And yet, feminist pedagogy resists definition. There are multiple forms that feminist pedagogy can take because there isn’t one distinct and precise way of defining feminist pedagogy . it can be difficult to pin down because it has so many branches and parts and offshoots. This is reflected in the sense of uncertainty about itself and what it entails that some of the literature on feminist pedagogy displays. Many of the article titles ask questions: “What is feminist pedagogy?” (Fisher, 1981; Shrewsbury, 1987), “Does the use of journals as a form of assessment put into practice principles of feminist pedagogy?” (Clifford, 2002), “Imagination, hope, and the positive face of feminism: Pro/feminist pedagogy in ‘post’ feminist times?”(Lambert & Parker, 2006), and, in one case, the article tries to pin it down very precisely: “Theory or practice: What exactly is feminist pedagogy?” (Brown, 1992), noting that feminist pedagogy “is still defining itself, largely through a process of questioning long-standing beliefs and practices in education” (p. 52). And as Crawley, Lewis, and Mayberry (2008) observe: “As feminist scholars, we are routinely asked to support the legitimacy of our work by explicitly answering the question: What makes it feminist?” (p. 2). While these many questions seem to indicate a sense of ambiguity about what feminist pedagogy is and what it is concerned with, the recurrent themes explored in the literature from the early 1980s to the present are suggestive more of certainty than of uncertainty. Frequent topics in the literature include the envisioning the classroom as a collaborative, democratic, transformative site; consciousness raising about sexism and oppression; and the value of personal testimony and lived experience as valid ways of knowing. Ultimately, there are multiple themes in the literature because feminist pedagogy takes on so many forms and is impossible to encapsulate neatly and definitively.
Is characterized by the absence / Relies on student input – Alana: Pair/Share – students swap topic statements or research questions, identify what they understand as the key concepts in their partner’s statements, and brainstorm synonyms. Then discuss with each other, ask clarifying questions, suggest ways of broadening or narrowing.
Is attentive to language / Takes care to explain – Emily: Demonstration: Ask students to find materials related to the opposite, unmarked category, e.g., Men in Engineering. What does it mean that research about sexism always follows the marked rather than unmarked category?Uses egalitarian classroom practices / Makes use of learning activities – Alana: Database demonstration – students explore different databases in small groups, using a worksheet to guide their exploration, then come up to the front of the class & show others how to use their database. I can provide input if there’s something I think we all need to know.
Focuses on interaction / Keeps the classroom interesting – Alana: Class-wide topic workshop activity, in which students write out their topic statement or research question at the top of a blank sheet of paper, then circulate around the room, making notes on other students’ papers about search terms, possible resources, things they’d like to know about the topic, ways to narrow or broaden. Follow up with group discussion of results.