Carolyn led a lively discussion at today’s RIOT based on her reading of Maria Accardi’s Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction and the Library Juice Academy course she attended, led by the author. We were lucky to have perspectives from multiple disciplines in the room to discuss applying these principles to our teaching.
From Accardi (as interpreted by Carolyn), feminist pedagogy is a pedagogy of social justice, which uses education as a vehicle for social change, ending oppression of women and people of color. This pedagogy is applicable to any discipline, according to Accardi. As a teacher, Accardi acknowledges and embraces the fact that she isn’t neutral and that she has “an agenda.”
Carolyn opened the discussion by taking us through some of the things she learned from the book and the class. First is that feminist pedagogy can be incorporated into teaching even when the teacher isn’t an expert. Incorporating pieces of this ideology can be impactful and instructors should feel empowered to do that. Second, this pedagogy, like critical pedagogy and constructivism is concerned with de-centering the classroom to privilege the students’ needs and perspectives and to create a participatory and egalitarian learning community. Third, a feminist educator not only gives voice to, but privileges marginalized voices and ideas, even going so far as to interrupt the interrupter or silencing male students (this was the one we discussed most and had the most issues with – read on). They also have a consciousness of social justice issues. Finally, feminist educators care about their students.
Though many of the teaching librarians in the UT Libraries do try to de-centralize their classrooms, some worried about faculty and student reactions to this type of lesson – a common critique of feminist and critical pedagogy. Students and faculty sometimes do want a “sage on a stage” to tell them what to do. Carolyn suggests talking to the faculty member in this situation about the theory behind this pedagogy and sharing why teaching this way is a better choice for a library instruction session (and will lead to better learning in general). Accardi’s book also includes scenarios which allow instructors to see how some aspects of feminist pedagogy might fit into courses.
Though the group seemed to embrace a de-centralized classroom, we did not as thoroughly embrace Accardi’s ideas of how to encourage and privilege marginalized voices. As one member of the group put it, “how can you make an egalitarian learning environment when you ask half of the class [the men] to be quiet?” None of us were very comfortable with this idea, though there was a variety of opinion based on discipline, but we did like the idea of shaking up the groups in the classroom and encouraging more students to talk in other ways. Grouping by Starburst color, by numbering off, or by parts of an article were suggested. some in the group talked about getting more nuanced and thoughtful answers when the groups were created this way because students stay on task more when not with their best friends in the class. To increase the comfort of the students, someone also suggested having students pick a recorder and reporter at the beginning of an exercise, that way no one will be surprised to be asked to speak. Even with these methods, students may not want to speak. In the spirit of creating a caring environment, it was suggested that those students be allowed to pass. See pages 50-52 of the book for a chart of connections between feminist pedagogy and what we do in the libraries.
Finally, we talked about having an agenda as an instructor and librarian, which Accardi undoubtedly does. Carolyn suggested these resources: Chris Bourg’s blogpost on agendas and librarianship, Agendas: Everyone Has One and the Black Queer Studies Collection project that Kristen Hogan put together to address gaps/silences in the collection development and cataloging practices here at UT Libraries. In the classroom, though, what does this look like? We had several suggestions, including using sample searches that have a social justice component and making sure to include multiple perspectives on issues even when no value judgement is made explicit. Because of the large political spectrum in our classes, we did talk about the idea that proceeding gently when using sources that are challenging to students might be best. They do need to be confronted with challenging information, but it might not be effective for librarians to press their own opinion. This, of course, varies by discipline, but is worth considering for teaching or collections development.
Overall, it seems that feminist pedagogy shares a lot of DNA with constructivist and critical pedagogy and parts of this philosophy spoke to us as librarians and teachers. Thanks, Carolyn!