This file was prepared for electronic distribution by the inforM staff. Questions or comments should be directed to email@example.com. CHAPTER NINE CONCLUSION What I found in women's studies was a body of knowledge that taught me to question not only the answers, but also the questions as well. ABBY MARKOWITZ, WOMEN'S STUDIES GRADUATE, TOWSON STATE UNIVERSITY When Abby Markowitz addressed a plenary of nearly two thousand participants at the 1989 national conference of the National Women's Studies Association, those of us who had taught women's studies felt especially proud: proud of her, proud of the tough questions she posed to women's studies, and proud of women's studies for the part it played in her education. With four other women, Abby was on a riveting student plenary panel, "Learning Feminisms: Journeys in our Lives." Just a week earlier, FIPSE had recommended funding "The Courage to Question." Between then and now, we have amassed an important body of new information about student learning. Just as Abby discovered, we have generated almost as many new questions as answers. Our research, on the one hand, substantiates many ways in which women's studies has succeeded in engaging students intellectually and personally in its subject matter and in their education. On the other hand, the research also has pointed to numerous areas for further investigation. While we expect our findings to stimulate self-reviews within women's studies, we also hope this report initiates ongoing conversations with colleagues across disciplinary boundaries. To meet the complex challenges on campuses, in our classes, and in our communities, we in higher education must be practical visionaries collectively committed to the well-being of students. We hope The Courage to Question moves us closer to creating that kind of educational community. In 1991, the American Association for Higher Education called its national conference "Difficult Dialogues" in recognition that the task before us as educators is not an easy one. The emphasis was on the noun, dialogues. Even if difficult, the imperative was to establish a conversation--a mutual exchange of ideas--as we think through together what many say must be a fundamental restructuring of the academy. In the American Council on Education's Educating the Majority: Women Challenge Tradition in Higher Education, authors Carol S. Pearson, Donna L. Shavlik, and Judy G. Touchton argue that the age of simple adjustments to accommodate women is over. What we need now, they propose, is "a major paradigm shift that allows for greater equity and quality in education, a shift that...also will enable us to more effectively address the compelling societal issues of our time, from competitiveness to hunger and illiteracy to world peace." -1 Robert Hughes' lead article, "The Fraying of America," in the February 3, 1992, issue of Time magazine describes with some concern the paradigm shifts he has observed. The shifts are occurring as our country undergoes what some have called an identity crisis, spurred by a reappraisal of our national cultural heritage and a rapidly changing global citizenry. "The future of American [self-interests]," he argues, "will rest with people who can think and act with informed grace across ethnic, cultural, linguistic lines." He ends with this warning: "In the world that is coming, if you can't navigate differences, you've had it." Despite the small but highly visible minority of people who have piled sandbags around what they perceive as their embattled beachhead threatened by the tides of change, the vast majority of students, faculty members, and administrators in academia are seeking ways to move forward together in response to national calls for dialogue, paradigm shifts, and institutional transformations. At the center of the call for all three is women's studies. Women's studies--established against the grain of the academy in the 1970s insisting that excluding half of humanity distorts truth and makes the claim of excellence a mockery; and calling for a student-centered, socially conscious, and experientially informed pedagogy--is eager to be part of a national discussion about how to move forward with "informed grace." The Courage to Question documents for the first time in a systematic way some of what women's studies has discovered about student learning. From our three-year research project on seven campuses, we have assessed not only what is working in women's studies but, even more importantly, what about women's studies seems, according to undergraduate students, to make that experience so educationally distinctive--and according to alumnae/i, its impact a lifelong one. * Is there understanding we now have about how students learn that might apply in non-women's studies classes? * Are there structures of knowledge, organizational strategies in courses, or pedagogical approaches in the classroom that others can adapt? * As students in women's studies confront highly charged emotional issues and experience the intellectual and personal implications of diversity, are we gaining any insights about how to maneuver through that rough terrain? We offer our report with the hope it will initiate a dialogue among colleagues so that together we may work to improve the educational experiences for all our students. PERSONALIZED LEARNING Whether the subject under discussion was the knowledge base, feminist pedagogy, diversity, critical thinking, or empowerment, students repeatedly linked the intellectual and experiential when they attempted to articulate what was distinctive about their learning in women's studies classes. A neat and clean separation of abstract ideas from personal experience, which is so characteristic of most traditional courses was missing in students' comments. Instead they wove back and forth, consistently connecting intellectual insights with their immediate lives. Such an integration surfaces, for example, in the CUNY-Hunter College student who explained, "women's studies...