- Team Teaching “Gender Perspectives”:A Reflection on Feminist Pedagogy in the Interdisciplinary Classroom
This paper explores the potential of collaborative interdisciplinary teaching as a mechanism for advancing feminist pedagogies. The authors, individually and collectively, engage in feminist academic work (e.g., scholarship and teaching) that challenges traditional academic expectations in our disciplines and at our institution. We do this in spite of our understanding that power relations within the academy and in traditional academic disciplines tend to marginalize methodologies that promote emancipatory and progressive ideas (see Katuna). Furthermore, we embrace academic feminism, particularly in the classroom, as having interdisciplinary potential in its ability to draw from multiple fields of thought simultaneously to help students develop critical approaches that ultimately contribute to equity and equality, within and beyond the academy.
Interdisciplinarity is central to the transformative goals of women’s/gender studies, given the multi-faceted and deeply layered nature of gender construction. Feminist scholars have expressed the hope that challenging disciplinary boundaries will allow fuller methodologies to come to fruition and disrupt authoritative power structures within the academy. However, the extent to which the interdisciplinary promise of women’s/gender studies has been fulfilled in practice has been called into question. In an important Feminist Studies forum (2001), a group of feminist scholars challenged the interdisciplinarity of feminist scholarship and teaching, noting that most of these activities are typically “either disciplinary or multidisciplinary, combining disciplines in a fashion that is additive rather than integrative” (Finger and Rosner 499). Some of this can be explained as a reflection of structural realities within the academy, where job prospects in interdisciplinary fields are limited and true interdisciplinarity remains under suspicion: universities will not give up the prioritization of traditional disciplines (Katz 519). This is consequential because the inherent interdisciplinarity of women’s and gender studies has the radical potential to resist entrenched academic boundaries and to create interstitial scholarship. As Anke Finger and Victoria Rosner state, “Feminists can use interdisciplinary scholarship to challenge the forms knowledge takes in [End Page 105] the disciplines, to search for omissions, gaps, and erasures, to pursue investigations that disciplinary structures may preclude” (500). While most attention has been paid to the implications and limitations of interdisciplinarity for feminist research, feminist teaching also suffers from the constraining influence of compartmentalized disciplines, even when feminist pedagogies are engaged. Teaching tends to reflect particularized conventions, often emphasizing the importance of disciplinary content. Despite individual faculty members’ striving to reach across the borders of our own training, the realities of our disciplinary groundings are often difficult to circumvent in the classroom.
Feminist pedagogies are diverse and multiple but at their core are goals of emancipation and liberation that are often bound with attention to what is taught and how it is taught (Storrs and Mihelich), as well as to the importance of reflexivity for students and teachers. Feminist pedagogies advance social justice by weakening the foundations of sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, and other oppressive ideologies. As Carolyn M. Shrewsbury suggests, “At the core of feminist pedagogy is a re-imaging of the classroom as a community of learners where there is both autonomy of self and mutuality with others . . .” (8). Our vision of a feminist classroom is a site where power can be shared (though not necessarily equally), and where students and teachers speak freely as they strive to celebrate differences and question knowledge, and the production of knowledge.
Our focus in this article is to contribute to the discussion of the promises and drawbacks of interdisciplinary feminist pedagogies and collaborative teaching by providing a case study of feminist interdisciplinarity that is truly integrative, as conceived and implemented in a team-taught Gender Perspectives course delivered by the four authors in 2009 and 2012. As faculty at a relatively new university with a stated commitment to innovative pedagogies and a core mission of interdisciplinarity, we were in an advantageous position to challenge academic propriety. Because “One of the fundamental goals of a feminist approach to education is the replacement of hierarchical relations with egalitarian and cooperative relations” (Storrs and Mihelich 101), and collaborative teaching is generally acknowledged...