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Thursday, June 8 • 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Feminist Design Pedagogy as Liberatory Practice

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Issues of equity and inclusion in classrooms are increasingly a top concern for design educators, however they are typically approached without direct acknowledgement of or confrontation to the patriarchal and oppressive underpinnings of design education itself. Most design classrooms continue to center the professor-as-expert; promote a canon of white, Western-centric ways of knowing; and perpetuate a violent culture of individualism. Discourse around student-centered learning is typically understood within frameworks that reinforce hegemonic power structures and place the burden of change on educators rather than on institutions. To foster classroom environments that are marked by belonging, and to prepare designers to engage with complex social problems, inclusive teaching practices must be accompanied by an analysis of power in students' learning environments and in the world around them.
Feminist pedagogy is a framework that places questions of power, inequality, and justice at the center of teaching. Feminist scholar and educator bell hooks, informed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, defined feminist pedagogy as a liberatory practice that fosters critical thinking and provides students with the tools to question inequality and social structures. There is no precise formula for practicing feminist pedagogy; rather it comprises a set of unifying themes such as reducing the classroom power gap, viewing students as active participants in their education, addressing systems of oppression, and challenging those systems through a democratized classroom.

Adapted from the forthcoming book, Feminist Designer: On the Personal and the Political in Design (MIT Press, 2023), this panel aims to highlight ways in which feminist pedagogical practices are currently shaping design education. Through a moderated dialogue with five design educators featured in the book, each from diverse backgrounds and institutions, we will explore ethical and practical challenges that educators face in their teaching. Each panelist arrives at this conversation through the unique lens of their own identities and experiences as educators, administrators, practicing designers, mothers, social workers, queer folx, and people of color. Topics to be addressed include power relations in the classroom, care as a pedagogical method, culturally responsive mentorship, curricula and projects that center social justice, and enacting change within institutions. Panelists will share a plurality of approaches to implementing feminist ways of knowing and doing in the design classroom. We will also address current issues—such as reproductive justice, mental health, economic instability and inequality, systemic racism, climate catastrophe, and global pandemics—as the backdrop of the continually evolving role of educators and the growing expectations placed on them to respond to constant change. With an emphasis on collaboration and community, we aim to generate an open dialogue about design education as a liberatory practice for both students and educators.


Alison Place

Assistant Profesor of Graphic Design, University of Arkansas


Rachael Dietkus

Founder, Social Workers Who Design, Social Workers Who Design
avatar for Heather Snyder Quinn

Heather Snyder Quinn

Assistant Professor of Design Futures, Washington University, St. Louis
Heather is usually where she “isn’t supposed to be.” You will find her playing in unexpected places, physical or virtual, and collaborating with people from an array of backgrounds. Her work uses design fiction to empower communities to imagine possible futures and underst... Read More →

Aasawari Kulkarni

George Washington University
avatar for Becky Nasadowski

Becky Nasadowski

Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
avatar for Ayako Takase

Ayako Takase

Associate Professor in Industrial Design, Rhode Island School of Design

Thursday June 8, 2023 1:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
ARC E-02