[goes] beyond this classroom, this paper...and just...touches everything else I'm involved in...because it gives me a way to see, a way to think, a way to question everything, so it's applicable everywhere for me." Rather than distancing themselves from the subject matter, students in women's studies typically became deeply engaged both intellectually and personally. The University of Colorado has given a name to this phenomenon: personalized learning. They distinguish it from active learning, although active learning is a component. Personalized learning allows the student to use the intellectual to explain the personal--a "compelling connection." What emerged repeatedly in student comments was the powerful intellectual dimension of this personalized knowing. Though critics may portray women's studies as academically "soft," students tell a very different story. According to them, women's studies is more difficult precisely because its subject matter challenges not simply what you think but how you feel about what you think and what you do because of what you know. Students note how intellectually rigorous women's studies is and how much it challenges them to rethink all they have learned elsewhere. "I felt like I had a completely new brain," said a student at Old Dominion University. Professors who fail to understand the role of personalized learning in women's studies fail when they attempt to teach a women's studies course. Although hostile to women's studies and untrained in the discipline, a former colleague chose to teach a women and history course, saying it was going to be a "real" history course with none of "that sensitivity stuff." Two consequences occurred. Students abandoned the course in droves, and my colleague never understood why. The student response was baffling because the professor underestimated profoundly the intellectual power of feminist scholarship when it is coupled with students' personal responses. By contrast, a feminist teacher weaves the experiential and personal, sometimes validating and sometimes contradicting--but always informing--students' intellectual response to material. As the chapter about the University of Colorado emphasizes, such connections are all the more compelling because of the larger context in which women's history and culture have been devalued and women's status subordinated. If a teacher does not under- stand such gender dynamics, he or she misreads students' responses. To include the personal as part of a course's subject matter is to move to the surface what previously has been dismissed or forced underground. It comes as no surprise, then, that three schools--the University of Colorado, Wellesley, and Old Dominion--found the course content of women's studies, and not the pedagogy, the most decisive factor in determining the kind of student engagement that occurred. When each campus compared women's studies and non-women's studies classes with similar teaching styles and class sizes, what emerged as distinctive was course content: the intellectual grounding of women's studies that illuminated students' understanding of gender and, therefore, their own lives. In her essay, "Taking Women Studies Seriously," Adrienne Rich reiterates: "Without such knowledge women live and have lived without context, vulnerable to the projections of male fantasy, male prescriptions...estranged from our own experiences because our education has not reflected it or echoed it. I would suggest that not biology, but ignorance of our selves, has been the key to our powerlessness." -2 When content links with lives, the transformation in students is palpable and lasting. Wellesley's report expands on our understanding of this process, investigating the differences in the ways students contrast women's studies and non-women's studies classes. In the latter, students spoke with much greater attention about the instrumentality of the knowledge they gained or its practical ability that helped them "do" certain things better. In women's studies courses, students spoke more about how to "be" in the world; their comments reflected more profound kinds of changes that altered their identities, their values, and their views. Colorado's study found a similar contrast between student learning in women's studies and in non-women's studies courses. Students in non-women's studies classes described what they learned rather than how they learned to think differently about their own lives. In women's studies classes, students ex- pressed ethical concerns paralleling and infusing their intellectual engagement. Students also said women's studies challenged them to judge, connect, and explore implications. Old Dominion echoed the same findings in examining connected learning. Through an emphasis on empathy, students more easily moved toward connecting with other people's experiences and blending that with new intellectual paradigms; students moved, in other words, toward something very akin to Colorado's personalized learning. Personalized learning promises to open gateways toward