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                      AAC and NWSA present 
                    three publications from 
                    "The Courage to Question"

The Courage to Question: Women's Studies and Student Learning
features the results from seven women's studies programs
participating in the three-year, women's studies assessment project
"The Courage to Question." which was funded by the U.S. Department
of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education
(FIPSE). The case studies include new research on multicultural
learning, critical thinking, student voice, classroom dynamics, and
integrating knowledge into life choices.

The Executive Summary to The Courage to Question provides an
overview of the project. It is designed to make the core research
findings from The Courage to Question: Women's Studies and Student
Learning easily accessible to a wide audience. The Executive
Summary is published and distributed by the Association of American

Students at the Center: Feminist Assessment is designed to
facilitate program assessment. This volume sets feminist principles
of assessment in the context of the larger assessment movement. It
features innovative assessment designs, a variety of methodological
approaches, and practical advice about how to do a productive
assessment project on a campus. Students at the Center contains
questionnaires, scoring sheets, and interview questions; a
directory of consultants; and a selected bibliography on

All three publications generated by "The Courage to Question" are
available from AAC. For ordering information, contact the
Publications Desk, AAC, 1818 R Street, NW; Washington, D.C. 20009;
202/387-3760. Bulk rates are available.

The Courage to Question and Students at the Center are available
from NWSA. For further information, contact NWSA; University of
Maryland - College Park; College Park, Md. 20742-1325;

                     THE COURAGE TO QUESTION

                         WOMEN'S STUDIES
                      AND STUDENT LEARNING

                  Edited by Caryn McTighe Musil


                      PROJECT PARTICIPANTS

                        Project Director
                       CARYN McTlGHE MUSIL
                          Senior Fellow
                Association of American Colleges

                        Project Associate
                          SUZANNE HYERS
                Association of American Colleges

  Project Coordinators, Participating Colleges and Universities
          ANITA CLAIR FELLMAN, Old Dominion University
            LAURIE A. FINKE, Lewis and Clark College
                ROSANNA HERTZ, Wellesley College
         MARY JO NEITZ, University of Missouri-Columbia
   MICHELE PALUDI, City University of New York-Hunter College
                SUSAN REVERBY, Wellesley College
                LINDA R. SILVER, Oberlin College
     JOAN TRONTO, City University of New York-Hunter College
              GAY VICTORIA, University of Colorado
               JEAN WARD, Lewis and Clark College
             MARCIA WESTKOTT, University of Colorado
          BARBARA A. WINSTEAD, Old Dominion University

                    National Assessment Team
     CAROLYNE W. ARNOLD, University of Massachusetts-Boston
      LEE KNEFELKAMP, Teachers College, Columbia University
               JILL MATTUCK TARULE, Lesley College
                JOAN SHAPIRO, Temple University
              California State University-Fullerton

                       External Evaluator
  PATRICIA HUTCHINGS, American Association for Higher Education

                        TABLE OF CONTENTS











 In keeping with its leadership in the assessment movement, the
Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) of the
U.S. Department of Education funded our three-year grant and this
volume, The Courage to Question. FIPSE did so in a period when
backlash against women's studies had just reemerged with a new
vehemence. This project could not have come into being without the
quietly insistent and shrewdly wise counsel of our first FIPSE
program officer, Constance Cook, now executive assistant to the
president at the University of Michigan.

A special debt also is owed to the Association of American
Colleges. Paula P. Brownlee, president of AAC, and AAC's executive
vice president, Carol G. Schneider, agreed a year ago to
collaborate on the publication of The Courage to Question,
repeating the earlier cooperation between the National Women's
Studies Association (NWSA) and AAC that had produced Liberal
Learning and the Women's Studies Major and AAC's Reports from the
Fields. AAC has graciously provided office space for me and my
project associate, Suzanne Hyers, and welcomed us as sojourners.
Gary Egan, director of finance and administration, and his staff
have been especially helpful with financial arrangements and Lenora
J. Wilson, associate director of administration, with setting up
our office.

We asked AAC to cosponsor The Courage to Question in part because
of the high quality of its publications. Our volume has benefitted
immeasurably because of AAC's Publications Office. We are
particularly indebted to the support, editing, and productive
cooperation of its director, Sherry Levy-Reiner, and to the
editing, planning, and good humor of Kristen A. Lippert- Martin,
editorial associate, who saw our project through from start to
finish. We are grateful as well for additional editorial support
from David M. Stearman and Lisa L. Magnino.

NWSA housed the grant during its first two years, and the project
ran more smoothly because of administrative support from Sharon
Neufeld, NWSA's office manager the first year, and particularly
Melinda Berriman, its office manager the second year. Loretta
Younger, NWSA's current office manager, has assisted this year with
the financial administration of the grant.

It has been a personal as well as a professional joy to have the
opportunity to work once more with Suzanne Hyers, NWSA's former
national conference coordinator, who graciously agreed to be the
project associate and lend us her legendary administrative skills.
No problem is ever unsolvable when Suzanne is around, and she makes
it fun to come into work. She also is a superb editor.

While there are single names attached to articles in this volume,
the final product has been enhanced by the collective effort and
conversations of many people. Each of the seven participating
women's studies programs has included specific acknowledgments
within their chapters. All of us benefitted from the invigorating
dialogue shared among the various people who have moved in and out
of the project over a three-year period. The project was especially
enriched by the practical expertise and conceptual challenges of
the National Assessment Team--Carolyne A. Arnold, Lee Knefelkamp,
Joan Shapiro, Jill Mattuck Tarule, and Mary Kay Thompson
Tetreault--and the project's external evaluator, Pat Hutchings.

Finally, we thank the thousands of students whose comments and
opinions are the heart of this research. You will hear some of
their voices woven into the text. They have given us courage to ask
difficult questions, confirmation that our commitment to feminist
education makes a difference, and hope that the world can one day
be made anew.

Caryn McTighe Musil, 
Project Director, 
and Senior Fellow, 
Association of American Colleges 

                           CHAPTER ONE


Students say:  "It changed my life." 
Critics say:   "It's propaganda." 
Students say:  "It expanded my mind in every direction." 
Critics say:   "It's unintellectual, touchy-feely stuff." 
Students say:  "It gave me a voice." 
Critics say:   "It silences everyone who disagrees."

These contradictory and intense responses to women's studies
courses have typified the debate about this fast-growing discipline
since the late 1960s, when women's studies courses began to emerge
spontaneously on campuses around the country in response to the
women's movement. The criticism about women's studies was rarely
generated by students who took classes but by people responding to
what they thought was going on in women's studies classes. Women's
studies programs, especially in their first decade, often were
established despite an atmosphere of hostility, suspicion, or
indifference to their enterprise. Women's studies faculty members,
on the other hand, were sustained both by their own intellectual
and political commitment to the discipline and by the intellectual
and personal transformations they consistently witnessed in their
students. "It gave me courage," explained one student. To
understand more about how that learning process occurs, we
undertook a project that has resulted in The Courage to Question:
Women's Studies and Student Learning.

If women's studies develops in students the courage to speak their
minds, can women's studies faculty members display a similar
courage in asking tough questions of our programs? Having done
that, do we have the courage to go public with what we find? Even
though in many respects women's studies has come into its own as it
moves into its third decade, the political context once again is
reminiscent of the acrimonious attacks of the early 1970s. 

The power and production of feminist scholarship as an intellectual
enterptise usually is ignored by conservative critics, who dismiss
and trivialize women's studies as "oppression studies" or "a
grievance industry." With inflammatory attacks against women's
studies, ethnic studies, and other academic efforts that advocate
a more diverse curriculum, small but influential organizations such
as the National Association of Scholars or the less significant
Accuracy in Acdemia have generated a frenzy of emotionally laden,
wildly distorted representations of women's studies.1 Such critics
suggest that by including women and gender analysis in the study of
human culture and history, women's studies - rather than the
curriculum that mad women invisible in the first place - is guilty
of threatening other people's academic freedom. In such a
politicized and polarized climate, equity and excellence have been
posited as diametrically opposed; critical thinking has been
labeled as "anti_american"; and the study of two-thirds of the
human race has been characterized as "special interests." In the
midst of such misinformed and dangerous polemics, The Courage to
Question seeks to bring light where there has been only heat,
clarity where there has been deliberate obfuscation of the facts.

