This file was prepared for electronic distribution by the inforM staff. Questions or comments should be directed to email@example.com. CHAPTER FOUR OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY MAKING CONNECTIONS BY ANITA CLAIR FELLMAN AND BARBARA A. WINSTEAD Old Dominion University examines four areas for the assessment of program goals--knowledge base, critical skills, feminist pedagogy, and personal growth--asking the following questions: What are the key concepts in women's studies? Are learning skills developed in women's studies any different from learning skills developed in other disciplines? Are students' voices heard and respected in the classroom? Is personal growth different for women's studies students? Finally, a fifth area of assessment was established: How has participating in women's studies influenced faculty members? Old Dominion University is a state-supported institution with seventeen thousand students in Norfolk, Virginia, the site of the nation's largest naval base and a bustling port. These two factors assure that many local residents, in fact, may have spent part of their lives in other locations. The university is largely nonresidential, with an undergraduate student body whose average age is twenty-three. A high proportion of students hold part- or full-time jobs while going to the university; 17 percent of undergraduates attend ODU part time. Typically, 30 to 40 percent of the students in the introductory women's studies course are married and/or have children. All these factors mitigate against student involvement in campus activities and intensify the responsibility of courses to embody the institution's educational mission. In women's studies specifically, student engagement with or attachment to the program has ebbed and flowed over the years, depending largely upon fortuitous combinations of students. It is always a struggle to make incoming students aware of a program that exists only at the 300- and 400-level in time for them to plan to become women's studies minors. At the time of this assessment, and perhaps aided by it, student involvement in women's studies was once again on the rise, with about thirty-five students enrolled as minors. Some of the same centrifugal forces exist for faculty members involved in the Women's Studies Program. They are spread among nine or ten departments or programs in four of ODU's colleges. Because there are no institutional incentives or rewards, those who serve on the Women's Studies Advisory Council (WSAC) do so purely out of interest and feminist solidarity. We decided to participate in "The Courage to Question" for two basic reasons. Since we had a loosely structured minor, we wanted first to find out just what we were teaching our students and what they were learning. Second, we wanted our participation in the assessment project to create stronger connections among the WSAC. Founded in 1977, with its first director appointed in 1978, Old Dominion University's Women's Studies Program is well established. The administration of the College of Arts and Letters, where the program is located, firmly supports women's studies; in fact, the college's contribution to the university emphasis on urban issues is interpreted to mean a focus on gender and ethnicity. Many women's studies and women's studies cross-listed courses fill university-wide, upper-division general-education requirements. Nonetheless, the resources put into the program are modest: the director is still its only permanent faculty member. In recent years, however, the provost of the university and the deans of the relevant colleges have contributed funds to permit release time for a visiting half-time faculty person lent, on a rotating basis, from other departments in the university. The director, this annual joint appointee, and an occasional adjunct instructor teach the two core women's studies courses. Instructors usually are lent to the program from the English department to cover two other popular women's studies courses. The remainder of the twelve to fifteen courses that we offer each semester are cross-listed from other departments--mostly within the College of Arts and Letters--where the majority of feminist scholars on campus is located. In addition to the one women's studies required course, students have a choice of about thirty other courses to apply to a fifteen-credit (five-course) women's studies minor. While this wide selection bespeaks a strong interest in feminist scholarship, especially among arts and letters faculty members, it does highlight the director's lack of formal control over the content of the courses from other departments. It also contributes to a smorgasbord education in women's studies, a situation we will rectify as we plan for a baccalaureate degree in women's studies. SETTING GOALS From the beginning, assessment of the Women's Studies Program at ODU was a collaborative and hands-on learning project. Those women's studies faculty members and students willing and able to participate, numbering about twenty-five over the course of the project, were involved at all levels: deciding whether or not to engage in assessment, setting goals, defining goals, developing assessment tools, using those tools (administering questionnaires and tests, conducting interviews), and interpreting results of data collected. Only this final report can be said to be the work of a few rather than many. While inclusiveness can be cumbersome, its virtues are the richness of diverse opinions and perspectives and the commitment of the participants. Having decided to assess the Women's Studies Program, we faced the initial question of what to assess. "The Courage to Question" grant suggested four areas: knowledge base, learning skills, feminist pedagogy, and personal growth, with the proviso that we could delete, add, modify, or substitute according to our institutional and programmatic needs. Although we used these four as a framework for establishing specific assessment program goals, we established a fifth area to assess: women's studies impact on women's studies faculty members. This target acknowledges the reflexive nature of teaching women's studies--or any academic discipline. The assumptions, methods of inquiry, and styles of discourse of a discipline, as well as the social relation- ships established around a common purpose, affect faculty members, their teaching, and, consequently, student learning. With five areas to assess we established five subcommittees to develop specific objectives for each area. The meetings of these subcommittees result- ed in lively conversation and debate. Critical questions were raised. Is there a canon in women's studies? "No, let there not be!" most of us said, but we did agree that there is a knowledge base. Are or should learning skills developed in women's studies be any different from learning skills developed in other disciplines? We concluded that even though making connections be- tween personal experience and academic knowledge is to be expected in most disciplines, this skill has a special significance in women's studies. What is feminist pedagogy anyway? We are still investigating this question but have gained some valuable insights. Is personal growth different for women's studies students? We decided to look particularly at students' friendships. Finally, how has participating in women's studies influenced us as faculty members? METHODS We were determined that our goals and objectives not be method-driven. Whenever anyone said, "But how will you measure that?" someone always answered, "We don't need to worry about that yet." Eventually, of course, we did have to choose methods to measure our objectives. We were guided by the National Assessment Team to use data that