The Return of a Socialpolitical Identity

This morning I was reminded of the significance I once (and now will again) placed on my sociopolitical identity; my feminist-, lesbian-self was once the cornerstone of my pedagogy. My MA work at Clemson University centered on a feminist rhetoric of argumentative writing where I asked if students investigated how they came to have their beliefs about a selected controversial issue rather than simply arguing a position  then would they move past dualism into a stage where they would think critically.  In grad school at GWU, I investigated the connections between constructivist and feminist pedagogies and concluded that feminism opened the way for social constructivist and learner-centered pedagogies.  I argued that the ideas of de-centering authority in learner-centered classrooms, fostering collaborative opportunities, and prioritizing experiential learning are ideas stemming from feminist pedagogy.

And now I am thinking about how current ideas of teaching and learning can also find their roots in feminist pedagogy.  The Vanderbilt Center for Teaching’s “A Guide to Feminist Pedagogy” reminds us that curriculum design and instruction that is rooted in feminist theory is also learner-centered and constructivist.  For feminist pedagogy presumes that:

  • “students and teachers ideally learn with and from one another, co-constructing knowledge–both communal and contingent–together.”
    • Do we not use this same reasoning when promoting learner-centered classrooms?  In the work that advocates for such learning, researchers/theorists/promoters seem to ignore this connection.  I wonder if they are hesitant to wade into the politics inherent in feminism.
  • “Personal experience . . . is recognized as a valid and valued form of knowing. It doesn’t stand on its own as complete knowledge, but it’s also not seen as irrelevant or inferior. Instead, it works in conjunction with other forms of knowing.”
    • Is this not the same assumption we hold when we suggest that Inquiry-Based Learning and its sibling, Project-Based Learning, is authentic, effectual pedagogical practices?  Again, the connection (if not kinship) to feminism is seemingly ignored. Politics? or sexism?

So we come back to the ideas that gender and sex are fundamental to ideas of education.  And for me, our ideas about teaching and learning are structurally political.

Now, how will I use this to build my resiliency and to help others build theirs?  How will I avoid the chip-on-my-shoulder attitude when I acknowledge my own self-awareness of my sociopolitical identity.  For it is this self-awareness (and thus this blog post) that will allow me to

  • recognize and understand why I am triggered
  • use my strengths to avoid reacting to triggers
  • identify how my identity can be leveraged for building relationships.

This self-awareness is empowering as a source of strength, an anchor, and connection with others.  By understanding my sociopolitical identity I can boost my resilience (and help others boost theirs) by:

  • strengthening my trust with others
  • uncovering and understanding my unconscious bias
  • forming deeper and more nourishing connections with students, colleagues, and supervisors.

I need to come from a place of collaboration and not pedantism.



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