Pedagogy and Curriculum

Summary of the Pedagogy and Curriculum Committee Final Report

The committee resolved to examine:

1.  how faculty members currently define women-centeredness.

2.  ways that faculty incorporate a women-centered focus in their courses, including specific

a) teaching strategies and b) content.

3.  aspects of the College that support its historic focus on women.

4.  areas for improvement and monitoring.

5.  the ways in which pedagogy may need to change to accommodate men.

The committee sent a survey to members of the faculty which focused on defining women-centered, in course content and classroom practice.

The committee held a campus-wide meeting of current students, staff, faculty and alumnae, asking the following questions:

  • which aspects of the classroom experience (including class size and content) have been the most meaningful.
  • how the teaching style of the faculty contributed to student learning.
  • what are some ways that advising by faculty helped students navigate their four years at Wilson.
  • what aspects of Wilson’s women-centered culture students found most helpful.
  • how the College can make improvements in the areas of pedagogy, curriculum, and inclusiveness.

The committee studied results from the faculty survey and the campus-wide meeting.These results, combined with discussions with numerous members of the college community, form the basis for its findings:

1. How faculty members currently define women-centeredness:

  • There were a broad range of views among the faculty regarding the definition of women-centered teaching.
  • A number of faculty responded that their disciplines and course content were gender-neutral and thus they were not in need of any particular awareness of how gender functioned in them.
  • Some faculty did not think gender was an issue in terms of classroom composition.
  • Other faculty equated it with “best practices” or “good teaching.”
  • Some faculty expressed the need for a clear definition to be provided by the College.

2.  Ways that faculty incorporate a women-centered focus in their courses, including specific a) teaching strategies and b) content:

  • Students identify as a major strength of the College, the availability and personal commitment of the faculty.
  • Students identify hearing other points of view, professors who encourage debate, and an attitude of respect for all as strengths in the classroom.
  • Faculty emphasize encouragement, creating a safe, respectful environment for students in the classroom as strengths at the college.
  • A number of faculty highlight significant contributions made by women to the discipline.
  • Some faculty have noted that many of the strategies used in the classroom that were once termed feminist are now described as “good teaching.”
  • The college has a high percentage of female faculty who serve as role models.

3.  Aspects of the College that support its historic focus on women:

  • A high percentage of female faculty at the college who serve as role models.
  • There is a tension between the College’s history as “providing an education equal to that available to men” and the more recent commitment (in the last thirty years or so) by faculty to a feminist pedagogy.
  • The Women’s Studies curriculum.

4.  Areas for improvement and monitoring:

  • Small class sizes and seminar-style courses are preferred by students.
  • There is concern about the College’s ability to maintain small class size in the face of growth.
  • There is concern that the College culture does not communicate a commitment to a women-centered approach – not to new faculty, adjuncts, and even current faculty.

5. The ways in which pedagogy may need to change to accommodate men:

  • The elements of women-centered pedagogy have value for all students and will address the needs of the new population of men, if proper training and information is provided to faculty.

Conclusions:

  • There is a lack of agreement among faculty (and perhaps the college as a whole) of what it means to have a women-centered focus.
  • A number of faculty demonstrate a lack of awareness in understanding the ways gender informs a discipline as well as how it gets taught.
  • A number of faculty have a very clear knowledge of women-centered pedagogy and practice it in the classroom. They do not regard their discipline as gender-neutral and try to encourage students to explore and challenge such a construction.
  • There is a strong array of Women’s Studies courses offered at the college.
  • Feminist pedagogy is employed by faculty in courses beyond Women’s Studies courses.
  • There is a high percentage of female faculty who serve as role models for students.
  • A women-centered pedagogy benefits all students.

Recommendations:

  • Hold workshops that engage faculty about women-centered pedagogy and increase awareness about the fallacy of “gender-neutral” disciplines. These need to include outside experts on this issue but should also make use of faculty who have a very clear knowledge of women-centered pedagogy.
  • Additionally, provide information about how women-centered pedagogy is beneficial to all students and is in keeping with the ideals of a small, liberal arts college.
  • Extend this knowledge and approach to new faculty and adjuncts.
  • Keep the Women’s Studies designation in the curriculum.
  • Find ways to support and promote Wilson’s history as a women’s college, such as supporting FYS courses and sessions that focus on the history of the College, and encouraging faculty to make use of the Archives in their courses.
  • Maintain a list of resources for faculty use on women-centered pedagogy.
  • Create a LibGuide as well as other electronic resources on women-centered teaching and content, including syllabi and course assignments.
  • Create similar resources that address a women-centered pedagogy in the co-ed classroom and in larger-sized classes.