that world of informed grace we will need so desperately in our highly contested, pluralistic world. It also fosters what AAC's national report on the major, The Challenge of Connecting Learning, urges: "It is...important for [students] to care about subject matter and see its implications for the ways they live their lives. At issue is whether students can connect a field's subject matter and approaches with a variety of pursuits important to them, and whether their curiosity and concerns beyond the classroom can be deepened or shaped by the insights the field brings forth." -3 The assessment studies in The Courage to Question reinforce the findings of an earlier unpublished AAC student questionnaire, which provided national data for AAC's three-year investigation of "Liberal Learning and the Arts and Sciences Major." As described in AAC's Reports From the Fields, when the results of the eleven different majors were compiled, women's studies was rated the highest of the majors in ten of fourteen questions and was in the top four in the remaining four categories. Students gave women's studies the highest marks for connecting different kinds of knowledge (89.2 percent); connecting course materials and assignments to personally significant questions (86.5 percent); identifying and exploring problems in the field in relation to significant questions of society (97.3 percent); exploring values and ethics important to the major (81.1 percent); and helping students develop an overview of the field's intellectual history (83.1 percent). Personalized learning explains why women's studies percentages were ranked so much higher than any other majors surveyed. VOICE AND EMPOWERMENT Perhaps no single refrain was heard more clearly in the reports than that women's studies courses gave students a voice and empowered them. As bell hooks explains: "The feminist focus on coming to voice--on moving from silence into speech [is] a revolutionary gesture [and] for women within oppressed groups...coming to voice is an act of resistance. Speaking becomes both a way to engage in active self-transformation and a rite of passage where one moves from being object to being subject. Only as subjects can we speak. As objects, we remain voiceless--our beings defined and interpreted by others." -4 At more elite colleges, where there were on the whole more privileged students, students commented more on self-empowerment than voice. While finding their voice and having it heard was ranked by ODU students, for example, as the most important aspect of their learning, self-empowerment was most important to Oberlin students. At some campuses, like Wellesley, giving voice to women already is part of a wider overall mission permeating the larger institutional culture. Such a context constantly reinforces the learning goals in the women's studies program and permits the program to focus more on how to translate that voice into action. A participatory classroom environment with an emphasis on discussion and a course structured with student-led assignments contribute to developing voice. The greatest contributor, however, is the content of women's studies. "I had not been exposed even to the idea that gender was a subject in and of itself," wrote one Lewis and Clark graduate, while another said, "Many of the ideas moved me, making me aware of unfulfilled desires in my personal life and in the world as whole." Note again: movement occurs both within an individual student and between that student and society. Since the voices of many students, especially women, have not always been welcomed, either in a class or in the dominant male culture as a whole, simply using their voice at all is sometimes a great victory. Some ODU students expressed a reluctance to challenge that voice even when they disagreed with it. Students feared driving a classmate back into silence, which suggests the complicated dynamics in the women's studies classroom. Although in women's studies achieving voice is highly valued, so is critiquing ideas. For students who have come to believe, through studying feminist theory, that ideas are inseparable from the person, there is a tension, then, between encouraging students to speak and expecting them to question what is spoken. Creating a classroom that can negotiate this tangle demands a new kind of communication for feminist teachers and for students alike. In AAC/NWSA's Liberal Learning and the Women's Studies Major, a national task force described the developmental process as a student moves from "moments of recognition," at which students understand in a personally illuminating way how gender systems work in a given instance, to "moments of empowerment," at which students learn how to negotiate with unequal power. The time between these two developmental stages typically is fraught with much emotion--disillusionment, anger, bewilderment, confusion, and distrust--before it becomes exhilaration, clarity, trust, courage, and agency. Such a journey is a delicate, uneven one, but it leads to students saying again and again how women's studies gave voice to their unuttered and unutterable ideas. Unlike the consumer-driven Madison Avenue presentation of empowerment that presents the modem woman using her new power to purchase fancy cars, expensive suits, and exotic vacations, women's studies students talk of empowerment in relation to social responsibility. Students felt they gained their voices and then felt compelled, by virtue of the content of women's studies, to use that voice to improve