we already collected (journals, papers, finals) and measures that can be used for multiple purposes (interviews, questionnaires). We found, too, that others had developed measures that we could use. Thus, the questionnaire sent to ODU graduates who minored in women's studies and the exit interviews with seniors graduating with a minor were adapted from an alumnae questionnaire used by Wellesley College. For some objectives, we developed our own instruments. Although it was tempting to limit our research subjects to the manageable number of women's studies minors, we decided ultimately to use some instruments that would enable us to learn something about all students in women's studies, including many who were minors. The objectives for each area and the methods used to measure them are reviewed in the next KNOWLEDGE BASE To define our objectives for the first area, knowledge base, we asked instructors of women's studies or cross-listed courses to identify five key concepts that they attempted to convey to students. These were summarized as: the systematic, interlocking oppression of women; women's varied relations to patriarchy; the social construction of gender; the social construction of knowledge; and the redefining and reconceptualizing of women's power and empowerment. To ascertain change in knowledge, each instructor was asked to develop and administer a short, ungraded test at the beginning of the semester (pre-test) and then give the same test at the end of the semester (post-test). Instructors then compared answers and prepared a report describing ways in which student knowledge had and had not changed. The tests, used in fifteen classes representing nine different courses over two semesters, were given to 630 students for the pre-tests and 525 students for the post- tests. Thirty-six of these students identified themselves as women's studies minors. With the exception of the short answer test given in four sections of one course, the tests were multiple choice in nature. The courses were: WMST 301 Women in a Changing World (offered twice), WMST 460 Feminist Thought, WMST 495 Gender and Ethics (offered twice), PSYCH 323 Psychology of Women (offered twice), CRJS 325 Women and Crime, ENGL 463 Women Writers (offered four times), ENGL 477 Language, Gender and Power, HIST 495 Women in Latin American History, HIST 495 Women and Work in American History. Many of our conclusions from these tests about student knowledge are based on the entire class. However, "Women in a Changing World," "Feminist Thought," "Women and Work in American History," and "Women Writers" had sufficient numbers of women's studies minors to enable us to make meaningful generalizations about the knowledge base of minors as opposed to non-minors in those classes. While these tests were the most efficient way to take a reading of students' awareness of some key points for each course, they were not a refined instrument for ascertaining what students understood. It was not always easy to distinguish between wrong answers based on students' lack of knowledge and those that were a function of imprecise or confusing questions. Sometimes wrong answers were a product of a little knowledge, rather than of no knowledge, but it was difficult to tell from the results exactly where the gap lay in transmission. For instance, in "Psychology of Women," on the basis of the first semester's post-tests, the instructor attempted (throughout the following semester) to correct a widely held misconception; nonetheless, the test results were virtually the same the second semester. Much more time-consuming, but more useful, was the analysis of final exams for a few courses. In retrospect, this may have been the single most valuable instrument for knowledge-base objectives. Perhaps we would have benefitted from having each instructor design one compulsory exam question for the final exam that would test students' mastery of one key concept. The portfolio of papers from women's studies courses submitted by graduating minors was another good means of gauging student comprehension of important ideas. Finally, graduating minors (twelve) and alumnae (fifteen) were asked in an interview or by questionnaire to identify the three most important concepts that they had learned in women's studies courses (see pages 107-108). The open-ended nature of this request yielded somewhat general answers that were only moderately instructive. Furthermore, our alumna questionnaire called for a considerable investment of time and thought on the part of the respondent. Despite our suggestion that alumnae answer as little or as much of it as they wished, we probably would have gotten a better return with a shorter questionnaire. We turned to our students and asked them what was most critical about how they are taught.... Without hesitation or qualification they said having their voices heard and respected LEARNING SKILLS Our objectives for the learning skills area were to assess connected learning as well as students' ability to examine the assumptions underlying culturally accepted work, studies, and literatures; and their ability to redefine and de- fend questions, problems, and issues. We used course papers and exams and students' submissions to the annual Women's Studies Student Essay Contest. FEMINIST PEDAGOGY To decide on objectives for assessment for feminist pedagogy, we turned to our students and asked them what was most critical about how they are taught. Without hesitation or qualifications they said having their voices heard and respected. We designed a questionnaire to ask simply, "Was your voice (that is, your questions, concerns, and opinions) heard and respected in this class?" and distributed it to students in women's studies and cross-list- ed courses. We also asked questions concerning "voice" in the minors' exit interviews and the alumnae questionnaires. PERSONAL GROWTH Our objective was to measure the sense of "we-ness" students feel in the women's studies classroom. We designed a questionnaire asking students to estimate the number of female and male acquaintances, friends, and close friends they had in their classes--both women's studies and non-women's studies (see page 106). The questionnaire was administered at the beginning and the end of the semester, and changes in friendships over time were analyzed. Questions also were asked in the minors' exit interviews and in the alumnae questionnaires about changes in friendships that occurred as a result of participation in women's studies. IMPACT ON FACULTY We assessed how the women's studies program has affected the teaching and scholarly lives of women faculty members associated with the program. To accomplish this, we interviewed one another; this process served both to encourage us to examine our own lives as they are affected by participation in women's studies and to explore and discover how women's studies has influenced our colleagues. RESULTS KNOWLEDGE BASE We should make clear at the outset that we were not measuring the information that our students had acquired but rather the distillation of that information into a series of complex concepts with which to interpret the world. For example, when students learn from lectures, readings, and research projects how little reliable knowledge we have on diseases and physical conditions specific to women, we wish them also to understand the larger point about the devaluation of women in our culture and about the social construction of knowledge. If we convey to students that domestic service lost its place as the primary occupation for African American women almost forty years after it ceased being the most common job for white women, we want them to realize that not all women experience a patriarchal system in the