The national assault on women's studies has a special urgency
precisely because women's studies has affected almost every
discipline, secured a foothold within academia, and continued to
attract students in ever-increasing numbers. The first women's
studies program was formally approved at San Diego State University
in 1970. When the National Women's Studies Association (NWSA) was
formed in 1977, there were already 276 programs. Ten years later,
the total topped 500; and in the most recent NWSA national survey
published in 1990, 621 women's studies programs were listed.2
Within those programs, 425 offer a minor, certificate, or area of
concentration; 235 offer a major. In the 1984 American Council on
Education survey, Campus Trends, Elaine El-Khawas noted that
women's studies courses could be found at 68.1 percent of
universities, 48.9 percent of four-year colleges, and 26.5 percent
of two-year colleges. At the graduate level the number of
institutions offering women's studies work has expanded rapidly
from 23 in 1986, to 55 in 1988, to 102 in 1990.

The increased institutionalization of women's studies has been
accelerated by the explosion in feminist scholarship. In 1984 alone
there were reputedly more than four thousand books published on
women. There are more than thirty journals in women's studies and
dozens of feminist presses, and most university presses publish so
many titles in women's studies that they have special sections in
their promotional materials. More than 170 professional
associations for academic disciplines have instituted a women's
caucus or women's division, thus guaranteeing a forum within
mainstream disciplinary conferences for new feminist scholarship. 

Women's studies also has been involved in hundreds of curriculum
transformation projects around the country since 1980, when the
first project at Wheaton College began. Wheaton's project has been
imitated and modified on many campuses, clustered in regional
approaches such as the Western States Project out of the Southwest
Institute on Research on Women, and adopted as a statewide strategy
as represented by the New Jersey Project funded through the New
Jersey Department of Education. Typically designed to incorporate
the new scholarship on women throughout the curriculum, though
often particularly in general-education courses, curriculum
transformation not only has brought the new scholarship to a far
broader student constituency but also engaged a wide range of
faculty members in the scholarship, pedagogy, and curriculum
development so central to women's studies. The most recent national
project, "Mainstreaming Minority Women's Studies," sponsored by the
National Council for Research on Women and funded by the Ford
Foundation, attests to ways that ethnic studies and women's studies
have begun to combine their powerful analyses about the social
construction of knowledge. The national call for academic
institutions to rethink their curriculum to reflect the knowledge
produced by a diverse human culture over time was represented most
recently in the title of the Association of American Colleges' 1992
national conference, "Recentering," and many of the curricular
innovations generated by AAC's project, "Engaging Cultural
Legacies," funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In 1989, as executive director of the National Women's Studies
Association, I was planning an invitational conference, "Women's
Studies: The Third Decade," for women's studies directors to
celebrate the achievements of two decades of women's studies
programs and to determine the agenda for the 1990s. It was within
this context of celebration and attack that our project, "The
Courage to Question," was born. The first workshop funded by the
grant was attached to the "Third Decade" conference and underscored
the purpose of the grant: to assess student learning in women's
studies classes in order to make more informed decisions about
program development in the 1990s.

While women's studies was under attack, students were painting a
different portrait about their experiences in women's studies
classes. For two decades, women's studies faculty members knew
something was causing students to become intellectually and
personally engaged in ideas and issues raised in women's studies
courses. Certainly, women's studies set out to do something that
had never been done before. Although inspired by black studies
programs before them, women's studies stood out as an academic
anomaly by virtue of its focus on material about women and gender
that previously had been excluded from study, its explanatory
critique of the construction of knowledge and unequal arrangements
of power, and its determination to offer a pedagogy of student
empowerment commensurate with feminist theory. Most professors who
have taught women's studies could expound anecdotally for hours on
the students whose minds and lives were changed by women's
studies--students who felt personally and intellectually affirmed
in women's studies as they did nowhere else on campus.

However, we had no systematic explanations for these
transformations; no fuller, sustained explanations of exactly what
was happening or how. We had many studies on the transformation of
the curriculum both inside and outside of women's studies,
information about how faculty members shifted intellectual
paradigms, and some research about students' attitudinal changes.
But we had no national study that probed the learning process
itself, that turned to the students to hear in their own voices a
description of what was happening to them as thinkers, as
inquirers, as people. "The Courage to Question" sought to do just

We sought to do that for our own benefit in terms of improving our
programs. But we sought to do it for the benefit of a larger
national public as well. Our study comes in the wake of a number of
national reports elucidating crises in education and suggesting
avenues for reform. The University of Colorado chapter discusses
these reports in more detail. Some reports expressed concerns about
a fragmented curriculum without coherence; a faculty more concerned
with its research publications than its teaching, and a passive
student population, uninvolved in academic questions and reluctant
to embrace values. In women's studies, we saw a dramatically
different student profile. Women and gender as a centralizing
concept for student inquiry provided overall coherence for
students, whatever their discipline; within women's studies itself,
teaching was as central to our mission as our research. Students we
observed in our classes were passionately engaged in the subject
matter, spurred to voice by the dynamics of feminist pedagogy. Our
two decades of experience suggested that women's studies offers
students a dynamic, interactive environment that encourages
critical thinking, empowers students as learners, enriches their
sense of civilization's heritage, connects their knowledge from
other courses, and challenges them to become actively engaged in
shaping their world. We hope our three-year research project, then,
will be an important contribution to the conversation as we in
higher education jointly seek solutions for crises on our campuses
and in our classrooms.

In addition to ways our research might enhance our understanding of
how to improve the quality of undergraduate learning as a whole, we
also hoped the project would benefit women's studies itself. Many
realized we needed a vehicle that would allow us to pause and
reflect about what we had created over the span of two decades.
Even though women's studies programs increased dramatically over
that period, growth was uneven, and the majority of programs were
underfunded and understaffed.3 It was all some faculties could do
simply to maintain their programs. Others worked overloads to
develop new courses, plan cocurricular activities, and increase
institutional support. Many complained of having too little control
over which courses were offered, when, and by whom. Few had time to
take stock either of where we were conceptually and pedagogically
or where we needed to go next. A grant from the U.S. Department of
Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education
(FIPSE), along with some important internal institutional support
given to several of the programs in our project, provided us with
that much needed opportunity.

Gerda Lerner, pioneer feminist historian, has said that assessing
the impact of feminist scholarship on the way we view the world
would be "like trying to describe the Renaissance--ten years after
it began." While it may be premature to attempt to measure the
transformative effect of feminist scholarship, it is appropriate
and timely to begin to listen attentively to what students tell us
about how women's studies is affecting what and how they learn.

                    THE DESIGN OF THE GRANT 

To ensure a textured sample, ten women's studies programs
representing a wide variety of institutions were invited to
participate in "The Courage to Question." They included both public
and private; large and small; urban, suburban, and rural;
coeducational and single sex; and research universities and liberal
arts colleges spread geographically from one coast to the other.
The sites also were selected so the project as a whole represented
a diverse student population that included variables such as sex,
race, ethnic background, class, and age. Two persons from each
program were to be part of each institutional team; most typically
they were the women's studies director and a women's studies
faculty member. Everyone was expected to consult widely and
regularly with the students and faculty at their home institutions.
The ten women's studies programs invited to participate included: 

O University of Colorado 
O Oberlin College 
O University of California-Los Angeles 
O Wellesley College 
O University of Wisconsin 
O City University of New York-Hunter College 
O Bennett College 
O University of Missouri-Columbia 
O Old Dominion University 
O Lewis and Clark College

Of the ten, nine referred to their programs as "women's studies."
The tenth, Lewis and Clark, calls its program "gender studies." In
gathering national data for NWSA's 1990 women's studies directory,
a similar ratio of 9:1 held; the overwhelming number continue to
name their programs "women's studies." Lewis and Clark makes a
strong case for the institutional appropriateness of its linguistic
choice. Since its founding in the nineteenth century, Lewis and
Clark always has been committed to a single curriculum for men and
women; in this latter part of the twentieth century, the gender
studies faculty members specifically are aiming to involve male as
well as female students in the program. At the same time, Lewis and
Clark makes it clear that feminist inquiry and theory are at the
center of their program. Its title thus represents a strategy, a
curricular theoretical framework, and historical continuity with
their institution.

