Search

this site depaul.edu
Search for People / Departments

DePaul Shortcuts

DePaul Teaching & Learning Blogs

DePaul Teaching Commons on Facebook twitter_logo youtube_logo

Home Videos on Teaching Oral Histories SeriesGabriele Strohschen
DePaul Faculty Oral Histories: Gabriele Strohschen

Browse the videos below to hear Gabriele Strohschen, Associate Professor in the School for New Learning, discuss teaching in historic times and reflect on what keeps her teaching.


Teaching in Historic Times: Chicago and Adult Education

Featured Faculty Member: Gabriele Strohschen of the School for New Learning.
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

When I came to the Chicagoland area, there was a need for Mexican immigrants to learn English. There had been a sad story about them losing their apartment buildings due to arson, and then it turned out that the apartment buildings were being converted to condos, and so there were some questions as to where this came from in the first place.

And a lot of families were displaced and had lost all their belongings, so I organized a drive to get them clothing and furniture. And in this process, as people would donate things and bring them to my garage, I realized that these Mexican immigrants needed English in order to help themselves and to even fight some of the legal battles that they were now embroiled in. So I went to a local church and asked if I could make a pitch to the congregation. And so I made this pitch in a funny way. I brought my German Bible, and I read out of John, and I basically did it all in German. And the congregation sat there stunned and had no idea what was going on. And when it was all over, I paused, and I said “Look, this is what it feel like when you do not understand the language. You may be missing some really, really important things in your life. Would you not like to volunteer, give me a room, give me some money and let me start a tutoring center?” So that was really my entry into adult education.




Teaching in Historic Times: Working with Paolo Freire

Featured Faculty Member: Gabriele Strohschen of the School for New Learning.
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

I was truly blessed to meet Paulo Freire, who is a hero of mine, because my credo definitely goes in the direction of liberatory education based on my personal experiences of post-war Germany and what I've experienced in this country.

So Paulo would come to town back in the '80s to work with groups like Instituto del Progreso Latino, Spanish Coalition for Jobs, which sounds like a very conservative organization, but all of them worked in the Pilsen and Little Village area. And the ideology of these groups was definitely liberatory popular education, and so with all of their connections, they were able to bring Paulo in. So it was just great, because I was new to the field, I was new to this country, and I would sit in some, I hate to say it, but dilapidated building that was cheap to rent with all these incredibly passionate educators and discuss how to develop programs that truly fit the needs of individuals, how to develop communities by means of education but do it by, with, and for the people. In other words, not come in, swoop down as the expert, but really collaboratively and inter-dependently work with all these different assets that the community had in their people. And so those were the early days when my own philosophy and commitment to education and commitment to risk-taking . . . because it was often a risk as a white girl in a community where people looked at you askew. “What are you doing here?” I had a German accent on top of it, you know, much stronger than now. But it was really wonderful to meet him and to really firm-up what I believed in, and I had many occasions to then also work with him at conferences (and I don't want to be immodest here and say “work with him.” I was around him, at his feet perhaps), but I had the opportunity to do dialog exchanges, met some of his family, his daughters, who were also involved in education work, and really learned what he meant. So it wasn't just reading the books and discussing the books and looking at the theory in the printed word, but also to see him put it in action in his interactions with the community organizers, with the students and people like me. So that was truly a strengthening and a boosting to who I became as an adult educator myself.




Teaching in Historic Times: Blended Shore Education

Featured Faculty Member: Gabriele Strohschen of the School for New Learning.
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

Most recently I was in Kabul and in the northern parts of Afghanistan, and my mom said “Don't go there,” but I did, and I came back, so it's fine. I was actually quite impressed with the peacefulness of the people.

It was surprising based on what we see here, and it was inspiring to see how people have survived decades of struggle and conflict and still have a very positive attitude, even toward Americans. I was very pleased with that and humbled by it. But the point here is that even in countries where there is literally nothing, you have tremendous skills in the people that . . . you know, if you think about it, if you're surviving what people in Afghanistan have survived, then certainly there is strength and skill and resilience not unlike what has happened with disfranchised communities in these countries that have been enslaved for centuries, right? So we definitely find that this popular education approach works over there and that there is a willingness to listen to outside ideas and models or whatnot that we might have here. So out of some of these insights actually came what I called the Blended Shore approach, and we just did a book on that a couple years back with authors from 18 different countries that all spoke to this issue of “How do you combine, how do you blend, how do you identify what works?” You know, people call it the best practices, call it good practices, call it what I do. The point is that [you] tell me what you're doing, look at what I'm doing, look at your context, look at my context. Now, how do we combine something and synthesize an approach that works? Because it's all about contextualizing education. So in my travels and my work here, I feel really at home with people even when I don't speak the language or they don't hear what I'm saying really, because there is a commonality of understanding. And I think that's at the intersection of believing that people can really find answers if they work together and if they recognize that there is an interdependence in our world. Maybe that sounds idealistic, but I just have to hang onto that.




Teaching in Historic Times: Technology and Teaching

Featured Faculty Member: Gabriele Strohschen of the School for New Learning.
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

The role of technology in teaching today is a fascinating topic, and people are all over the place. I look at it this way: technology is a tool.