same way. It was student understanding of the larger concepts that we had defined as the desired knowledge base. SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER Based on our evaluations, it is apparent that students come to understand that gender is socially constructed. Over the course of the semester, students move from a reliance on individual or biological explanations to sociocultural ones. Hence, students in "Women in a Changing World" were less likely to agree by the end of the semester that women mother because of a maternal instinct; women's studies minors were even less likely to think so than their classmates. Students also came to see workforce jobs as a reinforcement of gender identity rather than as a natural outgrowth of feminine abilities. In "Gender and Ethics,'l an increased percentage of students ceased accepting individualist justifications ("I meant no harm" or "She chose this freely") in favor of understanding how choices are constrained by less visible, and less conscious, structural barriers. Several minors who had taken the sociology of sexuality course taught by a feminist instructor retained as a key concept the realization that sexuality, too, is socially constructed. In "Psychology of Women," students switched to sociocultural as opposed to biological explanations of gender-related behaviors. The troubling exception to this was the persistence in the belief that violence against women is best explained by the pathological impulsivity and aggressiveness of some males. Students ordinarily come into our classes convinced that all impediments that stand in women's way are a result of restrictive socialization of both male and female children. The degree of their passionate interest in this subject can be demonstrated by which questions students chose to answer on a midterm in "Women in a Changing World." Ninety percent selected an essay question that asked them, on the basis of the course reading they had done on socialization, to describe how they planned to socialize their daughters. The instructor saw her task as deepening their understanding of how lifelong this process is and how pervasive the gendering of our culture. Students' capacities to analyze gendered cultural messages increased by the end of the course. Most of those with children, for example, wrote of looking at children's cartoons and television shows with new eyes. In analyzing what they had learned from committing an assigned gender role violation, the vast majority of women students marvelled at how deeply they had been socialized as females despite their initial belief that they were free individually from the confining aspects of femininity. INTERLOCKING OPPRESSION OF WOMEN When it comes to the more challenging issue of the systemic devaluation and subordination of females, of the interlocking forms of oppression of women, we do see a difference in understanding between minors and non- minors. For instance, most students come to understand that rape and sexual harassment are crimes of violence, not of uncontrollable desire, and represent an attempt to subjugate and control women. On the "Women and Crime" post-test, 100 percent of students understood correctly that rape victims are less likely to be believed by the police and prosecutors than victims of other crimes. They are less clear, however, on how society encourages and perpetuates such violence. Minors are more likely, judging from their final exams and their exit interviews, to see patriarchy as an overarching framework, a system, as opposed to a series of random discriminations against women. One minor, in analyzing her gender violation for "Women in a Changing World," observed wryly that given the power of males in our social system, even her attempt at role reversal (she offered to buy a male stranger a drink) resulted in his still wresting control of the situation from her. "I find that male-dominant societies are everywhere," observed a minor in the "Women Writers" course, while one of her classmates indicated that she was completing the course with an increased awareness of power relations illustrated in literary works. In their exit interviews, seven women's studies minors, including one male, identified the existence of a patriarchal system as one of the three most important concepts they had learned. They commented on the "extensiveness of male domination--far beyond what is noticeable to the eye" and on "law as an expression of patriarchy." The alumnae in the questionnaires also referred expressly to patriarchy as an important concept or wrote of recognizing "power inequalities and their impact on our lives." WOMEN'S VARIED RELATIONS TO PATRIARCHY As we anticipated, instructors have made differential progress in emphasizing women's varied relations to patriarchy. We are gratified to learn, however, that students in at least four courses not focused exclusively on minority women all indicate strong interest in African American women and show marked increases in their knowledge by the end of the semester. Of the thirty white students in "Women in a Changing World" during one semester, twenty-four chose to answer at least one short-answer (100-120 words) question on the final exam on African American women; most did well. On the other hand, when they were asked in an essay question on that same exam to integrate the history of African American women into their summary of the his- tory of the American feminist movement, every student ignored that aspect of the question. In addition to telling us something about their learning skills, this tells us that our students are not yet mainstreaming their knowledge of minority women into the overall picture they have of American women. Corroborating our belief that minority students, like women in general, are eager to see their individual or group experiences reflected in the curriculum, four of the five African American students in that same course answered an essay question that gave them the option of comparing the situation of African American women with women in the developing world. The courses in which the subjects of sexual orientation and homophobia are raised also produce apparent changes in student knowledge and attitudes, as evidenced in class discussion and written assignments in "Women in a Changing World." Students are wrestling with the general homophobia that pervades this geographic area but are open to understanding lesbians' points of view or answering exam questions with knowledge and empathy on the historical experience of lesbians. Our female students' commitment to non- coercive socialization of children makes them receptive to criticisms of homophobia because they see it as imposing rigid gender guidelines on children. Letty Cottin Pogrebin's article on this topic, "The Secret Fear That Keeps Us from Raising Free Children" (Ms. October 1980, 51-54), was selected by 90 percent of the students in "Women in a Changing World" for discussion in their journals in the year previous to our study. SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF KNOWLEDGE Virtually all our women's studies and cross-listed courses emphasize the social construction of knowledge. Most of our students begin to grasp this fundamental concept. They understand that what they learn in women's studies classes has been excluded knowledge. "Why haven't we been taught all this before?" is the most common query in the introductory women's studies class. Quite a few alumnae mentioned as one of the key concepts they had learned that important women had been unfairly hidden from history, a perspective voiced by both male and female students in every women's history course we have ever offered. Judging by their responses to the short-answer questions on the post-test, a