A project-based learning experiment in feminist pedagogy
This presentation provides a compressed experience of project-based learning (PBL) as implemented in a course on gender, race, and science, co-taught four times for the Boston-area Graduate Consortium on Women's Studies. Evaluations of the course document a tension between initial discomfort and subsequent appreciation: “you might think you aren’t sufficiently grounded by the course [but] being on the other side of it now, I see it works out beautifully.” Teaching the course has nudged us to explore this and other tensions that run through PBL teaching, what makes pedagogy feminist, and the challenge of drawing students into developing their own narratives about how to learn without a sequence of texts assigned by a teacher to dictate the logic of learning. The project to be explored in this presentation raises all these issues for session participants to explore and share. Handouts with links to webpages will provide the details about PBL and the course that might have been covered in a conventional presentation.
Presented by Peter Taylor
at Society for Social Studies of Science conference, Barcelona, Sept. 3, 2016
Practice run of presentation (showing visual aids): http://youtu.be/ENF_YJIKoTk
Course websites (2009-2017): http://grst.wikispaces.umb.edu
- with links to syllabi, PBL scenarios, samples of student work, and student narrative evauations
Project-Based Learning: http://cct.wikispaces.umb.edu/PBLguidedtour
think-pieces on feminist pedagogy (work-in-progress): http://wp.me/pPWGi-JY
; see also http://wp.me/p1gwfa-EB
on my path to PBL, "Bring all to the table," for a forthcoming festschrift-ish anthology.
Further exchanges welcome via firstname.lastname@example.org
One question I would like to explore more about students developing learning narratives:
- In group PBL it always interests me how they actually get started. Does one student begin talking and then other join in? They have the scenario, but then they take it away and do whatever they want with it. Almost always there is a rich and surprising outcome.
- That PBL is feminist. But we (Celia Roberts and I) celebrate more that knowledge is on shifting ground and shifts.
- Whether starting from certain "problems" and asking them to develop methods to approach them would be a useful means to that end.
- How to counteract the idea of one right way? But not end up this is my way.
- Make reflection about the range of possible inquiries a regular but not disabling thing.
- How much talking vs. quietness is needed/ do individual people need/want/benefit from?
- How do you "feed" the students? (wait for questions or anticipate them)
- How can students find articles on subject matter that they might initially be resistant to?
- How is it possible to deal with different/oppositional views that might be considered offensive to an individual or parts of the group?
- How can we help students feel that they really can explore their own interests and concerns, rather than receiving a (real or imagined) impression that the teacher/lecturer expects certain things of them?
- What is a learning narrative: a narrative about learning or a narrative to be learned/constructed?
- How do students relate to their own experiences?
- More about developing learning narratives.
- How do students learn to trust their learning processes? What do I need to provide to a group of learners?
- How are students able to understand what a narrative is when they are in an engineering curriculum?
- How to design a syllabus with students bringing their experiences in as much as their desire/ need to learn something new?
- How resistant are students to developing learning narratives?
- How students can learn alternative literacies or genres of action, specifically concerning issues of social justice?
- How do faculty communicate to students the alternative/ feminist practices they engage?
- Where our students going to find resources when they are not specifically directed?
- How to encourage students to explore areas in which you as instructor do not have much expertise?
- Why is it important that students develop learning narratives?
- The load of work for the teachers in the large classroom (>80 students)? Would that be wearable?
--Even in a small course we need to decenter the pedagogy by leading students to provide ideas and feedback to each other (e.g., through posting initial ideas on the course blog, peer comments on drafts, plus-delta feedback by everyone on everyone else's presentations, in-class sharing in pairs, "dialogue hours" http://bit.ly/FivePhase...)-- see section VI, Notes on Course Routines in current draft of 2017 course packet. I used to teach large courses and include a lot of peer interaction--the load was wearable but at some cost to my publication rate at that time!
- What do they consider expertise?
- My syllabi can never cover all the readings I think are important. So I have to get students to read beyond what can be fitted in the syllabus.
- Students benefit from learning from scholars before them who studied and struggled to get heard.
- What are the difficulties in the process of learning to learn?
- What is your experience of student feedback on these kinds of things courses?
--We get affirmed and challenged: http://grst.wikispaces.umb.edu/Evaluations
- How can you guard against students have a very uneven learning experience across cohorts? (This is a concern in an era of constant monitoring and comparison.)
- I see you ensure that the student does not build the narrative on comfortable assumptions that demand to be challenged?
- What are you enacting?
- How does a student's ability or style of sharing learning experiences with each other change if the project [*] is short (e.g. a fortnight) versus long-term (e.g., a whole term or longer)? [* i.e., the project of getting them to construct their own learning narratives]
Plus: One thing you appreciated; Delta: One thing that could be developed further:
notice that fewer audience members submitted this feedback than for the question above
Plus: I get to think about alternative pedagogical methodologies. Delta: More info about in what sense it is a “feminist” method.
Plus: Acknowledging that attempted interactivity would be interesting in the conference setting. Delta: More framing – I'm not sure I've taken enough new info away to think about.
Plus: The interactive element woke me up. Delta: Incorporate some movement for us.
Plus: The energy of the presenter. Delta: More time to share what I wrote with others.
Plus: Think PBL with feminist theory? Delta: --
Plus: Nice to see PBL discussed here. Delta: Hear more about your scenarios – I teach PBL in feminist STS too!
Plus: Free writing. Delta: Outline what a learning narrative is.
Plus: Thinking about a very practical and relevant issue. Delta: Can you make this a longer workshop next time?
Plus: -- Delta: Do not speak more agitated just because you do not have as much time as you would like to have.
Plus: -- Delta: be more concrete!
Plus: Interactive!! Delta: first free writing was okay, maybe it needs more leadup?
Plus: Feminism as part of the construct. Delta: More experimental modes of teaching shown and modeled.
Plus: That you created a space for thinking about feminist pedagogy at a very large conference. Delta: Would like an idea of whether you place any boundaries around topics to be explored by students.
Plus: Interactive things in 15 minutes! Delta: Content of the interactive exercise a bit fuzzy.