To provide the necessary assessment expertise, a national
assessment team was created to work closely with the women's
studies programs and function as an advisory board to the project
director. The five members of the National Assessment Team and the
external evaluator for the project are nationally and in some cases
internationally recognized experts in assessment; they also have a
familiarity with feminist scholarship and women's studies. Their
range of expertise was deliberately diverse, both in terms of their
methodologies and their focus. Some were most facile with
quantitative analysis, others with qualitative. Collectively they
had done research in feminist pedagogy, curriculum transformation,
faculty development, student development, and institutional
evaluations. Their task was to give the sites an overall
perspective on the assessment movement, train the women's studies
faculty in a variety of assessment methods, assist in developing
assessment plans for each institution, and make site visits as
needed. Each member was assigned a program, designated its
principal source of expertise on assessment, and evaluated a
preliminary report made at the end of the second year.

In the first year of the grant, the programs were asked to define
the learning goals of their respective women's studies programs in
four key areas: knowledge base, learning skills, feminist pedagogy,
and personal growth. By mid-year, after several months of
campus-based consultations with faculty members and students, each
program submitted its program goals; these became the basis for the
questions most campuses eventually posed about student learning in
women's studies at their campus. Having established their program's
learning goals, faculty members were introduced to the various
assessment methods, established at least three focused areas of
inquiry, and created by the end of the first year what we came to
call "An Institutional Research Design Assessment Plan."

The second year's work was campus-focused. Each program began to
create specific questions for its surveys and assessment
instruments, gather data, and write a preliminary report of
findings by the year's end. A project workshop at the end of the
year gave participants the opportunity to read one another's
reports, consider modifications, and exchange information about
programmatic changes that were taking place on their campuses as a
result of their discoveries.

During the third year, some programs collected additional
information and analyzed data, and each site revised its
preliminary report to serve as a case study for The Courage to
Question: Women's Studies and Student Learning the most
comprehensive of three publications evolving from the FIPSE grant.
The Courage to Question contains the heart of the research
discoveries about how and what students learn in women's studies
courses. A synopsis of key findings about student learning can be
found in the Executive Summary of The Courage to Question, which is
funded by the Association of American Colleges and designed to make
the information easily accessible to a wider population.

Because how we went about assessing student learning became almost
as revealing a process as what we actually discovered, we have
produced a third publication from the FIPSE grant, Students at the
Center: Feminist Assessment. As most people agree, methodology and
content cannot be severed neatly from one another. The Courage to
Question chapters, then, describe assessment designs and
methodologies and include the most relevant questionnaires at the
end of each chapter. Foregrounded in The Courage to Question,
however, are the results. Students at the Center foregrounds
assessment: what we came to call "feminist principles of
assessment"; innovative assessment designs; how our project fits
into the spectrum of assessment approaches nationally; and
practical advice about how to do a productive assessment project on
a campus. Students at the Center contains a more expansive sample
of questionnaires, scoring sheets, and interview questions. It also
includes a directory of consultants and a selected bibliography on
assessment. We hope Students at the Center will serve as a catalyst
for assessment projects in women's studies but also in many other
disciplines as well.

                       QUESTIONS GENERATED

                     ABOUT STUDENT LEARNING 

Over time, the project created a series of institutionally specific
questions around which each women's studies program designed its
assessment plan. To prepare, each participant in the initial grant
workshop generated a series of what we called "passionate
questions" about women's studies and student learning.4 Our lists
were very long. At that point, we did not seek to create a common
set of questions or reduce the diverse voices and concerns.
Participants then went back to their individual campuses, where
they initiated a series of extended conversations and consultations
with faculty members and students. On the basis of those extended
dialogues, we met again as a group midway through the first year
and created a set of eight key questions that we agreed all of our
programs had in common.

The eight questions covered developmental, disciplinary, and
pedagogical issues. Does women's studies cultivate personal
empowerment and social responsibility? How successfully does
women's studies support students as they express their feminism on
campus? Is the authority of experience legitimized and are students
urged to comprehend the experience of others? Does women's studies
foster connected learning (see page 77) ? Are students introduced
to the constructed and situated character of disciplinary
knowledge? Are students encouraged to reconstruct knowledge from
multidisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives? How do programs
navigate tensions between creating safe but challenging classroom
space? Finally, how do we shift and make explicit the power
relations both in the classroom and the institution? All these
questions were understood to be posed within the larger framework
in which gender, race, class, sexuality, and other categories of
analytic differences intersect.

These eight questions were not created as controlling questions for
the project, nor were participants compelled to include them in
their particular institutional assessment design. Nonetheless,
these questions acted as a common background for the project
against which other questions were posed. They also led some
campuses to explore issues in common with other programs; as a
result, we have a collection of case studies that are both
particular and general, unique and widely applicable.

                   CONTEXTS FOR CASE STUDIES 

The more we met as a national group, the clearer it became that
institutional context was very important. Feminist theory argues
persuasively that positionality and particularity influence what we
know. Our exchanges bore that out. As a group, we were also wary of
aggregate statistics and generalizations that too often erase
significant insights or particular groups of people. We were
convinced that universalizing students would distort their distinct
realities and therefore be less useful in efforts to improve
undergraduate education. We decided not only to write a series of
case studies, therefore, but to offer an institutional and student
profile in each report so readers would have a more accurate
context for understanding the research results. Almost every report
begins, then, by orienting the reader to a specific academic
institution and student population. The concluding chapter of The
Courage to Question does offer a national picture of student
learning but one that is rooted firmly in the particular student
experiences generated in the research findings of participating

The University of Colorado set its assessment project in the larger
social context of the decade-long educational reform movement. The
Colorado program then went directly to students with the questions:
"From your standpoint, what do we in women's studies actually do?
What actually happens to you as a learner in women's studies
courses? What do you learn and how do you learn it?" The students
articulated from their own experiences three components of women's
studies courses--course content, course structure, and classroom
dynamics--which Colorado explored in more depth for the next two
years. Primarily through an ethnographic methodology, Colorado's
study compares women's studies and non-women's studies courses to
define what accounts for the active engagement and sense of
empowerment and difference students claimed typified their learning
experiences in women's studies. By examining what they refer to as
personalized learning and the influence of student culture on that
learning, they suggest future areas of research.

By contrast, Lewis and Clark linked its questions directly to
specific program goals for its Gender Studies Program. Wanting to
pose some questions about the construction of gender studies as a
discipline, the project coordinators asked, "How effectively do our
students learn and apply gender analysis?" In answering this
question, they sought to define a knowledge base or what they
referred to as "knowledge plots" in women's studies, investigating
whether there might be some developmental logic to leaming one plot
before another. They also compared gender studies and non-gender
studies classes and sought to explore some of the distinctions
between courses where gender is the central focus of inquiry and
others where gender balancing is considered when a course is
constructed but is not necessarily foregrounded. The second
question had to do with gender studies' impact in the classroom and
on the institutional climate as a whole. Finally, coordinators
asked of both alumnae/a and current students, "What impact, if any,
has gender studies had on your personal growth?"