modest minority of students in the "Women Writers" course took the next step as well in understanding that human beings create knowledge. They were especially drawn to the concept of the resisting reader: identifying the subjective element in the supposedly universal; situating famous authors as writing from their gender, race, and class; and learning not to acquiesce as a reader in what Judith Fetterley has called "the endless division of self against self.''1 In one "Women in a Changing World" class, all eight minors chose to answer the question on the final exam that asked students to indicate how feminism has taught us to rethink or redefine rape, the generic pronoun, sexual intercourse, or domestic violence. Not only were they more likely to answer that question than the other students in the class, they also gave more sophisticated answers, some of them focusing on the relation between world view and resulting change in definition. While our students see that feminists might organize or define knowledge differently than non-feminists, they often do not assimilate the fact that feminists themselves construct a view of the world in a variety of ways. In "Feminist Thought," minors did significantly better on the post-test than did other students in the class in differentiating the main ideas among varieties of feminism, possibly because these other students were still simply pitting a monolithic feminism against non-feminism. Based on what we discovered about students' developmental needs intellectually, the Women's Studies Program now requires at least one previous women's studies course as a pre-requisite for "Feminist Thought." WOMEN'S POWER AND EMPOWERMENT The redefining and reconceptualizing of women's power and empowerment come throUgh in a number of ways. Many of the pre- and post-tests asked students to define feminism. One of the shifts over the course of the semester in those definitions, among a minority of the respondents, was the move away from a strict equal rights perspective (feminism as women's efforts to be treated equally with men) to one that was more woman-centered (an appreciation of women's distinctive attributes, contributions, and perceptions). This insistence that women should not have to be identical to men to be valued was especially evident in the minors' exit interviews. About half of them spoke of the importance of validating one's own perceptions as a woman, of not needing to see women as just like men, of the desirability of reorganizing the public sphere to accommodate the place of childbearing and child rearing in women's lives. LEARNING SKILLS We set out to assess two things about students in women's studies or cross- listed courses. First, do they become connected knowers, individuals who use self-knowledge and empathy to learn? Second, do they acquire the ability to examine and evaluate assumptions underlying culturally accepted "fact" and theory? A brief review of Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule's exposition of "women's ways of knowing" will help in the discussion of our results.2 Along the path to constructed knowledge, and just past the positions of silence and received knowledge (listening to and learning from authorities), is subjective knowledge. According to Belenky et al., "The subjective knower...sees truth as subjectified and personal. The subjectivist discovers that each person's life experience gives a different view of reality from that of any other person. What is more, truth is necessarily a private matter and, at least from the point of view of these women, should not be imposed on others."3 Beyond subjective (or received) knowledge is procedural knowledge, the understanding that there are procedures, skills, and techniques for obtaining knowledge. A person can acquire procedural knowledge through separate knowing (learning directly about the rules, standards, methods, and logic used to "know" something) and/or connected knowing (learning by becoming familiar with and understanding other people and their ways of thinking). Finally, constructed knowledge is reached when knowers attempt "to integrate knowledge they felt intuitively was personally important with know- ledge they had learned from others. They told of weaving together the strands of rational and emotive thought and of integrating objective and subjective knowing."4 The constructivist knows, "All knowledge is constructed, and the knower is an intimate part of the known." Our emphasis on connected knowing and the ability to examine assumptions highlights essential ingredients of constructed knowledge: the empathic connection with others and the objective analysis of the bases of knowledge. Although we did not identify these criteria to the judges of the annual Women's Studies Student Essay Contest, which draws entries from all over campus, all six winning entries in 1990 displayed evidence of learning these skills. Some of the undergraduate essayists attempted to see the world through the eyes of their subjects (as in the case of the two papers based on interviews with contemporary local women), and others used conventional forms of scholarship to ask unorthodox questions of their material (for example, a study of the discontent with the female sex role expressed in the poetry of an Argentinean woman poet). Connected learning is an implicit goal in many women's studies classes. It is a common practice in the introductory women's studies course to ask students on take-home exams to describe the world view of someone mentioned in a course reading--for example, a lesbian in Buffalo in 1940 or a Southern black domestic servant in the 1950s. At other times, students in that course have been asked to compare their mothers' options and ambitions with their own. These are assignments on which students generally do well if they are asked to do a narrative or recreation. Given information about the circumstances in which other women live, students can empathically place themselves with others and describe what other people's thoughts and feelings would be. It is likely that many of our students are subjective knowers as described by Belenky et al.6 As subjective knowers they are thrilled at the opportunity provided in women's studies classes to express their personal feelings and opinions and to hear those of others. As subjective knowers, however, they understand "point of view" to be an opinion or perspective based on personal life experience and, therefore~ not open to examination (without being intrusive) or criticism (without appearing hostile). They do not readily see that "point of view" represents a model or theory that can be understood in terms of its internal logic and the external forces that influence it. Based on a careful reading of final exams in both "Women in a Changing World" and "Feminist Thought," we conclude that some students also find it hard to apply the ideas or insights of an analytic article to a description of personal experience for example, exploring whether Chodorow's insights about mother-daughter relations might apply to their mothers and themselves. If a descriptive phrase or example used in the analysis is similar to their own experience, then this may be seen as validating the analysis. If however, their own experience appears to contradict the analysis, they are unable to use their experience to form an alternative analysis or to place their experience along a continuum to which the analysis might apply. In other words, these students do not consider how or why they or others have certain feelings or opinions. Similarly, students' abilities to identify with the subject of study is related to how well they acquire and/or retain information. For example, in the pre- and post-tests for "Women