the world for everyone. "What's important," said an Oberlin student, "is having a language not only to represent myself but to talk about political change." Such a notion is rooted in the belief that the self is not an autonomous unit detached from the rest of humanity but emerges in a context of relationships that are paradoxically an inescapable part of self-definition. Women's studies programs at both Wellesley and Oberlin defined empowerment not as singular self-aggrandizement but as the power to be socially responsible to a larger community. Wellesley found that in distinguishing how women's studies courses specifically affected students' lives, respondents chose words like "commitment," "obligation," and "responsibility," which were absent from their descriptions of non-women's studies courses. As Wellesley's report clarifies, students in non-women's studies courses usually felt their courses would help them function better in the world; in women's studies courses, they felt their courses would help them change the world. Oberlin also found evidence in undergraduates of both a sense of empowerment and actual empowerment in the form of social action. They extended their investigation to graduates, curious about whether students participated in citizen action after graduation. In every response, alumnae described specific ways they used their options in a democracy to affect the shape of their society. Women's studies, our report suggests, contributed to students' gradual progression from voice to self-empowerment to social engagement. DEVELOPING CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES AAC's The Challenge of Connecting Learning argues the necessity of fostering critical perspective in students. AAC calls for "an ethos of communication and contestation that ensures that no proposal stands without alternatives or arrogates to itself the claim of possessing the sole truth." A repetitive chorus In the assessment studies underscored how women's studies formulated an analysis that gave students the courage and skills to question norms, generalizations, and unexamined assumptions. For most students, a course in women's studies is the first time they understand that knowledge as well as gender is socially constructed: Available information is not a given; it is as carefully orchestrated as definitions of masculine and feminine. Confronted by their discovery of how much knowledge has been withheld from them, students learn how to seek out the ideological underpinnings of knowledge that is presented as complete, universal, and neutral. From that beginning, their capacities to bring critical perspectives to all kinds of knowledge are nurtured. While critics claim that women's studies narrows students' intellectual options and turns teaching into mere propagandizing, the results of the project present a radically different portrait. The University of Missouri team has coined the phrase "critical mindfulness" to describe the increased attentiveness students reveal as they more readily articulate their judgments about society. Oberlin refers to "tolerant, critical habits of mind." For many students, developing a critical perspective is no mere academic exercise: it is a means of survival. In a gendered world of unequal power, students link critical thinking to empowerment. As Hunter College's team argues persuasively, many students whose opinions and lives are commonly disregarded often silently surrender their authority. Women's studies teaches them to reclaim it. As a Missouri student so eloquently states, "Women's studies provided me with the strength to never settle for anything that deprives me of all I am worth." The content of women's studies shows detailed pictures where once was a blank canvas, a critical framework where once was feigned neutrality, and a language to describe what had been nameless and invisible. FEMINIST TEACHING AND CLASSROOM DYNAMICS Feminist pedagogy has been central to the development of women's studies. Each of the seven women's studies programs included pedagogy among their initial learning goals, and pedagogy has surfaced as a particular area of focus on several campuses as a follow-up to the assessment study. Not surprisingly to those familiar with the field, the data from all seven assessment studies indicates that women's studies classes usually were more participatory, inclusive, and experiential than non-women's studies courses and typically involved more collaborative projects, class discussion, and practical applications of what students were learning. For students at the University of Missouri, sitting in a circle summed up what was distinctive about a women's studies class. More than a simple arrangement of chairs, the circle suggests something about the learning environment most women's studies classes cultivate: exchange, collaboration, and community. Given the intense emotions some women's studies classes generate, the circle--whether actual or metaphorical--suggests the importance of containing and supporting the difficult work of integrating feeling and thinking. Since so many women's studies classes also explore the potentially divisive fact of difference and diversity, the circle is a reminder of where we connect in our common humanity whatever our differences. At times pedagogy, like many other issues, could not be neatly confined within its boundary. As the University of Missouri's report put it, frequently "distinctive pedagogy overlaps with distinctive content." In Missouri's case, the overlap occurred