As at Lewis and Clark, the participants at Old Dominion University
(ODU) were interested in trying to define some key concepts in
women's studies and asked, "How well do students leam the knowledge
base of women's studies?" They followed up questions about the
knowledge base with questions about learning skills: "Do students
become connected knowers, individuals who use self-knowledge and
empathy to learn?" Paralleling that concem about how students leam
as opposed to what students learn, ODU participants also asked, "Do
students acquire the ability to examine and eval- uate assumptions
underlying culturally accepted fact and theory?" Because ODU
students were insistent that the most defining experience for them
as learners was related to finding and using their voice, a third
question became part of ODU's assessment study: "Was your voice
heard and respected in the classroom?" In examining how a sense of
community, or what ODU called "we-ness," affected students'
personal growth, they investigated whether women's studies affected
friendship pattems in and out of class. Adding a fifth category to
the grant's original four about knowledge base, critical skills,
pedagogy, and personal growth, ODU asked a question that reminded
us that faculty members were learners, too. They asked, "How did
women's studies affect the teaching and scholarly lives of women
faculty members associated with the program?"

Unlike program participants at the coeducational institutions,
those at Wellesley College wanted to ask what makes women's studies
at a women's liberal arts college different. To answer that
question as they compared women's studies and non-women's studies
courses throughout their study, they focused on three questions.
The first involved students' growth: "Did the courses change or
affect students' personal lives, their intellectual lives, and
their political beliefs?" Their second question was pedagogical and
went directly to the most frequently repeated accusation by those
unsympathetic with women's studies: "Did students feel pressure to
give politically correct answers and identify only with feminist
ideas? If so, where was the pressure coming from?" Finally, their
third question, which led to some fascinating insights about the
debate generated by women's studies courses: "Was the pedagogy
different? If so, how?"

Reflecting both the political commitment of its women's studies
program and the richly diverse student population, project leaders
at Hunter College wanted to know if the women's studies program
fostered an awareness of multiculturalism and, if so, where one
might begin to learn how to do that. What appears at first glance
to be a relatively simple second question-- "Does women's studies
foster critical thinking?"--became more complex as Hunter's project
participants suggested that to think critically students first
needed to have confidence and a sense of self through which to
voice their critical judgments. Echoing a concern of project
participants at Old Dominion about connected learning, Hunter's
participants' third question was, "Do students learn how to
integrate knowledge they acquire in women's studies ?"

Project representatives at Oberlin College wanted to explore
whether students in their program were gaining a sense of the
multiplicity of women's lives understood to be complicated by such
markers as class, race, and sexuality. They explored that question
by asking, "Does student learning entail self-empowerment?" This
allowed them to take a closer look at the process through which
students came to an understanding of the history of their own group
by understanding the histories of other groups. Empowerment of the
individual was defined in Oberlin's women's studies program goals,
as it was in the other six programs, as inseparable from a sense of
social responsibility to others. Their second question was
pedagogical: "To what extent does collaborative learning occur, and
how effective is it?" Threading the notion of difference throughout
their three questions, the Oberlin participants wanted to gain more
information about how collaborative learning becomes a vehicle for
helping students mediate differences as they work with diverse
groups in their classes. Finally, the Oberlin participants asked
students directly whether specific women's studies courses
"fostered a relational understanding of race, ethnicity, class,
gender, and sexuality."

Sharing similar concerns about personal transformations, pedagogy,
and difference, participants from the University of
Missouri-Columbia wanted to find out what kinds of personal
transformations occur in students who take women's studies courses.
Because a commitment to teaching united women's studies faculty
members in their program, the Missouri survey also asked, "Do
students think women's studies courses are taught differently than
other courses and if so, how?" Their third question echoed those of
Hunter and Oberlin Colleges: "Do students in women's studies gain
a new understanding about the connection between gender, race,
class, and sexual preference?"

While there was, then, no externally imposed uniformity in the
questions each campus examined, these seven sites do speak back and
forth to one another when their case studies are read as a group.
The concluding chapter of The Courage to Question draws together
some of the cumulative findings from the seven discrete reports and
reflects upon the configurations and potential national
implications that emerge when the seven are seen in relation to one



Although ten institutions originally had been invited to
participate, by the third year there were seven programs remaining
with the project. After the initial grant workshop in October 1990,
the University of Wisconsin withdrew because the project
participants felt the commitment of time and staff outweighed other
pressing priorities. There also had been a change in personnel
within their program. While a team from Bennett College
participated in part of the October workshop, team members were
unable to attend the winter workshop or complete any of the initial
descriptions of women's studies program goals. By the end of the
academic year, both project representatives had left Bennett and no
one was designated to replace them. The team from the University of
California-Los Angeles had been active throughout the first year
and completed the description of program goals and established
questions to pose for the second year's research. Just before the
second year began, however, the program's research assistant, who
had taken responsibility for producing documents for the FIPSE
project, left the university; UCLA consequently withdrew from the

While the three programs had institutionally specific reasons
guiding their choices, their reasons for withdrawing reveal
something about the challenges of administering women's studies
programs nationally. The institutional culture at larger research
universities does not tend to value assessment research as highly
as other kinds of academic research projects. Such institutions
also give fewer rewards for the kind of curricular, programmatic,
and attention to teaching so important to women's studies programs
and so central to this specific FIPSE grant. Although research
universities often have access to graduate student research
assistants to help in such instances, those students usually are
attached to a project for only a year at a time. By contrast, for
smaller institutions like Bennett, the loss of one or two key
women's studies faculty members can have a significant impact on a

The kind of institutional support for the participating programs
varied almost as widely as it does among women's studies programs
nationally. Some received internal grants for faculty development
workshops, others had research assistants at the graduate or
undergraduate level attached to the project, and still others were
allocated some institutional money for photocopying, typing, and
postage; none were given release time, and some programs stayed
with the grant by virtue of their own energy, commitment, and
overtime investment, again reflecting the national profile of many
women's studies programs.

Not enough time, not enough staff, and not enough money were
persistent comments from most program participants. While they were
excited about the project, they wondered how they were going to fit
it in with their other women's studies responsibilities. Students
at the Center explores in more detail how we sought to resolve some
of these dilemmas. With long experience administering programs
without sufficient support, the women's studies faculty members and
administrators in the project drew on that history to create
assessment instruments that were embedded in what they already do;
weave data analysis into student research projects; create methods
that could also have a life beyond the grant such as alumnae/a
questionnaires and interviews; and make use of the project to
further women's studies programmatic goals. Still, their commitment
to the project meant some people spent midwinter vacations writing
drafts of their reports or summers analyzing data rather than
finishing a book or an article. It is just that sort of dedication
that is most responsible for the creation, stability, and growth of
women's studies programs nationally, but it is just that sort of
overload that threatens to exhaust faculty members unnecessarily
and impose constraints on the institutional impact of the program.

To create an academic program dependent on such volunteer efforts
by its faculty members is like creating a hospital emergency room
staffed with doctors and nurses who already have spent a full day
on the ward and in the operating room. It is imperative that
institutions find ways to support women's studies programs, invest
in improving teaching and curriculum, and value the kind of
research that helps all of us understand how students learn. 14

One Hunter College student explained, "[women's studies courses]
open with questions... that's really the biggest difference... you
question all the time, all the time"

These institutional tensions are not unique to women's studies, but
they characterize the experience of most women's studies faculty.
To solve the problems of understaffing and underfunding in the
1990s--when most institutions will have to do the same or more with
fewer resources--will be a challenge indeed. Institutions need to
be sure that in making the difficult choices about allocating
scarcer resources that those groups who historically have not been
invited to the table will not find themselves disproportionately
scrambling against each other for the leftovers. It is a decade in
which we will have to rely on the imagination and energy of the
entire academic community and place student learning at the center
of our common commitments. Women's studies has much to contribute
to this discussion, as The Courage to Question testifies.

