Learning as if schools did not matter, but gender & racial subordination was always to be challenged

Through a Rapid PBL activity (2 hours) students and instructors in a graduate course created their own ‘briefings’ “to help you and others when you teach learn and get support to move in the direction of more feminist pedagogy, especially around science.” Here is mine (which I now want to rethink so its has a clearer grounding in feminism).

1. This briefing starts from the democratic, student-directed model of learning at the Sudbury Valley School west of Boston.

There are no traditional classrooms and no traditional classes; instead children are free to explore any subject or talk to any staff member about an interest, as part of educating themselves… The school has no required academic activities, and no academic expectations for completion of one’s time at the school. Students are free to spend their time as they wish.


* This article, by an educational researcher who was also a parent of a S.V.S. student, provides more background.

2. Now imagine that kind of support for learning about anything when you are ready to but add a commitment or ethos of questioning anything that subordinates females and people of color or draws from a world in which that subordination informs thought and action.
* Here I find it useful (following the theory linked to previous syllabi) to tease out four angles on gender subordination in relation to science and technology, in brief:. : 1) Under-representation of women; 2) Biases in knowledge and technologies that promote the unequal social status of men over women; 3) The pervasiveness of gender-like dualisms in which one category is subordinate to the other; 4) The contribution of gendered resources among the heterogeneous resources used by knowledge-makers. Equivalent angles can be articulated for differences that refer to race, ethnicity, or European descent vs. other othernesses.

3. The challenge is to support such learning and questioning when it is happening not from ages 4-20 at an unusual school, but among adults who have their own work, studies, and lives, as well as their own embodied experiences of gender and racial/ethnic subordination.
* Here I have been thinking about the graduate Program I lead as producing “slow mode co-coaches” (see blog postand would like to do more thinking about extending this perspective to make more sense of what we try to do in the GRST course.
* I have also been thinking about an expanded notion of scaffolding, but haven’t made much progress since my rapid PBL post of two years ago.

4. Another challenge is to support colleagues and peers to make changes in their ideas and practices of teaching and learning through experimenting, taking risks, taking stock of the outcomes.
* An activity at a workshop on (among other things) “develop[ing] our ability to coach/coax colleagues into adding new approaches in their teaching,” http://sicw.wikispaces.com/CollabTeachScenarios
* A dissertation on how science teachers decide to pay attention to their teaching and go about changing it: S. Fifield 1999, Abstract

5. A further challenge is to think specifically about access to the production of scientific knowledge and technology.
* Here I am rapidly running out of PBL steam, but as a placeholder, let me point to the following resources about teaching Women, Gender & Science (compiled by Douglas Allchin), https://www1.umn.edu/ships/gender/gender.htm

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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

One Response to Learning as if schools did not matter, but gender & racial subordination was always to be challenged

  1. When I said I haven’t made much progress in the last 2 years on my thinking about an expanded notion of scaffolding, I was forgetting my exploration of Vivian Paley’s work: http://wp.me/p1gwfa-xZ and http://wp.me/p1gwfa-y5, which led to http://wp.me/p1gwfa-yB

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