and Crime," the instructor discovered that of the three categories of questions--employment, victimization, and female criminality--students did best on the first category, in which the "relational distance" was the smallest. Students identify with trying to work in the criminal justice system; hence, by the post-test, 100 percent of the respondents correctly answered the question dealing with the relatively low percentage of women working in criminal justice. If, as we suspect, connecting with the subject matter enhances learning, then stimulating students' empathic skills also will enable them to learn more about subjects distant from their own experiences . Summarizing information, identifying point of view, and applying the information or perspective to another source are all skills that come hard to a majority of our students. Short-answer questions on exams in several courses revealed that more students--a bare majority--are able to focus on key bits of information than can master the second two skills. Not surprisingly, the identification of the assumptions underlying a piece of literature, research, or scholarship is difficult for our students. Also, they often are unable to compare points of view or apply the insights of one writer to another. In "Feminist Thought," very few students, whether women's studies minors or not, chose to answer questions on the final exam that asked them to link the ideas in any two pieces of assigned reading. Our impression is that in many majors, students are required only to pluck information--not point of view--from the course readings. It is possible that we in women's studies may be insisting to students that the identification of point of view is important but that our courses by themselves are inadequate to teach students the skill of reading critically. On the other hand, our very best students do learn these skills. In an oral summary of an assigned piece of reading in a sociology course cross-listed with women's studies, one graduating minor (sociology major) explicitly incorporated readings done for a women's studies course in a previous semester. In a paper for a history course taken in her last semester, another women's studies minor synthesized paradigms from both women's studies and political science (her major). Our challenge as instructors is to use students' abilities as subjective knowers to appreciate the diversity of points of view expressed in class and to encourage their curiosity about why such differences exist. The analytical material can then be presented as hypotheses about these differences and about where points of view come from. Further, we might use their empathic skills to help them understand not only the feelings and thoughts of others but also the historical, social, and intellectual contexts that influence them. The minors' exit interviews indicate that we are meeting this challenge with about 25 percent of the students. One student remembered being "asked to think about why an author chose to write about this subject, why she had the perspective she did, how her work connected with her life." Another said, "In other courses, ideas are posed to us as 'this is the way it is,' but in women's studies courses an idea would be given to us to evaluate. I learned to question things I read for the first time.... You gave your opinion, but you were also asked for evidence. It's a good thing. You have a tendency to spit it out without thinking much about it." FEMINIST PEDAGOGY Our goal was to assess whether students feel able to speak when they want to in women's studies classes and whether their voices are heard and respected. Despite the fact that we originally formulated a much more complex goal about shared authority in the classroom, the student members of our assessment committee were adamant that, to them, the ability to speak freely and confidently in class was the key element of feminist pedagogy. To assess "voice," we used a short questionnaire in women's studies classes and questions on the minors' exit interviews, and the alumnae survey. The results were reassuring. All the minors, without exception--both African American and white--indicated that they felt welcome to speak in class and that various points of view were respected. "Discussion, not confrontation" was the way one minor described the exchange in the typical women's studies classroom. "I talked more than I've ever talked," commented another. "It's not that I was restricted in my expression in other classes," observed yet another student, "it's just that I knew that my opinions would be welcome in women's studies classes." Two-thirds of the alumnae also remembered women's studies classes as those in which their voices were heard and respected. Although some of them felt male students to be scornful at times, the alumnae commented that the instructors were always supportive. "My point of view was as important as the teacher's," reflected one graduate certificate holder. Another student observed that she found herself and found her voice through the kind of supportive criticism offered in the women's studies classroom. Since the majority of our students are subjective knowers, they revel in the opportunity to express what they know from their own experience and have that understood and validated in the classroom (as opposed to being told what to know and being expected to express only that received information). They also are willing to hear others and acknowledge that what others have to say is equally important. They are most likely to criticize other students when they speak about things they have not personally experienced (males talking about women; women talking about men; whites talking about African Americans; an individual talking about rape survivors if she/he has not experienced or been threatened by rape). Some students are able to discuss the process or background from which these personal views arise; in other words, to address how subjective knowledge is constructed-- and this certainly is the level at which instructors hope to bring the discussion. We believe, however, that both students and instructors are cautious about "analyzing" a view whose expression and validation is a personal victory of sorts for the student. We asked the "voice" question of students enrolled in women's studies courses at the end of the fall 1990 term: "Was your voice (your questions concerns, and opinions) heard and respected in this class?" In three of the nine classes surveyed, all of the students responded "yes." Positive responses in the other six classes ranged from 78.5 percent to 97 percent. In all of the classes, students remarked that questions and comments were encouraged and that diverse opinions were respected. Sample comments were: The class fostered participation and personal stories from everyone in relation to the works being examined. I never felt judged or criticized, although frequently I encountered disagreement as well as agreement. The instructor was very tolerant of opinions. While a popular misconception is that a women's studies class is an alienating environment for males, our data suggest that men form new and close friendships with females in women's studies Students expressed appreciation of the willingness of the instructor and other students to listen to many perspectives. In the few instances where students felt their voices were not heard, they offered their own explanations in terms of the size of the class (one had an enrollment of 150), their lack of interest in the class, and their own unwillingness to speak out. In some cases, students expressed the feeling that the class atmosphere was not conducive to their voice being heard. The number and quality of positive responses indicate that women's studies