We expect our research to be a watershed for women's studies and
dispel many misconceptions now circulating in the highly
politicized attack on educational reform movements, especially
those that call for diversity and multiculturalism in the
curriculum. While critics of women's studies characterize the field
as imposing a rigid, monolithic ideology on its students, the
research in our three-year study presents a dramatically different
picture. Capturing the complexity of student learning, one
Wellesley student describes women's studies as generating "learning
that does more than fill your brain. It fills your body, it fills
your heart, [and] it makes you grow." According to our research,
instead of reducing intellectual and political options, women's
studies expands them. In differentiating between women's studies
and non-women's studies courses, one Hunter College student
explained, women's studies courses "open with questions...that's
really the biggest question all the time, all the

In that spirit of questioning, we offer some of what we discovered
about student learning through our FIPSE project. We hope it begins
a fruitful dialogue between a broad community of educators and
students committed to generatmg both the yearning and the courage
to question.

1. For an overview of the more general hostility to women and the
women's movement, see Susan Faludi's Backlash (New York: Crown
Puhlishers, 1991), especially chapter 11, "The Backlash Brain Trust
From Necons to Neofems." For examples of specific attacks on
women's studies, see reports of the National Association of
scholars' (NAS) 1988 conference as reported in the New York Times,
November 15, 1988, A22, and in The Nation, December 12, 1988, 644;
see also a full page ad from the NAS in The Chronicle of Higher
Education, November 8. 1989. A23, or an article on pages 8-10 in
the July 20, 1990, issue of Washingron, D.C.'s City Paper, on the
Accuracy in Academia conference. Most recently, these efforts to
discredit women's studies and other educational reform efforts have
been collapsed into one catch-all and misleading phrase, "political
2. NWSA Directory of Women's Studies Programs, Women's Centers, and
Women's Research Centers (College Park, Md.: NWSA, 1990), ii.
Subsequent statistics on the number of majors and minors as well as
the graduate programs in women's studies are taken from pages
ii-iii in that same volume. 
3. See the report and recommendations about the women's studies
major in Reports From the Fields (Washington, D.C. Association of
American Colleges, 1990), 207-24. 4. Our language was inspired by
Jill Mattuck Tarule, a member of the National Assessment Team and
one of the authors of Women's Ways of Knowing (New York: Basic
Books, 1986). In Women's Ways, they refer to "passionate knowing"
as "a way of weaving. . .passions and intellectual life into some
recognizable whole" (p. 141 ).
                           CHAPTER TWO

                     UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO 
                      PERSONALIZED LEARNING


     The University of Colorado takes an approach to "The
     Courage to Question" that is more descriptive than
     evaluative. Rather than ask, "What are our goals for
     student learning, and how well are we achieving them?"
     the program asks a more basic question: "From the
     standpoint of student learning, what do we actually do?"
     The report includes a history of the program's experience
     with assessment; an explanation of their descriptive
     focus and results of the process; and current and ongoing
     implications of the project. The report also places the
     project within the context of recent reports on reform in
     higher education.


The University of Colorado is located in Boulder, Colorado, with an
enrollment of 25,571 students. Its student body is primarily white
(87.5 percent), middle class, and native to Colorado. Women
constitute 46 percent of the student population. Sixty-one percent
of the undergraduate students at CU-Boulder receive some type of
financial aid. CU-Boulder employs 1,094 full-time faculty members
and is considered the leading comprehensive re- search university
in the Rocky Mountain region and among the top public universities
in the country in gaining federal research support. The campus has
several active women's organizations and clubs, although it has no
women's center. The major campus program identified with women is
the Women's Studies Program.

The Women's Studies Program was founded in the early 1970s by a
group of faculty members, students, and community members. By the
fall of 1974, a full time director had been appointed. The
curriculum reflected a national pattern. which the program has
since maintained: interdisciplinary core courses with a women's
studies rubric and courses offered by departments and cross-listed
with women's studies. In 1979, the Women's Studies Program was
subsumed with eleven other programs under the Center for
Interdisciplinary Studies, which was maintained as an umbrella unit
until Student demand for courses reflects both the expanding
scholarship and the social concerns that scholarship addresses

1985 when the center was abolished. Since 1985, women's studies has
grown considerably as an independent program, increasing the number
of majors from twenty-five in 1984 to seventy in fall of 1991 and
employing four full-time and one part-time faculty members.

The growth of the Women's Studies Program during its eighteen-year
history is the result of both national trends and local
circumstances. First, the dramatic expansion of feminist
scholarship has generated a surge of intellectual excitement in
women's studies nationally and internationally. Student demand for
courses reflects both the expanding scholarship and the social
concerns that the scholarship addresses. Concomitantly, as the new
scholarship on women generated academic attention within the
traditional disciplines, more departments sought to hire faculty
members whose scholarly or creative work focused on women or
gender. Thus, while the 1974 proposal to establish the Women's
Studies Program identified fifteen faculty members across campus
who were interested in teaching women's studies in their
departments, a 1991 survey identified forty-two core and affiliated
full-time faculty members who have actually taught these courses
during the past three semesters.

Local circumstances also have promoted the growth of women's
studies at the University of Colorado. A core faculty known for its
outstanding teaching has developed an excellent reputation among
students. Students drawn to women's studies courses are among the
most articulate and capable on campus. "Affiliated" faculty members
(that is, those who are listed in other departments and whose
courses are cross-listed with women's studies) have given
generously of their support and influence at crucial moments in the
program's history. While administrative support has been uneven
from office to office, over the years a general acceptance of and
support for women's studies prevails (for example, approval to
conduct national searches for directors at three separate times).
And finally, the Boulder community--with its numerous feminist
organizations--is a setting that supports women's studies

In 1988, with the hiring of the present director, the program moved
from a basement location to its present site in Cottage Number One,
the original women's dormitory. In addition to the director's
position, the program received four full-time, tenure-line faculty
positions. In academic year 1991-92, a full-time senior instructor
and a one-third time instructor--as well as seven part-time
instructors--round out the core teaching faculty.

Today, the Women's Studies Program does more than meet its original
aim of offering courses on the new scholarship on women. Since
1983, it has provided a major area of academic concentration for
190 undergraduates who have been awarded the major under the
American Studies designation the program also has granted a
certificate to approximately 100 students. In addition to providing
an integrated curriculum in women's studies for its major and
certificate students, the program also seeks to foster an
intellectual feminist community on campus through its numerous
programs and activities, to support the work of faculty members who
are engaging in feminist scholarship in their disciplines, to
contribute to feminist discourse through scholarly and creative
work, and to promote enlightened and responsible leadership for
women in the community.

When the Women's Studies Program at the University of Colorado was
invited in 1989 to participate in the assessment project, "The
Courage to Question," we initially regarded it as an opportunity to
refine and expand assessment procedures that we had already
developed. Our campus, like other institutions of higher education
in Colorado, had been mandated by the state to assess student
learning in all academic units beginning in 1987-88. Following the
advice of those in the Office of Academic Affairs who were
coordinating the effort, we developed a rather standard procedure.
The faculty identified the knowledge and skills goals that we
thought our students should attain and devised an instrument for
measuring them.

In the first year, the women's studies faculty selected one
knowledge goal and two skills goals to assess. Because the required
survey of feminist theory served at that time as a type of capstone
course for majors, we decided to embed the assessment of these
goals in a requirement for the course. The knowledge goal we
selected was knowledge of major paradigms of feminist thought. The
skills goals we selected were: (1) the ability to write a focused
and coherent analytical essay that is based upon and sustained by
evidence; and (2) the ability to analyze arguments and
interpretation for internal consistency and underlying assumptions.
The final examination in the course was to be assessed for these
student learning goals. After the instructor graded the examination
for the purpose of the course, three faculty members-- including an
outside evaluator from another institution--evaluated the student
exams according to the assessment goals.

The outcome of the assessment project was not especially
illuminating. In fact, it did not tell us much beyond what the
course instructor had discovered in the process of grading the
exams for the class: overall, the students did relatively well in
meeting these goals. This experience, however, led us to question
the approach we had taken to assessment, which eventually led us to
redefine our project for "The Courage to Question."

