Being a Feminist Teacher | Everything you need to know.

A feminist is anyone who recognises the equality and full humanity of women and men

Gloria Steinem

Many women, indeed many teachers, consider themselves to be feminists. But when asked “what feminist pedagogies do you employ in your classroom?” less than half of the teachers at my school were able to respond with anything that remotely approached what I have since learnt to be the definition of feminist teaching strategies.

In 1994, almost a quarter of a century ago, Lyn Robertson published a paper entitled Feminist Teacher Education: Applying Feminist Pedagogies to the Preparation of New Teachers; within which she outline a world in which teachers exist in two forms – the banker teachers, and the midwife teachers.

Midwife teachers are the opposite of banker-teachers. While the bankers deposit knowledge in the learner’s head, the midwives draw it out. They assist the students in giving birth to their own ideas in making their own tacit knowledge explicit and elaborating it. (217)

Belenky et. al (1986) in Robertson (1994)

In essence, to employ feminist pedagogies you must create a classroom culture in which all students feel valued and engaged in active discussions (regardless of race or gender) where light is shone on the inequalities that exist within all aspects of the modern world. Empowering students with feminine pedagogy means shining a light on all aspects of inequality, from both a male and female perspective, with a contextual focus central to the students own lives.

The Vanderbilt Center for Teaching define feminist pedagogy as follows;

Feminist pedagogy is not a toolbox, a collection of strategies, a list of practices, or a specific classroom arrangement.  It is an overarching philosophyβ€”a theory of teaching and learning that integrates feminist values with related theories and research on teaching and learning.

Vanderbilt Center for Teaching

The authors of this framework go on to explain that feminist pedagogy is a model of social constructivism (a theory that claims all knowledge is socially produced), in which knowledge is created through “interaction, collaboration and negotiation”. Each student has a viewpoint that is different and unique, and as such the process of learning is not so much teacher-led, as it is teacher-facilitated, as students and teachers work and learn from one another.

This all sounds great? But how am I supposed to employ feminist pedagogy and control 28 crazy teenagers at the same time?

Unfortunately, all of the advocates of feminist pedagogy appear to be teachers of university level students, who (of course) come with a university level of maturity that makes employing such collaborative pedagogies much more feasible.

However, if we return to our original definition of feminist pedagogy; empowering students with feminine pedagogy means shining a light on all aspects of inequality, from both a male and female perspective, with a contextual focus central to the students own lives, it becomes evident that the key to employing such pedagogies, lies not in our pedagogical knowledge but in our existing relationships and understanding of our students as people.

Citations

  1. Belenky, M., Clinchy, B., Goldberger, N., & Tarule, J. 1986. Women’s Ways of Knowing. New York: Basic Book
  2. Robertson, L. (1994). Feminist Teacher Education: Applying Feminist Pedagogies to the Preparation of New Teachers. Feminist Teacher,8(1), 11-15. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40545489