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Teaching to transform: reimagining feminist pedagogies in contemporary higher education

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This paper reflects on feminist pedagogical strategies for teaching social justice content and the associated challenges set against a complex political backdrop characterised by the growth of far-right extremism, bound up with normalisation and increasing acceptability of sexism and misogyny. This is exacerbated in university environments where ‘lad culture’ and ‘toxic masculinity’ thrives alongside negative stereotypes of feminist academics. These combined factors mean that the task of feminist teaching in HE has never been more urgent. Yet, when it comes to delivering social justice content, such volatile circumstances necessitate careful responses, planning and interventions. Drawing on a case study of foundation level teaching with diverse learners, many from non-traditional backgrounds, strategies are shared through teacher and student pedagogical reflections and evaluations. These include employing a dialogic, poly-vocal approach, incorporating multiple perspectives, moving away from mono-narratives; transparency around critiquing contemporary discourses which seek to undermine social justice goals; intersectional considerations, including opportunities to explore privilege and disadvantage; connecting learning to lived experiences; developing reflective practice and fostering the classroom and curricula as sites of collaboration, problem-solving and activism. Reflections include a recognition of the emotional dimensions of feminist teaching in this context - its frustrations, pains and pleasures. There are inevitably challenges to navigate in the unforgiving terrain of neoliberal academia where it can be difficult to find space, time and support for our endeavours. The paper will therefore highlight the importance of self-care and solidarities as we adapt to contemporary challenges and reimagine and rework feminist pedagogies in response.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMAI: Feminism and Visual Culture
Early online date27 Jan 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 27 Jan 2020

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