We were dissatisfied with the process we had developed for several
reasons. First, the state mandate created an atmosphere that
encouraged compliance rather than enthusiasm. Our selection of
knowledge and skills goals as well as the methods of assessment
emerged from a desire for efficiency. We regarded assessment as one
more bureaucratic requirement for evaluation that impinged on our
time. Like most faculty members in women's studies programs, we
were already overworked. We resented yet another requirement for
self-evaluation that interfered with our real work: teaching and
research. Thus, we formally complied with the mandate by following
campus guidelines and embedding the assessment in course
requirements. As a result, our goals and the process of assessing
them looked very much like standard academic fare: one could not
tell much difference between the women's studies assessment plan
and those of traditional arts and sciences disciplines. We were
resigned to the process; we did not "own" it, and we didn't learn
much about ourselves as teachers and learners.

Participation in the NWSA/FIPSE project gave us an opportunity to
re-examine our attitudes toward assessment. First, the situation
was dramatically different. We chose to participate in the project.
The attitude of the national assessment team (as advisors to us)
was flexible, helpful, and respectful of the educational experience
of women's studies students and faculty. We were encouraged to take
a more comprehensive look at assessment, its purposes, and its
possibilities for self-reflection. Through biannual meetings we
were given the opportunity to engage in dialogue with faculty
members from other women's studies programs as a means of
clarifying our individual cam pus approaches as well as raising the
larger question of assessing women's studies. The setting for our
process was supportive and intellectually exciting. The audience
for our reports was not a state bureaucrat but other women's
studies programs and educators interested in assessment.

In this setting, we began to question other aspects of our previous
approach to assessment. We realized that we had selected particular
goals not simply because they might be important but also because
they were convenient--that is, relatively easy to evaluate given
our resources. Moreover, we realized that even when these
understandably pragmatic motives were not operating so explicitly,
our program goals reflected certain intentions by particular
individuals at a specific time. We saw that our program could
identify a variety of combinations of goals, depending on who was
asked and when. Given this shifting context of goal identification,
we decided to push back the question from intention to the context
itself and look at what we were actually doing in our women's
studies courses. With help from our students, we started looking
for answers.

In April and May of 1990, we held a series of potluck dinners with
women's studies majors and certificate students, faculty members,
and the staff advisor. We asked the students, "What actually
happens for you as a learner in women's studies courses and as a
women's studies major/certificate student?" and "What do you learn
and how do you learn it?" The discussions were lively, intense,
thoughtful, and fun. In an interesting way they reproduced the best
of our classroom experiences: a student suggesting an idea; another
picking up on it, confirming it, elaborating on it, taking a
different slant; still another disagreeing with part of it,
clarifying both the agreement and disagreement; another student
mediating the disagreement, searching for some paradox that might
illuminate the discussion. The faculty members and staff advisor
took notes on these discussions and met to interpret them. We
concluded that while students may have taken different slants on
this theme, they were telling us that women's studies was an
exciting learning experience because they as learners were
personally, actively engaged in their learning experience.


Our students were, in effect, telling us that their education in
women's studies produced the learning experience that higher
education reformers have been advocating for the last several
years. Reports on undergraduate education have stressed the
importance of students' involvement in their learning process.
Although the specific goals varied from report to report or among
institutions, the condition best suited to achieve those
goals--active student learning--was clearly the current educational

In 1984, the Study Group on Excellence in Higher Education
sponsored by the National Institute of Education (NIE) sounded the
new emphasis for improving undergraduate education.

     There is now a good deal of research evidence to suggest
     that the more time and effort students invest in the
     learning process and the more in- tensely they engage in
     their own education, the greater will be their growth and
     achievement, their satisfaction with their educational
     experiences, and their persistence in college, and the
     more likely they are to continue their learning. -1

The NIE report specified involvement to include devoting energy to
studying working at jobs on campus (rather than at off campus
jobs), participating in student organizations, and interacting
frequently with faculty members and other students. In his 1985
study, Alexander Astin confirmed the importance of the last item:
frequent student-faculty interaction was the most influential
factor affecting students' satisfaction with their undergraduate
experience.2 Subsequent reports issuing from organizations such as
the Association of American Colleges (AAC), the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching, the American Association for
Higher Education (AAHE), and the Education Commission of the States
reiterated the importance of improving active student involvement
and faculty engagement in teaching and learning.

These reports, while underscoring the ideal, identified impediments
to its realization. Involvement in learning requires time, and both
students and faculty members find themselves pressured by competing
demands. Cutbacks in federal funding require more students to work
off campus and to work more hours. A Carnegie Commission study
found students were much more engaged by their social life and jobs
outside of class than they were by academic or intellectual
interests. -3 Faculty members also feel the pressure or the lure of
competing demands. A Carnegie survey of five thousand faculty
members found that at research universities, the reward system
encourages research over teaching. -4 Prestige within a discipline
nationally also is associated with the degree to which a faculty
member engages in published research. -5 Although faculty members
and administrators frequently affirm the principle that teaching
and research need not necessarily be at odds with one another, the
higher education reports reflect a growing uneasiness with this
nostrum; they suggest or directly state that in practice the time
demands of research impinge upon faculty involvement with teaching.
The consequence of these tugs on student and faculty time,
interests, rewards, and mutual perceptions--tugs that interfere
with active involvement in teaching and learning--is the creation
of what the authors of the AAC report on general education called
the "two cultures in academia":

     On many campuses, students view faculty with the
     ambivalence of respect and resentment, admiration and
     disappointment. Depending on the institution and the
     department, relations between students and faculty can
     range from harmony and colleagueship through mutual
     avoidance to antagonism and undeclared conflict. On such
     campuses, the rhetoric about an "intellectual community"
     is belied by the reality of these two separate cultures.

The report suggests that the two cultures in academia foster an
attitude of detachment on both sides. Students don't make demands
on faculty members in exchange for faculty members not making
demands on students. Students put in the time they think is
necessary to get the grades they want and then turn to more
exciting interests. Faculty members put in the time they think is
necessary to teach, hold office hours and attend meetings, and
then, if time permits, turn to the real work of research. Neither
side makes too many demands, yet each harbors complaints. Students
contend that faculty members are aloof and condescending; faculty
members complain that students can't write or think or analyze.
Each manages to find one or a few exceptions to what they take to
be the pattern of the other's disinterest or incompetence.

This, of course, is an exaggeration. Obviously, there are faculty
members and students who are actively engaged in intellectually
exciting teaching and learning experiences. But the concerns that
these various reports raise converge in a portrait of a university
culture that fosters isolation, resignation, and discontent on the
part of students and faculty.

The consequences are experienced not simply in the separation of
students and faculty (and, indeed, among students and among faculty
members) but in the curriculum as well. In A New Vitality in
General Education, AAC's task group on general education cites the
problem with the disorganized general education curriculum and
attributes it to the faculty's focus on their specialized research
within their discipline. "We have specialized to such a degree that
we have lost interest in and the capacity for integrating
knowledge." -7 In The Challenge of Connecting Learning, another AAC
task force finds coherence lacking even "within arts and sciences
majors." The authors call for "connected knowing"; that is, making
links among courses and ideas within the major but also encouraging
students to connect personally with the material they were
learning. -8

The reports, thus, describe a problem that did not appear in our
students' accounts of their women's studies learning experience.
While some components described in the reports were
acknowledged--for example, competing tugs on students and faculty
time demands and interests--they did not emerge as central themes.
To the contrary, students reported that faculty members were
generally accessible and responsive to their questions and concerns
and that faculty-student activities bridged the two cultures. They
reported that through taking women's studies courses, they were
challenged to carry the knowledge gained in their classes into
their social life and into their work experience, giving them a
language and a critical framework for evaluating their experience.
They described their classes as demanding and supportive
experiences that fostered connected learning. As one student
stated, "We have wonderful teachers who care about us, are telling
us something real and tangible. They validate our existence as
women, and they are great role models, something women don't have
much of."


