UMS Faculty Focus Blog

UMS Faculty Focus

The UMS Faculty Focus blog publishes articles on effective teaching strategies for technology-enhanced, classroom, online, blended, or flipped learning experiences.  Faculty e-Learning Grant recipients and other UMS faculty are welcome to contribute. Please contact the UC Faculty Development Center if you are interested in writing an article for UMS Faculty Focus at


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Decentering within the Structure?

The last few weeks have been a round of meetings, some in person, some through online conferencing. They have ranged in subjects but have come together in my mind.

The workshop that I attended in person was on the subject of Cultural Responsive Teaching led by Dr. Daniel Tilapaugh. He talked to us about critical self-reflection in how we can engage in deep equity work that will have positive benefits for all students. We discussed how we could make learning more relevant for our student across their multiple social identities.

The other meeting was a very informative webinar by Dr. Marta Frisardi, a biology instructor at U Rock about her online course that included an interactive lab Science component. She gave us a tour of her class, her curriculum design, and interactivity of its parts.

In the last few days, I have been pondering how I could utilize the technical strategies of Dr. Frisardi example with the engagement and equity work that must be done in our classes if we are to educate and expand our students lives?

Dr. Frisardi online class is structured in a very user-friendly way. She highlights and breaks down the complex, simplifying visually and aesthetically (through color and spacing) the readability of assignments, discussion boards, reading, etc. 

I appreciated the way she broke down the units of work, into weekly segments, then further broke that down into a to-do list that would help the student keep track of the complexity that her subject entailed. But my subject is complex without the data markers that can be pulled out often. So, I again wondered what was I dealing with?

The subject and study of Folklore are fun but messy. It calls for not only looking at the joyful and artistic expressions of groups of people in a culture (folk art, folk songs, etc.) but it also looks at jokes, legends, myths, stories and other genres, that can be racist, sexist and demonize “the other.” It sometimes calls us to look under the rock at the not so nice aspects of group expression. To allow for those examinations to take place, to be able to talk about and critically analyzing the many nice and not so nice folk expressions, the “class” space has to be a safe one. 

How to decenter the “authority” of the teacher, how to empower the student, how to recognize and acknowledge that many students have issues and trouble examining aspects of the expressions of groups when they or their families and communities might have been targets of those folkloric expressions! 

How do I do that online? How do I structure an online program which by necessity must have preset parameters? How do I allow for open dialogue, reflection on what is being discussed, allowing for all voices to not only be heard but also to have respectful pushback from students who might disagree with an analysis or view? 

Frankly, I am not sure, but I saw in Dr. Frisardi’s example an example of “warmth” intentional access, and openness through the use of color, simplicity, easily decipherable instructions that give me hope in my quest. 

For that, I am very grateful.




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