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From “Postmodern pedagogies and the death of civic humanism”

5.2. Collaborative and collective pedagogies 

A more widely discussed means of moving beyond textbook-centred pedagogy are collaborative and collective practices. Non-private collaborative and collective teaching practices—such as team teaching, the presence of participatory observers in the classroom, collectively generated syllabi, assignment sequences, and public responses to student work in classrooms in which students also participate in agenda setting—are strategies that can be used to resist the conventional hierarchical stratification of academic work. Such classroom practices not only offer alternative sites for research (the production of knowledge within and about the academy), but also serve a performative function that informs the collective practices of the students themselves.

In English Studies collaborative strategies have been taken up by feminists and other progressive teachers as a way to resist the conventional hierarchical stratification of academic work—a tendency that is seen as inherent in patriarchal discourse. Of course, some teachers have adopted collaborative strategies simply in the interests of efficiency and as a means to develop better communication skills and critical thinking skills in a vocationalist framework. Collaborative work encourages students to work together, it overcomes some of the deleterious effects of individual competitiveness, it can be a way of making students more responsible for their own learning and it can encourage students to take a more active role in the course. While we recognize the gains that can be achieved with collaborative pedagogies, we advocate a more rigorously antihierarchical set of’ collective’ practices. Collaboration work, as we understand it, may be done by participants who agree to a particular division of labor in order to complete a large project, or they may devise a system of interactive feedback, etc., in producing separate projects.

Collective work, by contrast, requires members of the collective to work through to consensus on every aspect of the goals and conditions of production, a project that confronts the breaks or fissures that may prevent such consensus both in their own practices as well as in the discursive practices of the class. Collective work is a means to overcome the limits of individualism in which conventional institutional and social hierarchies are almost always maintained; a student collective grounded in a specific political/intellectual agenda, for instance, will have greater resources with which to contest the authority of the teacher than the same students will have as individual ‘free agents’.

5.3. Computer network-enhanced pedagogies

Some theorists have advanced the claim that internet and hypertext technologies offer ready ways to realize the liberatory possibilities of postmodernism in the literature classroom. The possibility that students could have access to a broad intertext with a high degree of control over the possible connections that may arise in reading a complex text sounds appealing. However, hopes for student empowerment through technology are generally conceived within a consumerist framework of prefabricated choices. While we reject these terms, we have experimented with the use of electronic texts as one of several means to reconfigure the local academic course as a public site of interaction and intervention.

“Postmodern Pedagogies and the Death of Civic Humanism.” Social Epistemology 11 (1997).