I remember when the telephone first came out, and Grandma said “This is just a device from the devil, and how can you possibly communicate with this thing?” Right? And look at us now, no? We can't do without our cellphones anymore. So technology is a tool that we can use, and we can use it for good or evil, right? The point is that oftentimes technology drives us too much if we're not careful as educator and make decisions on how to use these tools. So the example of PowerPoint or the overhead or some of those early tools that we've used in instruction—you can use them in such a way that you can now more efficiently do things in a bad way. I teach online. I love teaching online. I feel that you can get personality and spirit and community across. You can build community. You can build wonderful learning communities, sometimes even more intensely, because some of the barriers that you have when you all sit together in a classroom aren't there. There are shortcomings in online education because you don't see the people and you might easily misunderstand. But at the same time, you're forcing yourself in this medium to reflect a little bit before you punch-in an answer and send it, because once you click, it's out there. So technology needs to be used very carefully, and you need to understand why you're using it and toward what end. And we can't let vendors, bless their hearts, but we can't let them necessarily guide how we should use technology. I think educators really need to be at the decision table to select how and when and what to use these tools.




What Keeps Me Teaching: Teaching by, with, and for the People

Featured Faculty Member: Gabriele Strohschen of the School for New Learning.
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

It is quite interesting to notice in the travels to these so-called emerging economies how their issues and needs in terms of education are so similar to the ones we may experience on the West Side or the immigrant communities in Chicago.

We call these other countries “emerging economies” or “Third World countries.” We call them “post-conflict” or “in conflict.” But we have the same issues really in this city as well. So I find that the approaches that my colleagues in those countries take to developing adults, developing communities by means of education are quite similar. And they boil back down to what I mentioned earlier, is this popular education approach, namely where you work by, with, and for the people, you recognize the assets of people, and you don't come with prescribed education programs that are in a top-down or, as Paulo Freire would say, in a banking approach where we just bestow this knowledge upon the people, but rather where we try to understand ourselves the reality of the people and then have them basically construct what it is that they see so that they can conceptualize and become conscious of what is going on. Because typically if you pose the right problems and pose the right questions, the solutions are found in them, and the people must own them, and all the stakeholders must get involved.




What Keeps Me Teaching: Facilitating Adult Learning

Featured Faculty Member: Gabriele Strohschen of the School for New Learning.
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

One of the things that perhaps my early training in phenomenology caused me to do is to think and ask the “why” question too much. It gets me in trouble at times.

At the same time, most of these approaches to adult education are really grounded in the concepts that phenomenologists developed, and that has to do with becoming aware of yourself, becoming aware of experiences and then reflecting on those experiences and moving to some actions. And to a lot of people who are listening to this, this probably sounds familiar, because it's experiential learning and many other theories that have come about. But it's really ground in this one notion that we very subjectively live in the world, and we experience the world, of course, from the inside out. And so I can't learn a person. I can an environment that is conducive to learning, and the subject of education is really the adult. And we still come, especially in academia, from what we've been taught and what we've done for centuries, and that is, we are the experts, we have the knowledge, we bank the knowledge, we put this funnel on your head and filter it in there. And there is a time and a place for doing some of that as well, but most importantly we are trying to facilitate the learning process in the adult, and we're trying to guide or lead the adult, to educate the adult toward the solutions that they need to find in their lives. And that varies greatly.




What Keeps Me Teaching: Inspiration from Adult Learners

Featured Faculty Member: Gabriele Strohschen of the School for New Learning.
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

Adult students have been trained to be students in their K-12 experience, and they know how to sit still, and they know how to listen, and they look at the professor as the authority or the “them” sometimes. And so the unlearning of what it's like to be a student and to be a learner is really hard to accomplish, and that's where it sometimes can go bad.

The inspiring part is that you are challenged to learn all the time, and unless you lock-in, you really have to remain open to listening to the students and their expertise and their knowledge and to extract from it what it is that they need to learn, what they don't have yet and where they really want to go. At the School for New Learning, we have, of course, only adult students. They have to be 24 years and older, and I think our average age is probably more 36, 37. And people who had not succeeded in previous academic pursuits come with bad experience, bad attitudes sometimes, but a lot of motivation. But maybe not the skills on how to learn. Or if they have them, they're rusty by now. So in the context of that, meeting adult learners and helping them identify what their educational goals are, how their strength is already in existence but now has to be translated into an academic environment, how experience itself is not the skill or the knowledge or worthy of credit, but rather to examine that prior learning and that prior experience and to now combine that with more study, and that makes the competence, or that makes the new learning. And that process is exciting, because people come up with some amazing new insights and theories and projects that they can do at work or combining their skill, and so you become a co-learner. So it's never boring. It's not that you're teaching the same old philosophy course three times in a row that academic year, but rather that you're learning something new. And in order to keep up with the students, you have to at minimum Google, but, I'm serious, you have to also engage a little bit in studying yourself and doing some research. So that's an inspiring thing.




What Keeps Me Teaching: Student Achievement

Featured Faculty Member: Gabriele Strohschen of the School for New Learning.
Music: “July” by Marcel Pequel, courtesy of Free Music Archive. Creative Commons Licensed.
Videographer/Editor: Heather Banas
Interviewer: Zac Brenner

From the Transcript

I think if I had to choose something that I am particularly proud of within my profession, it is every single student that has made it through and achieved what she or he wanted to achieve.

And I say that because unbeknownst to me that happens, and years later oftentime a student comes back and says “I am now doing this” or “I started this school” or “I'm in Brazil doing a new project,” and then you realize how influential as an educator you really are on students, even when you don't notice it at the time. So if that is my achievement, or if I can claim some of it, then I would do that a little bit but pass it on to my students, yeah.