instructors accomplish their goal of letting students' voices be heard in the classroom. Students find that their own opinions and feelings are respected and that the opinions and perspective.s of others are instructive. Among the courses surveyed, smaller classes and classes that focused more on class discussion and students' participation were the ones in which the high- est percentage of students felt they had a "voice." Another indication of the emphasis on student voices in women's studies classes comes from the results of the "Friendship Questionnaire." Students in women's studies classes were asked. in addition to information about friends, to describe their women's studies class and other classes that they were taking concurrently in terms of number of students~ style of teaching (lecturel lecture plus questions/comments, lecture and discussion, mostly discussion), and whether group projects were recommended or required. Even considering only classes with fifty or fewer students, women's studies classes still were less likely to be all lecture (2 percent versus 15 percent), more likely to be lecture plus discussion (55 percent versus 26 percent), as opposed to lecture plus students' questions/comments (34 percent versus 53 percent), and more likely to be mostly discussion (9 percent versus 6 percent). These results demonstrate that there is a greater structural emphasis on student voices in women's studies classes. Women's studies courses also were more likely to recommend or require group projects (72 percent versus 41 per- cent), suggesting that students also are more likely to learn in these classes that they have something of value to share with one another. PERSONAL GROWTH Our initial goal here was to measure the sense of "we-ness" students felt in the women's studies classroom. We were especially interested in how women's studies affected students' friendships. Because ODU has essentially a commuting student body and its students are older, often with family and job responsibilities, it is difficult for students to create friendship networks. In the minors' exit interviews and the alumnae questionnaires we asked, "Did women's studies courses change your friendships or social network (make friends, lose friends, change nature of friendships)? If so, how?" Seventy percent of the minors and 73 percent of the alumnae answered "yes". Several mentioned making new friends: "Women's studies enlarged my circle of friends just by the nature of the open, honest classes"; "I found kindred souls whom I could associate with in a comfortable atmosphere"; "It gave me a new and different network of friends who fuel my intellectual pursuits." Others mentioned that the quality and depth of their relationships had improved. One minor stated, "It has changed the nature of all our [old friends'] friendships. [They are] at a deeper level now. It's almost like a spiritual bond." Two minors stated that they had made "lifelong" friends in women's studies classes. Others found that some old friendships suffered. One male minor said he was "weeding out old friends" but also that his friendships were "not so superficial now." A woman minor said, "I now have more women friends and fewer men friends. Before it was just the opposite." Students in women's studies courses were also asked at the beginning of the semester and then again at the end of the semester to estimate their number of female and male acquaintances, friends, and close friends in their women's studies classes and in the other classes that they were taking concurrently. At the end of the semester, students were asked to indicate the extent of their interaction with their best friend in class. Whatever classes they take at ODU, students in general report knowing more students in class, at all levels of friendship, at the end of the semester. The results, however, indicated that both female and male students show a greater increase in the number of close female friends from the beginning to the end of the semester in women's studies than they do in other classes. Interestingly, male students (but not females) also show a greater increase in the number of female friends (as opposed to close female friends) in women's studies classes than they do in other classes. It may be that a women's studies class provides a context in which men are freed from any heterosexual incentive to pursue women and are allowed to view them as friends. Since the teaching styles characteristic of women's studies classes may encourage students to get to know one another, additional data analyses (analysis of covariance) were done to compare friendship patterns while con- trolling for teaching style. Even then, women's studies classes continued to enhance and alter friendships more than non-women's studies classes did. The results suggest that the friendship process that distinguishes women's studies classes from other classes is the deepening of friendships with women (that is, more close female friends). While a popular misconception is that a women's studies class is an alienating environment for males, our data suggest that men form new and close friendships with females in women's studies courses. Although the style in which women's studies courses are taught (for example, more discussion) might have accounted for these findings, covariance analyses indicated that it did not. This suggests that something else about women's studies classes--the content, the opportunity to share personal information (not just opinions), or the discovery that others have similar points of view on important issues--encourages the development of close female friendships and, for males, new female friendships. Although our initial goal was to focus on friendships, the data we received from the minors' exit interviews and the alumnae questionnaires encourage us to speak more broadly of the changes women's studies produced in students' lives. Among the minors, the student who spoke most forcefully about this indicated that feminism is a way of life for her, that women's studies and feminism focused not only her academic life at ODU but her plans for future education and for employment. In her interview she said that women's studies courses had affected "every aspect" of her life, making her rethink her "cultural, religious, family values, friendships, romantic relationships, every relationship I have and the decisions I make. As far as intellectually, it's focused my academic career--the questions I ask in class, the perspectives I use on the material, what I agree and disagree with." Other students also indicated that women's studies affected their work plans. One student now knows that she wants to work more closely with people, another wishes to work specifically with women, and yet another has switched her field for prospective graduate studies from psychology at ODU, with its limited number of women's studies courses, to sociology, with its numerous feminist scholars. The alumnae responses to the questions asking whether women's studies affected their personal, professional, and intellectual lives were even more pronounced. They had more to say on this subject than on any other that we asked. Women's studies affected everything about them, three women indicated, from the way they thought to the nature of their livelihood. Another woman declared, "What I learned in those classes will never cease to affect every aspect of my life." Yet another said that the program completely changed her life, and without women's studies, she would not have developed her writing and expertise about women. "I sometimes felt as if I had a completely new brain," declared a graduate. Two other alumnae specifically indicated that they apply what they learned to the workplace and