when notions of difference were introduced in the classroom. For these women's studies majors, good teaching meant classes that interspliced such diversity into the normal class routine. Oberlin similarly relied on collaborative learning as a means of exposing students in a very immediate, practical way to opportunities for mediating difference. In a few cases at Wellesley, student culture sometimes stifled student voices. While the data from Wellesley demonstrates that nearly three-quarters of the students in women's studies felt their voices were heard and divergent views were welcome, more students in women's studies courses than in non-women's studies courses than in non-women's studies courses reported that they felt silenced. The students--not the professor--silenced them, they explained. Both ODU and Missouri also have data that distinguishes between the behavior of the professor and that of the students. In all three cases, professors are rated exceptionally high for encouraging divergent points of view and for stimulating debate and discussion. Professors also are recognized for their efforts to protect students from being silenced by other students, although they apparently are not always successful. At Wellesley, it was not clear if students' opinions would not have been heard had they actually expressed them; some students felt their opinions would have been unfavorably received by some of the students in the class. The Wellesley report suggests that women's studies faculty members need to be especially attentive to such dynamics and that interventionist strategies may be necessary. Student interaction also must be considered in the larger context of a classroom that typically engages students far more than the traditional class. The Wellesley data, for example, show 80 percent of students in a women's studies course say students debate or argue; only 55 percent say they do in non-women's studies classes. As both Wellesley's and Missouri's teams point out, student responses also vary regarding conflict in a classroom. In the same class, students may say there is too much debate and not enough. More research can help us understand more about debate, especially debate that generates powerful feelings. These data also highlight the seemingly contradictory dynamics of com- fort and risk in a women's studies class. Women's studies programs want to create a safe place that will nurture students' intellectual and personal growth. As Missouri, Colorado, and Oberlin demonstrate well, however, they also want simultaneously to challenge students to question and be self-critical, which often creates discomfort. Far more revealing about Wellesley's data were startling statistics on how much women's studies students continue their discussion outside the classroom in contrast to the amount of out-of-class discussion generated in non-women's studies classes. Nearly 84 percent of women's studies students versus 63 percent of non-women's studies students reported talking "constantly" or "usually" about the content of their courses. Since the overwhelming part of an undergraduate student's life is spent outside the classroom rather than inside it, the Wellesley report has broad implications for women's studies and for education as a whole. Such intellectual and personal engagement in the subject matter ex- plains why women's studies students talk with such enthusiasm about the learning that occurs in women's studies courses. Content matters to students. It generates deeply felt emotions; its issues are unresolved and often highly contested in the world; and students are challenged, if not to resolve the issues, to find a way to live with the contradictions and uncertainties. The student pattern also suggests that women's studies enhances students' voices even "off stage." In its discussion of personalized learning, the University of Colorado team reminds us that "students may be actively involved without verbalizing their responses in class." Wellesley's data certainly suggest that as well. If some students feel hesitant to speak in the public forum of a classroom, at Wellesley they appear to feel no such hesitation in private conversation. This may be part of a developmental process that permits hesitant students to be stimulated to voice opinions privately before gaining courage to voice them publicly. The out-of-class conversations also suggest that women's studies is helping to define a campus culture in which a community of people arrive at new understandings through dialogue. Conversations at Wellesley occur with friends as well as family, and women's studies students discuss their courses more with male friends than non-women's studies students do. Similarly, the ODU team discovered that women's studies courses enhanced close student friendships more than non- women's studies classes did. ODU's data reveal that male students showed a greater increase in number of female friends than female students did. Contrary to male-bashing myths, our data suggest that women's studies triggers new kinds of communication and relationships between male and female students. The Gender Studies Symposium at Lewis and Clark--which in 1991 ran five days and included more than one hundred students, twenty-five faculty members, and sixteen community participants--is an innovative model for fostering a student culture outside the classroom. With more than fifty events and eighty students presenting papers, the symposium has become for students a major intellectual event of the year; it