TitleU.S.-Mexico border studies online collaboration: Transformative learning across power and privilege
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBarraclough, L., & McMahon M. R.
JournalEquity & Excellence in Education
KeywordsLiberal Arts

In response to the national conversation about the U.S.-Mexico border and immigration in recent years, we created an online partnership between students in concurrent border studies courses at our two campuses: a public Hispanic-serving institution in South Texas and a private, small liberal arts college in Michigan. We explored whether and how the tensions between privileged and disadvantaged students documented in the traditional classroom would manifest online, and how we could use virtual technologies most effectively to structure transformative learning, defined as recognition and articulation of the structural and cultural systems that frame individual experience and meaning-making, across difference. As we document in this essay, tensions around racial, class, and educational inequality did occur in our partnership. Yet these tensions were crucial in creating the conditions for transformative learning because they generated "disorienting dilemmas" that challenged students' assumptions and knowledge. Our intentional integration of critical multiculturalist curriculum and pedagogical practices (especially embodied, facilitated online interactions) capitalized upon those conditions. By the end of the partnership, both groups of students experienced significant--but distinctive--trajectories of transformative learning that unsettled not only their individual understandings, but also the dynamics of power that characterize the higher education landscape. Given the polarization wrought by border and immigration discourse and educational policies that will likely produce increasingly segregated campuses in years to come, such online partnerships show promise for critical multiculturalist educators seeking to create opportunities for learning across difference and inequality.