During the month of July, I took an online course offered via Library Juice Academy entitled, “Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction” taught by Maria Accardi. Each week, we read a chapter of Accardi’s book, helpfully titled Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction, posted to a discussion board, and interacted with other students’ posts.
I found the book eminently readable: educational, personal, and entertaining. I highly recommend it for anyone remotely interested in this topic. I (gleefully) found that I already had some feminist pedagogical instincts and that it was a short step to infusing my regular teaching practices with a few tweaks to make them more feminist.
Everyone in the class had one learning outcome in common: to better understand feminist theory in terms of pedagogy and what that means for our own library instruction practices. I took it one step further and tacked on being able to explain feminist pedagogy and why it’s important in my own words. As I learned, a big part of feminist theory is making things your own and appreciating different ways of knowing. This is a departure from lecture-style delivery and quantitative assessment that were my go-to techniques.
The major elements of feminist pedagogy that popped out to me are as follows:
- De-centering the classroom: moving from a traditional, patriarchal, authoritative “sage on the stage” delivering lecture-style lessons to students who are viewed as empty vessels toward more of a “guide on the side” approach who puts the students at the center of the lesson
- Privileging marginalized voices and ways of knowing: a feminist classroom makes room for alternate ways of knowing, which could take many forms; for the library classroom it raised my awareness of the need for a variety of input mechanisms, not just students raising their hands and giving factual answers on the spot, but perhaps allowing for written answers, story-telling, etc. to make sure voices are heard that may be lost in a conventional classroom
- Consciousness-raising about societal injustice: considering it a duty to infuse the class with social issues; one excellent example was using search terms that would elicit thought-provoking search results in databases (like “women in engineering”)
- Ethic of care: “feminist teachers demonstrate sincere concern for their students as people and as learners.” In librarian work, we already talk about our role in creating lifelong learners and equipping students with the skills to interpret information in their daily lives. This one was a no-brainer for me.
The book covers many other issues, for instance Accardi’s critical take on the ACRL framework, feminist approaches to assessment, classrooms and libraries as “neutral” places (spoiler: they aren’t neutral), limitations of feminist pedagogy, what happens when students don’t want to be active participants in their own learning, and how to sell coworkers and faculty on this approach. It also has a healthy dose of encouragement for any librarians/feminists/instructors who want to try something new and feel like they are going out on a limb.
It was really nice to interact with the other students (there was an AD, a public librarian, and a variety of others), but the book is short and engaging and you will certainly feel empowered just by reading it, in lieu of taking the class. Highly recommended! And I’d be more than happy to talk with you about any questions you may have about this post.