stimulates an enormous amount of debate and discussion and puts disparate people in conversation with one another. Whether or not students had taken a gender studies course, they singled out the symposium as a major learning experience; for many, it was the catalyst for further social activism or student-initiated co-curricular activities. Appropriately, the section on feminist teaching and classroom dynamics in this report ends by focusing on what happens outside the classroom walls. The Courage to Question challenges us to consider how to generate even more co-curricular forums that give students opportunities to discuss, sort out, argue, clarify, and expand their learning. DIFFERENCE AND DIVERSITY Because the intellectual roots of feminist scholarship initially were formulated in its difference from the dominant male culture, women's studies created early in its history a language to talk about difference. Having devoted more than a decade to articulating distinctions among women--especially in terms of race, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, and ability--women's studies has developed an increasingly subtle and comprehensive language and theory about diversity. Women's studies, therefore, promises to offer some useful m sights about participating fruitfully in those "difficult dialogues" that are absolutely essential in our pluralistic society and world. United States immigration patterns in the last decade have altered ethnic and racial demographics more than at any other period since the turn of the century.S New research has caused many to question the wisdom of repeating the assimilation pattern once so widely adopted because that pattern stripped new and diverse populations of their native culture and clothed them often literally--in the garb of the dominant culture of the period. Education was one of the primary mechanisms for executing this assimilation, forcing many cultures underground in an attempt to create a homogenous, seemingly unified America. Many people, including those involved in women's studies, now are looking for ways to retain and even understand anew the heritages that mark each of us. One consequence of such an approach is that we may not have a common language, common culture, and, by extension, common nation. The challenge to women's studies and others in education is to create a new dynamic in e pluribus unum, one that acknowledges differences while simultaneously building connections. Feminist scholarship has taught us to suspect assimilation models that erase our distinct identities. One of the most famous examples of the total absorption of a woman's identity into a man's in the name of civil orderliness is contained in the nineteenth-century legal principle "feme covert": A woman lost all legal standing by having her identity fully merged with her husband's. The concept functioned operationally as, "My husband and I are one, and I am he." -6 Intellectually repudiating the validity of structuring the world in such terms, women's studies argues that we must establish alternative models. The value of exploring a genuinely more pluralistic model emerges repeatedly from our assessment studies. Clearly, it is one of the most significant contributions women's studies can offer in the larger national debate about multiculturalism. Fundamental to feminist theory is the assumption that as women we have differential and complex relationships among ourselves, carrying with us not only our gender but gender that is defined by our class, race, sexuality, and other markers. Fundamental to feminist pedagogy is recognizing the authority of experience as a source of knowledge. Unlike other courses, then, women's studies becomes--among other things--a collective autobiography of students, both male and female. Differences no longer remain abstract but are embodied in people who talk about those differences and sit next to you in class or work with you on a project. The program learning goals of all seven participating women's studies programs articulated in a deliberate, self-conscious way the conceptual and personal importance of diversity. The translation of that goal varied according to the specific character of each institution. The imperative to create a multiracial, multiethnic program at Hunter College was driven partially by its diverse student population. On the other hand, first-generation students at the University of Missouri found race easier to discuss than class, while homophobia was a particularly difficult concept to talk about at ODU. But women's students verified everywhere that they came to expect a discussion of difference in women's studies classes. How successfully those stated expectations were met was uneven, and whether enough was done was debatable among the students. Its integration as a conceptual goal, however, was recognized uniformly by students and verified by the data. Some programs were trying to put difference at the center of their program, and none were satisfied that they had done enough. Women's studies seems to be light years ahead of most other academic disciplines except ethnic studies--in such efforts. Diversity is incorporated into women's studies courses in terms of both individual identities and people with different histories, cultures, and values. It is incorporated through an analysis of larger systems in which differences become embedded, reinforced, and defined and from which unequal power is allocated and perpetuated. It also is incorporated in the curriculum through