Our students were responding to their women's studies classes in a
way that confirmed recent studies on feminist pedagogy. Grounded in
feminist scholarship and theories of knowledge that have challenged
academic disciplines feminists have questioned traditional teaching
practices. As Culley and Portuges note, "changing what we teach
means changing how we teach." -9 Traditional practices take an
approach to teaching that presumes that objective knowledge is
possible, "mastery" of universal truths is desirable, the teacher
is the uncontested expert, and students learn through competing
with one another. In contrast, feminist pedagogy assumes an
approach that views knowledge as contingent, open, and
interconnected and learning as more effective in a setting that is
non-hierarchical, student-centered, and collaborative.

Most of the writing on feminist pedagogy has documented the non-
traditional practices that feminist teachers use in the classroom.
We were interested in learning more about feminist pedagogy from
the perspective of our students. What in particular were our
students responding to when they described their learning
experiences so positively? Was it the teaching techniques? the
material? some combination? How did they interpret their active
engagement in the classroom?

To try to answer these questions, we turned to studying women's
studies classes more systematically. At the potluck dinners, the
students indicated several dimensions to their active connection
within their classes. We subsequently grouped these dimensions
under three categories: course content, course structure, and
classroom dynamics. While at times these categories may overlap and
influence one another, basically they refer to the subject matter
of the course (what students read, discuss, think about, research~;
the structure of the course (format, requirements); and classroom
dynamics or pedagogy (teaching style, student participation,
faculty-student interaction). Our research was built on these
informal student impressions and the categories we derived from
them. Specifically, we were interested in answering two questions:
( 1 ) were all three of these categories equally important in
fostering active learning or was one component more important than
the others? and (2) was the active learning experience that our
students identified with their women's studies courses unique or
could it be found in other classes ?

We decided to answer these questions from the perspective of
illuminative evaluation, an approach used in educational research
to evaluate innovative educational programs where traditional
approaches have proven inadequate. -10 Evaluation traditionally has
been inextricably linked with testing--testing to provide
quantitative data from which statistical inferences can be drawn.
However, test-oriented evaluation presents a number of problems
when conducting an evaluation of an educational innovation. It is
often difficult to articulate and specify complex goals, to account
for idiosyncratic influences, even to formulate precise research
questions--all issues which this project presented.

Illuminative evaluation offers an alternative "social anthropology"
paradigm. Whereas traditional evaluation procedures tend to operate
in isolation, illuminative evaluation attempts to incorporate the
wider context in which educational programs operate. The goal of
illuminative research is to "unravel [the complex scene
encountered]...[and to] isolate its significant features." -11
Illuminative evaluation is, in fact, a general research strategy
rather than a standard methodological package. The tactics used to
conduct the research are chosen to fit the particular subject at
hand. After making initial observations, the researcher identifies
certain phenomena, events, or opinions as topics for more intensive
inquiry: "As the investigation unfolds...problem areas become
progressively clarified and redefined."-12 This "progressive
focusing" permits unique and previously unidentified phenomena to
be examined.

The illumination approach seemed best suited to the rather
open-ended nature of our questioning. In the initial discussions
our students identified the importance of their own active
engagement, and we derived the categories that might foster that
experience. We then used these categories to inform a series of
classroom observations and to analyze course syllabi. We used the
information that we gathered from these sources to create a
questionnaire (see end of file).

Because we wanted to compare learning experiences in women's
studies classes with those in classes in other departments, we
initially conducted observations in three different courses one
women's studies course, "Women and Religion," and two non-women's
studies courses (an English course "Advanced Shakespeare," and an
American Studies course entitled "American Autobiographies"). We
selected these courses through a process of purposive sampling that
allowed us to control for class level, class size, academic
discipline, and instructor evaluations.

Because we wanted students who had sufficient time as
undergraduates to enable them to reflect upon their educational
experiences, we limited the comparison classes to upper-division
courses. Because class size significantly affects classroom
atmosphere and student engagement, we selected classes with roughly
the same number of students. "Women and Religion" had thirty-two
students, "Advanced Shakespeare" had twenty-five students, and
"American Autobiographies," had twenty-one students. Academic
discipline was another area of consideration. Because content to a
large extent affects style of teaching, we selected courses from
the humanities and social sciences, academic disciplines considered
most similar to women's studies. Since the teaching ability of
women's studies instructors is rated consistently high in faculty
course evaluations, teaching excellence of the instructor also was
a criterion for selection of comparison classes.

Gender was a factor that could not be controlled because of
limitations inherent in our study. Women's studies classes are
exclusively taught by female faculty members and most often the
majority (if not all) of the students are female. This was true for
the "Women and Religion" class: it was taught by a female, and all
of the students were female. The "Advanced Shakespeare" class was
taught by a female and comprised twelve female and thirteen male
students. The "American Autobiographies" class was taught by a male
and had thirteen women and eight men. The gender profile is an
important difference, one which we recognize has significant
implications, given our eventual findings.

All three professors teaching these three courses agreed with
consider- able interest to participate in the project. On the first
day of observation, Re- search Assistant Gay Victoria introduced
herself to the students and gave them a brief description of the
project and the reasons for wanting to make the observations. She
subsequently observed three seventy-five-minute class periods in
each of the three classes during the periods of November 15-16 and
November 26-December 4, 1990. She audio taped all of the classes
with the consent of the instructor and the students.

The class observations were directed by the three components, which
students and faculty members had identified as contributing to
active learning in women's studies classes--content, structure, and
dynamics. Content was, of course, an obvious area of difference
between the women's studies and non-women's studies classes.
Although both the "Advanced Shakespeare" class and the class on
"American Autobiographies" presented multi- cultural approaches to
the course material (incorporating discussions regarding race and
class as well as gender whenever appropriate), neither of them had
women as their primary focus. In contrast, the content of the
"Women and Religion" class was focused solely on women.

All three courses contained many structural similarities: all
appeared to incorporate similar types of course requirements
(critical thinking and writing skills were stressed in all three
classes); all were generally conducted in a discussion rather than
lecture format; and all formally structured some aspects of the
class to be determined by students. Interestingly enough, the
women's studies class was conducted in a seating arrangement which
was more or less traditional: for example, rows of seated students,
with the instructor in front. The other two classes, in contrast,
were conducted in a less traditional circle arrangement.

Dynamics presented a number of interesting observations. The
pedagogy most often associated with feminist approaches--such as
student-centered or dialogic teaching--was not unique to the
women's studies class. All three instructors involved students in
discussion and responsibility for directing the class. While all
three classes had active participation rates, the average response
rates for the "Advanced Shakespeare" course (83.3 percent of the
students spoke) and the "American Autobiographies" course (70.3
percent) were somewhat higher than the average participation rate
in the "Women and Religion" course (46.6 percent). This was an
interesting finding, given students' reporting on their active
learning in women's studies classes. One way to interpret the
difference was to speculate that the slightly larger class size
affected the participation rate. Another explanation was that this
class was an anomaly and that students were, in fact, not actively
involved. Yet another interpretation suggested that active learning
is not the same as, or confined to, student responses to
professors' questions. Students may be actively involved without
necessarily verbalizing their responses in class. When we looked at
how students engaged the material, we discovered something that
supported the latter interpretation. The students in the "Women and
Religion" course related classroom material to their own lives, a
process that did not take place in the other two classes.

For example, during a discussion of the relationship between war
and ritual and war as ritual, a student of the "Women and Religion"
class observed:

     Over Thanksgiving, my dad and I got into a lot of
     conversations about the war...He tried to justify it to know, thinking that we should go to war.... I
     asked him a question, "Well, how do you think things
     would be different if there was a matriarchy instead of
     patriarchy?" The way he saw matriarchy is--and this is
     where the shock was--that, all of the sudden, men would
     follow one woman's orders. Like there would be the one
     woman on the top and then it would be exactly like it is
     right now.

Class members empathized with this student but also discussed the
reasons why someone might automatically think of that model of
matriarchy, given popular examples of women heads of state.