volunteer activities. Several women stressed that the program helped them to empower themselves, to tap what was inside, with one woman remarking that women's studies satisfied a longing she did not realize she had. Another noticed that she had become less intimidated by male authority figures: "Awareness leads to growth," she commented, "and so I grew." A Japanese graduate certificate holder, now wrestling with the role demands of marriage and motherhood, asserts her determination to make her domestic life egalitarian and to treat her daughter and any future sons the same. The one alumna who declared the program to have had minimal impact on her--merely reinforcing what she already knew and believed--is now getting a graduate certificate in Jungian studies, focusing on perceptions of men's and women's roles. "Not everybody is discontent as a woman," she reminds us. Others used their acceptance of the feminine to in- crease their self-confidence and to help empower other women. For many alumnae, political beliefs were not changed by women's studies as much as they were sharpened and firmed up. In addition to learning about themselves and shaping their life choices students and alumnae told us that they had learned about others, especially other women. One minor indicated that having heard other students talk about their lives in women's studies courses, she is now more sensitive to the needs, thoughts, and feelings of others. Another student, an African American woman, thought that women's studies courses stand out in their aware- ness of the variations among human beings. On the alumnae questionnaire, three women wrote that they learned tolerance and patience in women's studies classes because they realized that not everyone's life experiences are the same. IMPACT ON FACULTY Because a number of us had come into feminist scholarship through our participation on the Women's Studies Advisory Council, and others of us viewed the WSAC as an oasis from exasperating departments, we decided to examine the impact of women's studies on ourselves as faculty members. Our method was to pair off and to interview each other. All but one of the ten who participated had taught at least one women's studies or cross-listed course. Each of the remaining nine faculty members interviewed mentioned the exhilaration of teaching women's studies courses. For many of us, these are our favorite courses because they touch on the subject matter of our research; they offer a respite from a heavy diet of service courses; students are more engaged in women's studies courses; or we are able to experiment with teaching techniques. We find that teaching women's studies courses inevitably influences what and how we teach in other courses. We bring more material about women into our standard courses, and we often introduce more discussion or joint student projects into those courses as well. One faculty member observed that teaching in the ODU Women's Studies Program had stimulated her interest in the theory and practice of feminist pedagogy, while another commented that she had garnered material for her mainstream philosophy courses from her women's studies courses. "And when I teach logic," she added, "I move beyond the traditional approach--logic as criticism, and usually negative criticism--to its constructive and creative role." Another faculty member attributed the dramatic shift in her linguistics courses to the women's studies faculty development sessions on minority women. These resulted, she said, "in valuing (verbally and nonverbally) contributions of women and gay students. No more chilly climate in my classes." Involvement in women's studies also has had a positive effect on re- search and scholarship. Two faculty members commented that they had not really enjoyed doing research until they began doing feminist research. Women's studies "made me actually want to publish," one woman observed, while another recalled that the first time she submitted a feminist paper to a conference, shortly after she arrived at ODU, she did "the first draft in a single weekend, on a topic I'd been hoarding notes on for years.... That may have been my first experience of joy in writing. I now find writing my most rewarding professional activity." Still another faculty member concludes that it was her respect for the bravery of a former director of women's studies who, through mentoring, gave her the courage to do feminist research. She added, "My growing familiarity with feminist scholarship has given me more realistic, less inflated expectations of what is involved in doing that and more conventional scholarship. Now I am more willing to give an interesting project a try rather than assuming that much more knowledge and experience would be required on my part." Another woman first encountered the now-influential feminist scholarship in her discipline through agreeing to teach a women's studies cross-listed course in her department because no one else was available to offer it. Two faculty members, neither in fields where this is customary, undertook joint hook-length proJects with graduate students, one of which has been published. One of those faculty members also has used our annual Work in Progress conference on feminist scholarship to spur herself into doing re- search, giving a presentation and submitting an article on a topic new to her. A majority of those interviewed indicated that involvement on the WSAC, in combination with participation in the ODU Women's Caucus, had been significant socializing forces into the political climate of the university. As one woman put it: "I feel that I have benefitted from watching other feminist women maneuver as academics, after trying unsuccessfully myself to find role models among male professors.... This has given me the opportunity to be more myself in academic settings, rather than maintaining a low pro- file, as I had done at other institutions where I had taught." Another, who characterizes her department as "almost oblivious to university politics," maintains that "whatever I have learned about the political life of the university has come from my women's studies friends." A third remembered her early days at ODU, before there was a comparable organization for black faculty members, when participation on the WSAC introduced her to a core group of sympathetic faculty members. Finally, everyone cites the importance of the friendships they have formed with other women's studies faculty members. Often our closest and most significant university friendships are with one another. While we also have university friendships based along departmental lines, the combination of shared values (if not disciplinary interests) and absence of intradepartmental competitiveness among WSAC members gives our relationships a distinctive sunniness. Like our students, we find that our shared feminist perspective yields true and lasting friendships. EFFECT OF PARTICIPATION IN "THE COURAGE TO QUESTION" Participating in "The Courage to Question" has permitted us to accomplish our two initial overriding goals: to determine what we are teaching our students and what they are learning and to reinforce bonds among members of the Women's Studies Advisory Committee. Because the project required us to articulate our educational goals and objectives, we were obliged to meet as a committee (plus additional faculty and student representatives) repeatedly. Although the Women's Studies Program has sponsored excellent colloquia and faculty development workshops throughout its history, this was the first time we had faced one another and asked, "What are our goals?" Also, for the first time we have on paper a comprehensive and clear statement about Many of us needed to be reminded that there often