couple of reasons. First, while a lot of my work in Afro-Asian cultural studies falls within the field of Black Internationalism, I’ve never taught a course on it.

Second, I ran across a Twitter thread that suggested that students may benefit from seeing black culture in a global context. In this thread, a user suggested that black people really do not have anything to do with other cultures. This echoes another tendency I see on social media that flattens black culture, talks about it as a monolith and ignores the hybridity embedded in its various manifestations. It was clear that many do not know about this complex tapestry of influence, so starting in the early 20th century with the emergence of writing on what we will come to call Black Internationalism will provide some needed context. Given that this kind of transnational thinking informs visual culture as well as popular music going forward, introducing students to black internationalism as an interpretative lens will help shed light on black engagement with the world.

How to Teach

Before the pandemic, we probably would not have considered that we would be offering courses in any format other than the traditional in-person modality. However, times have changed, and I choose to offer this 300-level elective course in a hybrid format. At my institution, that means the course will meet between 2% and 49% of the time face-to-face. This shouldn’t be confused with hyflex, which is a kind of hybrid teaching that simultaneously involves some students in the classroom and other students attending class via web conferencing during live class sessions. (No, just no.)

Rather than believing that face-to-face teaching is “better” than online, I think that both have their advantages and that hybrid teaching will allow me to take advantage of them all. One of the benefits that hybrid teaching affords is that it gives me the opportunity to help students structure their out-of-class, or asynchronous, instruction time, when I believe a lot of learning happens. I mean, we only have students for three hours a week, so it is important to help them use out-of-class time to develop independent learning skills and use valuable synchronous or face-to-face time for more important tasks. We can use technology web-based platforms to help students become more independent learners. Students are already using those platforms to learn, and to be honest, so are we. If you’ve ever looked something up on YouTube to learn how to do it, you have experienced some of the affordances of online learning. I’m just planning to leverage those same strategies in my class to better prepare students to engage with the material and with each other during our time together. Many of our students are involved in vibrant online communities, so my challenge is to harness some of that for hybrid instruction.

Whether we like it or not, the pandemic remains an unpredictable reality and hybrid teaching gives the flexibility to move the course online if circumstances require. The pandemic has shown us that greater flexibility is something we didn’t know we wanted and some do not want to give it up (me, I’m the one). I’ve always wanted to teach a hybrid class, and given my use of technology in my courses, I’ve been working towards that. At the same time, my online teaching experience last fall showed me that many undergraduates really need some face-to-face time to provide an anchor for their learning experience. The hybrid modality allows me to structure some of that time in one-on-one and small group meetings virtually and in-person if circumstances permit. This means they will occur more frequently, and have a greater chance of benefitting students.

Next post will be on the most important thing when designing a course: student learning outcomes!

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Teaching Black Internationalism, Part 1: Preliminary Considerations by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Teaching K-pop, Part 1: The Most Important Thing

Image by Simone Lugli from Pixabay

Before deciding on all the cool content to include in my course, KORE 320: Korean Popular Culture, there is one thing that I had to do, something that forms the foundation of the course. Figuring out this one thing made designing the course easier and will make for more effective learning for students. It was not readings, content, assignments or assessments.  The one thing I needed to decide was: What do I want students to know or be able to do by the end of the course?

In other words, it was the dreaded student learning outcomes. Look, I get it. Most faculty first encounter student learning outcomes as part of program assessment or curricular development, and it’s not fun. Within these contexts, it seems very formulaic and disconnected from student learning. But the fact of the matter is, knowing what you want students to know and do by the end of the course helps you to align everything else: readings, assignments and assessments. This means that everything has a purpose in the course. Students appreciate this because nothing is busywork.

In my KORE 320 course, I’m focusing on using Korean popular culture to teaching students about digital literacy, digital curation and digital writing because most of us outside of Korea engage with Korean popular culture through digital means. Students will learn how to locate and evaluate online media, describe the development and global spread of Korean popular culture, use scholarly concepts to interpret Korean popular culture and develop skills through the use of digital, web-based tools.

While they look concise, coming up with my learning outcomes wasn’t easy.  I spent weeks honing them. Why? Because I had to make sure that before students did advanced things (known in HE circles as higher-order thinking)  they had opportunities to work up to them (by doing lower-order thinking). Cue Blooms Taxonomy!

Image: Fractus Learning

For example, I want students to be able to analyze Korean popular culture (higher-order thinking). But before they can do that, I have to give them the opportunity to be able to define concepts that can be used to analyze Korean popular culture (lower-order thinking) and provide opportunities for them to practice applying those concepts to Korean popular culture (midway between lower-order and higher-order). I have some nifty ideas about getting my students to do this (future post), and as fun as it is to start with the readings or the historical and cultural context or the videos or the dramas, I needed to work this out first. As instructors, student learning outcomes help us to map out how learning happens in our courses and create well-designed courses. Other factors can also inform your decisions. Where does the course fall in the curriculum? Is it required or an elective? Are there program outcomes it needs to meet? Is it a general education course? These can shape how you craft your outcomes.

One thing you’ll notice quickly is that you may not be able to cover as much breadth as you’d like. I know, I know, you want to do all the things. I could teach this whole course on 2nd generation K-pop idols. But, there is a good amount of research that suggests that depth is beneficial for student learning.  How many times have you taught a course and had to cut material? How sure were you that students did all that reading? Depth gives students the tools they need to encounter ideas they may encounter beyond your material.

When a course is well-designed, then it is easier to know how it might be able to change to address shifting circumstances, like changing modalities (future post) because of a pandemic. Notice this post does not start out with the modality of teaching (i.e. face-to-face, hybrid, online), because that’s not the most important thing. If you know your outcomes and how you will measure them (future post), then it is easier to change modalities because the foundation of your course is set.

Spending some time crafting your outcomes will lay a solid foundation for your course.

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Teaching K-pop, Part 1: The Most Important Thing by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.