readings, discussions, theories, internships, faculty members, and projects. Finally, it is incorporated through co-curricular events. The two programs that investigated the knowledge base in women's studies, Lewis and Clark and ODU, each listed "diversity" as a fundamental learning goal and found students grappling with its implications very early in the curriculum. In querying how effectively their program promotes multiculturalism, Hunter College recorded an impressive variety of ways its women's studies program had sought to recenter itself. Among students, both white women and women of color attested to the impact the program had on their thinking, participation, and relations with other people. Many Wellesley students also credited women's studies with opening them up to understanding difference and giving them the courage to explore it rather than retreating to polite and uninformed silence. Deliberately encouraging differences to surface in a classroom and become part of the subject matter of a course can be as unsettling as it is illuminating. Emotions often are heightened, confrontations sometimes ensue, and the terrain is unfamiliar to many. Hunter College's report warns that the "high psychic costs of trying to understand others may seem too high" to some, which makes it imperative to do all that is possible to lower the cost and increase the benefits of such exchanges. With a pedagogy that aims to create a climate of trust and affirmation and a theory that provides an analytical framework for understanding differences, women's studies offers some promising models as well as evidence of success in engaging students in multicultural learning. THE WOMEN'S STUDIES KNOWLEDGE BASE Because women have been excluded from the canon for centuries and because women's studies is such a fluid and expansive field, programs are wary of creating a canon. Not surprisingly, then, when Lewis and Clark and ODU investigated the knowledge base in women's studies, each deliberately focused not on particular pieces of information but on overarching concepts or, as the Lewis and Clark team calls them, "knowledge plots." These two institutions avoided the "Trivial Pursuit/Vital Facts for Your Daily Calendar" approach. They were less attentive, therefore, to measuring whether students knew when Mary Wollstonecraft lived than they were to learning whether students understood Wollstonecraft's critique of eighteenth-century female socialization. They cared more that students understood how white men manipulated white womanhood to Justify lynching black men than whether students could name the newspaper of Ida B. Wells Barnett. As Liberal Learning and the Women's Studies Major argues, "More than simply a body of information, however, women's studies is also an approach, a critical framework through which to view all knowledge." -7 The Lewis and Clark report argues convincingly that despite an impression that infinite variety prevents gender studies from having curricular coherence, it does in fact have a shape. That institution's enumeration of gender studies' eight knowledge plots and six learning skills should prove useful to women's studies programs that are reevaluating their curriculum. ODU's report lists five key concepts, all of which overlap either with Lewis and Clark's knowledge plots or learning skills. Such overlays suggest that there are major conceptual links among diverse women's studies programs. Students also seem to grasp more readily concepts that their own experiences validate. At Lewis and Clark, for instance, students understood diversity and the politics of sex/gender as well as cultural images of sex/gender and the nature/nurture debate. At ODU, they understood most readily the social construction of both gender and knowledge and grasped something of the systematic Interlocking oppressions of women and women's varied relation to patriarchy. These results give credence to Lewis and Clark's assertion that knowledge plots are developmental. Gender studies students, they argue, first need to be grounded in the ramifications of gender inequalities and the political issues that created gender studies in the first place. Because gender balancing at Lewis and Clark has been a serious and ongoing undertaking, key ideas such as the politics of sex/gender, diversity, or cultural images of sex/gender have been integrated into an impressive number of non-gender studies courses. Students therefore get some knowledge plots from sources other than gender studies. Women's studies and gender studies professors applaud such developments. Like writing across the curriculum, women's studies encourages the reinforcement of its ideas throughout the curriculum. But such efforts do not lead necessarily to the elimination of gender studies programs any more than writing across the curriculum has led to a national call for the abolition of English departments. What Lewis and Clark has discovered, however, is that certain concepts are more likely to be treated in gender studies classes than elsewhere. These include examination of women's creation of knowledge; communi- cation; the body; and interpersonal relationships. Such discoveries have important implications for women's studies curricular development as a whole. Unfortunately, few campuses can boast as many gender-balanced courses as Lewis and Clark. More commonly, women's studies and gender studies programs carry the burden of conveying concepts rarely found elsewhere in the curriculum. IMPLICATIONS OF THE ASSESSMENT STUDY Our national