is a difference between what is said by the instructor in the classroom, no matter how clearly, and what is heard by students what we are doing in women's studies, a description of our women's studies program goals that we can share with others interested in developing women's studies courses in their departments. It was a validating and reassuring experience to discover that each of us does have a clear picture of what she is trying to communicate to students and that, when put together, these individual views reveal a shared vision of what the Women's Studies Program is about. We have found words to describe what we are trying to do in our classroom, and we have discovered in one another resources, knowledge, and skills that previously we may have overlooked. On an individual level we already have planned alterations to our courses based on which ideas or concepts students are not grasping and which skills students still need to develop. Many of us needed to be reminded that there often is a difference between what is said by the instructor in the classroom, no matter how clearly, and what is heard by students. Without being negligent about the content of the course materials that we so carefully put together, we must nonetheless pay more attention to whether and how students are processing lectures, discussions, and reading assignments. In some classes this has resulted in more group discussion or more feedback from students. In general, we are talking much more about classroom dynamics, for the FIPSE project revealed just how starved we were for discussion about teaching. We have built upon the project's assessment of teaching by sponsoring a feminist pedagogy workshop each of the last two springs, during which we refined teaching strategies and extended our investigation of the connection between teaching and learning. Another new shared activity initiated by the FIPSE project is the annual WSAC retreat. In 1990, we met for a few days late in the spring to talk about assessment tools. That meeting, which produced our institutional research design, also produced a new cohesiveness in the faculty and renewed our spirits. As a consequence, we held our second annual retreat the following spring, extending its length by two days. That time we talked over the preliminary findings from the assessment project, planned the next year's women's studies activities, and started some long-range planning for the program. At this year's retreat, we will discuss the findings from this report and share ideas about both knowledge base and learning skills. We have focused on ourselves as participants in a women's studies program more than ever before in our history, and, as a result, we feel we have achieved a sense of identity and community as women's studies faculty members. Participation in the project also has led to closer ties with students. We do not think it a coincidence that a women's studies student group started up again last year after a several-year lapse. Its network is expanding all the time. In addition to women's studies minors, it now includes those who have graduated, current graduate students, and friends from the community. Their activities even extend to occasional student-faculty potlucks. Spurred by updating our alumnae mailing list for our alumnae questionnaire, we held a women's studies reunion a year ago and plan to hold a second one to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the program. The amount of voluntary labor to accomplish this project was enormous. At times it seemed to WSAC members that they would drown in assessment materials. Nonetheless, our involvement has made us a more cohesive faculty and, at the same time, has initiated a period of critical reassessment of what we are teaching, how we are teaching it, and what students have gained from the whole enterprise. 1 . Judith Fetterley, The Resisting Reader: Feminist Approach to American Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978). 2. M. F. Belenky. B. M. Clinchy. N. R. Goldberger, and J. M. Tarule, Women's Ways of Knowing (New York: Basic Books, 1986). 3. Belenky, et al., Women's Ways of Knowing, 69-70. 4. Belenky, et al., Women's Ways of Knowing, 134. 5. Belenky, et al . Women's Ways of Knowing, 137. 6. Belenky, et al., Women's Ways of Knowing. 106 STUDENT QUESTIONNAIRE OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY Name: Social Security Number: Women's studies major/minor: Course name and number: Instructor: Number of students in the class: 1. Style of teaching: all lecture lecture and students' questions/comments lecture and discussion mostly discussion 2. Does the instructor recommend or require group discussion or group projects? 3. Currently, how many students do you know in class (including acquaintances and friends) ? number of female acquaintances and friends number of male acquaintances and friends 4. Currently how many students in class are friends? female friends/male friends 5. Currently how many students in class are close, personal friends? female close friends/male close friends 6. Think of the person whom you know best in this class. Check all of the following activities that apply to your interactions with this person: see her/him only in class see her/him before and/or after classes but only at ODU see her/him for social occasions away from ODU I talk with her/him outside of class about course assignments I talk with her/him outside of class about topics mentioned or discussed in class 7. How did being in class together change (if it did ) your relationship with this person? ALUMNAE QUESTIONNAIRE INTRODUCTION: In order to learn more about Old Dominion University's Women's Studies Program and its impact on students, we ask that you respond to the following questions. We are interested in anything and everything that you have to share with us about your women's studies experiences, hut feel free to skip questions that are not relevant to your sitUation. Women's studies include all cross-listed courses, not just WMST courses. Backgrounf Information 1. What year did you graduate? 2. What is your age? 3. What is your race/ethnicity? 4. What was your major? 5. After leaving ODU did you earn any advanced degree(s)? In what fields? 6. Are you currently earning any advanced degree? In what field? Please provide us with an employment and volunteer activity history: 7a. First job (since graduation from ODU); number of years at the job 7b. Second job; number of years at the job 7c. Third job; number of years at the job 8. List volunteer activities since graduating from ODU 9. How were the learning environments structured in your women's studies courses (e.g., lecture, small group discussions, group projects)? 10. Did the size of the class make a difference? If so, how? 11. Were the learning environments different from non-women's studies courses? If so, how? 12. Was there much discussion in women's studies classes? Did students debate or argue with each other? Did you feel that your voice was heard and respected? If not, why not? 13. Did you discuss course readings and lectures outside the classroom? If so, with whom? (specify relationship: roommates, female friends, male friends, family) 14. Were different points of view encouraged by the instructors in your courses? If so, how did instructors teach you about different points of view? (give examples) 15. Did you participate in women's studies activities other than courses? If so, describe these and their impact on you. 16. How did your participation in the women's studies program make you feel about yourself? We are interested in all of your thoughts and feelings about women's studies courses and the women's studies program at ODU. Please share any that have not been addressed by these questions.