Let’s not forget about critical pedagogy when talking about digital approaches

In the last webinar of the course that I’ve been taking this semester—Collaborative Learning in Digital Learning Environments—we were asked to reflect on lessons learned and future practice. While the course managed to meet its learning outcomes and provided us with meaningful activities to develop a variety of cognitive processes across Bloom’s taxonomy, it was less successful in engaging with critical pedagogy and critical perspectives (see, for example, Brookfield, 2012; hooks, 2010). While, of course, it could be argued that the purpose of the course was digital learning environments, we can’t ignore, as Anderson (2011: 46) argues, that “online learning is but a subset of learning in general – thus, we can expect issues relevant to how adults learn generally to also be relevant in an online learning context.”

Midway through the course—inspired by Wenger’s (2010) argument that learning is produced at the intersection of social structure and identity—I noticed the lack of diversity in our syllabus. Most of the authors we had engaged with up to that point were white males from the USA and Canada. The problem, of course, was not only where had all the female authors gone, but also a lack of interaction with the work of academics of color. If a “community of practice” (Wenger in Anderson and Dron, 2014) learns from each other, what perspectives were we missing by not engaging with a diversity of authors in terms of gender, ethnicity, and geographical location? A lack of diversity in the course in question is but a symptom of a bigger challenge: the need to decolonize higher education. As I look forward to putting to use the skills that I learned in this course within the context of Urban Studies, I would like to share a few reading tips for those that also consider we should not forget about critical pedagogy when talking about digital approaches.

Reading tips: exploring critical pedagogy
Adam T (2019) Digital neocolonialism and massive open online courses (MOOCs): colonial pasts and neoliberal futures. Learning, Media and Technology 44(3):365-380. DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2019.1640740
Bhambra GK, Gebrial D and Nişancıoğlu K (2018) Decolonising the University. London: Pluto Press.
Grosfoguel R, Hernández R and Rosen Velásquez E (2016) Decolonizing the Westernized University. Interventions in Philosophy of Education from Within and Without. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Iseke-Barnes JM (2008) Pedagogies for Decolonizing. Canadian Journal of Native Education 31(1): 123–148. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2012.05.050.
Mbembe AJ (2016) Decolonizing the university: New directions. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 15(1): 29–45. DOI: 10.1177/1474022215618513.
Mclean J (2021) ‘Gives a physical sense almost’: Using immersive media to build decolonial moments in higher education for radical citizenship. Digital Culture & Education 13(1): 2021–2043.
Sultana F (2019) Decolonizing Development Education and the Pursuit of Social Justice. Human Geography 12(3): 31–46. DOI: 10.1177/194277861901200305.


  • Anderson T (2011) The Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Edmonton: AU Press, Athabasca University.
  • Anderson T and Dron J (2014) Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media. Dron J and Anderson T (eds). Edmonton: AU Press, Athabasca University.
  • Brookfield SD (2012) Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and Techniques to Help Students Question Their Assumptions. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
  • hooks b (2010) Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom. New York and London: Routledge.
  • Wenger E (2010) Communities of practice and social learning systems: The career of a concept. In: Blackmore C (ed.) Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice. London: Springer, pp. 179–198. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-84996-133-2_11.

Featured image: “See something or say something: Mexico City” by Eric Fischer is licensed under CC BY 2.0


  1. Kai

    Thank you for this important impulse!
    I must admit: I have not been aware of the imbalance you address until you raised this issue (I think in one of our group discussions in a breakout room) but are more sensitive about that since then.
    The challenge of teaching critical thinking or at least considering critical thinking in and through online environments is a topic to be taken into consideration in HE education practice and research in the near future. I agree with your call.

  2. Trine

    Hi. Thank you so much for the reading suggestions! I noted after our final webinar to read your blog. I have set my mind on looking more into critical thinking and now I am very happy I read your blog! I agree about the thoughts about teaching and learning being relevant to reflect upon, work with, discuss etc. in ALL learning environments! Good point. Thank you. I hope you will continue your blog. Best, Trine

  3. SimoneB.

    Great post dear Claudia! You brought very interesting reflections in your post. I agree with you that we were not asked to work from a more critical perspective. For my luck in this same term I am involved in the Critical Thinking course (together with some other colleagues who are also attending this course) and for my luck , I was able to make several links with and in the activities of both courses, although this is not has been reflected in my blog posts.
    I also agree with you about the urgent need to decolonize the bibliography, bringing other researchers from other parts of the world.
    It was a pleasure to work with you in this course. I hope we can work together more often! All the best, Simone.

  4. elizabeth

    Nice reflection, I actually had the opposite view. I appreciated the inclusion of the Frustration article by females in Spain and also a British female Gilly, represented diversity. The only thought I was having about diversity within Chinese educational cultures, but most of the text is in Chinese so it would be difficult to include in an understanding manor.

    • Claudia Fonseca Alfaro

      Thanks for your comment Elizabeth. However, that is still Western Europe. What could we learn from contexts outside the US, Canada, Australia and Europe? Of course issues of translation are always problematic – particularly for English monolinguals- but perhaps with a bit of effort material in English can be found?

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