assessment report represents three years of research on student learning in women's studies and gathers in one place data that help explain why women's studies students are so engaged intellectually and personally. We expect The Courage to Question, therefore, to be a catalyst for continuing to study how students learn. Each of our seven case studies reveals specific directions campuses will pursue as a result of discoveries made in the course of this research. By listening to the students themselves, we correct myths and misinformation about what kind of education takes place in women's studies courses. We want to emphasize how uninformative it can be to construct a universal student stripped of particularity and context. Arguing that we need "sensitivity to the multiple realities that coexist within our institutions" and crediting women's studies and ethnic studies for expanding our understanding of those realities, Ralph Wolff reminds us: To capture these multiple realities, to learn anything meaningful about a campus, we have to start with the assumption that a single answer to anything just isn't adequate. We need multiple answers, and beyond that, multiple methods. -8 Our national report avoids single answers and single methods. We need not only multiple answers but multiple questions as well. In an academic hierarchy that too often ignores the value of research on student learning and teaching, external and internal support for research such as this with its curricular, programmatic, and institutional implications--is extremely important. The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in the Department of Education once again has been the leader in supporting projects that promote educational reform and help us assess what improves student learning. In the course of doing this re- search, we also saw clearly how much more effective learning is when the larger institutional culture reinforces specific values. The broader institutional commitment to women's voice and empowerment at Wellesley College, for example, enhanced the promotion of voice and empowerment in their women's studies program. Similarly, the wider institutional promotion of tolerance, inclusiveness, and social responsibility at Oberlin College reinforces similar educational goals embedded in its women's studies program, as did the college-wide commitment to multiculturalism at Hunter College. While educational reform may begin in an individual classroom, it need not end there. Although a vibrant program like women's studies might offer a dynamic model of engaged learning, that is not enough. Students deserve more. Institutions can set a tone, establish a standard, articulate values, and become powerful allies with faculty members in creating a context of inquiry and affirmation. The Courage to Question presents clear evidence that women's studies has much to contribute to the national discussion of excellence, engagement, and social responsibility. It also can help us remember how easy it is to exclude and silence others instead of arranging a way for everyone to sit together and talk. By drawing from the insights gleaned in such a richly diverse dialogue, we can learn how to achieve the kind of education Mary Caroline Richards describes: Education...is the process of waking up to life...it requires...certain capacities for taking the world into our consciousness...That's why knowledge and consciousness are two quite different things. Knowledge is like a product we consume and store. All we need are good closets....When knowledge is transformed into consciousness and into will, ah then...knowledge...turns into capacity for life-serving human deeds. -9 Richards is describing the kind of critical consciousness and energized engagement women's studies students display again and again as learners. She also is reflecting the kind of commitment to the world beyond our own boundaries that is stirred by women's studies--a commitment at the heart of liberal education. As an Oberlin student said, fully confident she could make a difference, women's studies helped her see where "she has work to do in this world." We hope The Courage to Question helps educators know where and how to begin "with informed grace." 1. Carol S. Pearson, Judith G. Touchton, and Donna L. Shavlik, Educating the Majority: Women Challenge Tradition in Higher Education (New York: ACE/Macmillan Series on Higher Education, 1989), 2. 2. Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silences (New York: W. W. Norton and Company 1979), 240. 3. The Challenge of Connected Learning (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges, 1991), 16. 4. bell hooks, Talking Back (Boston: South End Press, 1989), 12. 5. For a fuller discussion of education's historical and contemporary role, see the special issue of Education and Urban Society, "Cultural Diversity and American Education: Visions of the Future," Vol. 22, No. 4 (August 1990), edited by Thomas G. Carroll and Jean J. Schensul. 6. Duncan Crow, The Victorian Woman (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1971), 147. 7. Liberal Learning and the Women's Studies Major (College Park, Md.: National Women's Studies Association, 1991), 8. 8. Ralph A. Wolff, "Assessment and Accreditation: A Shotgun Marriage?" in Assessment 1990: Accreditation and Renewal (Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education, 1990), 13-14. 9. Mary Caroline Richards, Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (Middletown, Ct.: Wesleyan University Press, 1989), 15-16.