Critical Data Literacy in Higher Education: Teaching and Research for Data Ethics and Justice

Atenas, Javiera; Havemann, Leo; Kuhn, Caroline and Timmermann, Cristian (2023). Critical Data Literacy in Higher Education: Teaching and Research for Data Ethics and Justice. In: Raffaghelli, Juliana E. and Sangrà, Albert eds. Data Cultures in Higher Education: Emergent Practices and the Challenge Ahead. Higher Education Dynamics (HEDY), 59. Springer, Cham, pp. 293–312.



Navigating the turbulent waters of data and algorithms, in order to participate in today’s datafied society, requires a series of transversal skills. Educators, students and citizens need both technical abilities and a set of literacies, interwoven with a critical approach, to understand the sociopolitical and cultural mechanisms governing, shaping and transforming our lives. Our chapter will reflect on the impact of datafication in society and address some questions about embracing the concept of ethics as a method for working with data towards addressing bias, ensuring that the demands of data justice are adopted in teaching and research. Our open and critical pedagogic approach calls for educators to explore data issues from a social justice perspective and through research-based learning activities. To exemplify our model, we showcase an academic development programme piloted in Uruguay which was part of a bigger research project, Understanding Data: Praxis and Politics. As part of the project, we have developed a critical pedagogic approach to support academics in teaching critical data literacies. This approach bridges research and real-world problems, using open data as open educational resources (OER) to support learners and educators to co-create knowledge in an interdisciplinary manner through research-based learning activities. Our curriculum provides academics with a data ethics framework and solid theoretical background, alongside analytical tools, and activities to develop lifelong learning. This approach enables participants to understand and challenge datafication and support informed and transformative democratic practices and dialogue, empowering citizens to address social justice concerns.

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