Students in the "American Autobiographies" and the "Advanced
Shakespeare" class did not engage in this type of dynamic.
Admittedly, the subject matter of these two classes may have
offered fewer opportunities to make personal connections with the
course material than "Women and Religion" did. However, even when
opportunities did present themselves in these other classes,
students (male or female) did not make the connections--for
whatever reason. It was unclear at this point why this dynamic was
present only in the women's studies class. One possible explanation
could have been the fact that the professor in this class actually
"modeled" the integration of the personal with the intellectual by
using examples from her own religious upbringing and those of
family members to illustrate various points about the influence of

Yet "modeling" did occur during observations of one of the other
classes. The female professor in "Advanced Shakespeare" made at
least two attempts to encourage students to connect the themes of
war in Henry V (the play under discussion) to the Gulf War (which
had escalated at the time). She herself volunteered that she had a
difficult time reading the play without thinking about contemporary
parallels. Each time she encouraged students to reflect on a
connection (without directing them how to reflect), the students
quickly returned to a discussion of the text itself. Thus, although
the professor herself modeled making contemporary connections to
the material, the class resisted. There may be many reasons for
this resistance: for example, students (with friends or loved ones
at risk) may have felt too closely affected by the Gulf War to
discuss it. Nevertheless, only the students in the women's studies
class volunteered connections between the material, themselves, and
their present contexts.

The observations of the three classes suggested some interesting
initial answers to our questions. Pedagogy alone did not foster a
personal connection to the material. Indeed, those techniques most
often associated with feminist pedagogy--that is, student-centered
learning, discussion emphasis, a democratization of
responsibility--occurred more frequently in the two classes which
were not the women's studies course. However, although these
pedagogical techniques fostered active student learning in the
classroom, student engagement was not "personal" in the way that it
was for women's studies students. This distinction required our
clarifying the difference between "active" engagement and
"personal" engagement. It also required our exploring more fully
what "personal" connection meant in the classroom. Surely the
students actively involved in "Advanced Shakespeare" and "American
Autobiographies" were learning in a way that could hardly be called
"impersonal." They obviously were intellectually excited by the
mate- rial and the class discussions. They were not detached; they
were "turned on" by learning. This description was true also of the
women's studies students. Yet for them, something additional was
happening. They were connecting the content of the material with
their lives, and they were connecting themselves with the content
of the material.

We thus concluded that content was more important to fostering
personalized learning than pedagogy alone. It was not enough that
a professor modeled a personal connection to the material or that
she fostered student involvement through discussion. The students
in the women's studies class were also actively involved because
the material touched them deeply. They read about the history of
women in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and they wanted to know
historically what it was like for women to be excluded from certain
religious practices. They read theological tracts and reflected on
their own spirituality. They read about women's involvement in
contemporary religious cults and spoke with concern about women
they knew who were involved in these organizations. Content itself,
it would seem, sparked the personal connection.

We decided to test our speculation about the centrality of content
through observing additional classes. We selected five courses for
this second phase of the project: two women's studies courses
("Feminist Theory" and "Fathers and Daughters"); two English
classes ("American Women Writers" and "Readings in American
Poetry"); and a course from the Religious Studies Department on
"Sufism." The same criteria used in the first phase of the project
(upper division, teaching excellence, size, and academic
discipline) were used in selecting classes for the second phase.
The second phase, however, included an additional consideration not
included in the first. Because we speculated that content was one
aspect of women's studies courses that uniquely informed student
engagement in learning (through personalizing knowledge), we
included "American Women Writers," a course with a content focus on
women but not offered through the Women's Studies Program. Although
some students from other departments were enrolled in the course,
most were English majors. Therefore, this course enabled us to
compare the responses of women's studies students to those of
non-women's studies students in a course focusing exclusively on

Three of the classes were taught by female faculty members
("American Women Writers," "Feminist Theory," and "Fathers and
Daughters") and two by male faculty members ("Readings in American
Poetry" and "Sufism"). The students in the two women's studies
classes were once again either exclusively or predominantly female
(the "Feminist Theory" class had two male students). The three
non-women's studies classes had a mixture of male and female
students. All five classes were upper-division classes with
anywhere from seventeen to twenty-six students. Three separate
observations consisting of one class period (either fifty or
seventy-five minutes) were carried out in each of these five
classes during the period from March 5 to April 10, 1991, using the
same procedure as in the first phases.

With regard to structure (requirements, skills, classroom format),
all five classes in phase two had similar course requirements and
were conducted either through discussion or a combination
discussion/lecture format. All five of the classes placed a great
deal of emphasis on critical thinking and writing skills. All were
conducted in a circular seating arrangement. In terms of pedagogy
or dynamics, all but one of the five classes formally incorporated
students into various aspects of designing and/or running of the
class. The class that was most traditionally structured (designed
and led by the faculty) was a women's studies course, "Feminist
Theory." Again, the two English classes--"American Women Writers"
and "Readings in American Poetry"--were the most highly
student-centered, delegating much of the responsibility for
designing questions and leading class discussion to the students.
This pattern did not surprise us. Influenced by one of its faculty
members, the English Department has been known on campus for
innovation in fostering student-centered learning. -13 

The most interesting findings concerned the personalization of
knowing. Again, students reproduced the earlier pattern of
personalizing learning in their women's studies classes. And,
again, for the most part, students resisted personalizing learning
in the three courses that were not women's studies. However, two
exceptions to the earlier pattern proved to be especially
illuminating. The first anomaly was a lengthy and intense
personalized discussion in one class period of the religious
studies class, "Sufism." The professor had just returned student
papers and, to the class as a whole, made a personal response to
material in one of the student'.s papers, a response validating a
point the student made. Several other students--first a male, then
a fe- male--followed by also connecting personally to the point the
professor made. The discussion continued to weave in and out of
academic and personal reflections on love and piety.

The second exception involved the lack of modeling of, or formal
requirement for, engaging in personalized learning during our
observation of the "Feminist Theory" course. Although it is
possible that the professor modeled personalized learning in other
class sessions, it did not occur during our observations. Yet, even
in this class which was also the most traditionally structured,
students made personal connections to the material. This finding
was especially interesting when compared to our observations of
student engagement in the English Department's "American Women
Writers" class. Despite modeling on the part of the female
instructor, in this class the students resisted connecting the
material to their personal lives. In contrast, despite the absence
of the professor's modeling in the women's studies "Feminist
Theory" class, students repeatedly made connections between their
lives and the material under discussion. It seemed as though these
junior- and senior-level students, most of whom were women's
studies majors, had developed an approach to their women's studies
courses in which they expected personal connections to be made,
even when such connections were not formally encouraged.

These findings suggested further comparisons. The professor in the
religious studies class was especially skillful in eliciting
students' personal responses. Not only did he model it himself but
he did so in a way that was directed to specific issues that
encouraged particular students to respond. He appeared to know his
students well and directed his questioning to them personally. For
example, through his questioning of a student musician, the student
was led to reflect on a parallel between his experience of playing
the violin and stages of spiritual growth. In the session we
observed, however, students in the religious studies class did not
volunteer personal connections on their own. Unlike the women's
studies students, they did not initiate personalized learning but
waited until the professor gave them permission to do so or
explicitly requested it.

As we reflected on these differences, we were struck by what
appeared to be a unique atmosphere among students in the women's
studies courses. Many of these students--especially majors--knew
one another; they met for events and activities outside of the
classroom, and they had taken other classes together. This core
(sometimes consisting of only three or four students ) created an
atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. There also were the ones
who took a leadership role in initiating discussions about their
personal responses to the material. They helped to create, in
effect, a student culture. It was this student culture that
appeared to function whether or not men were present (there were
two men in the "Feminist Theory" class) and whether or not students
received formal faculty encouragement for personalized learning.
Our gradual unravelling of our questions, therefore, led us to the
conclusion that the women's studies students themselves played a
major role in creating their classroom experience.

The patterns we discovered in class observations were confirmed by
our initial analysis of the questionnaires administered to the
students in all five classes. Given our observations of the
salience of the personalized connection to the course content, we
were especially interested in student responses to the questions
addressing this issue: 

* How often does course content relate to you personally? 
* How often in the classroom does it feel acceptable to relate
course mater al to your personal life? 
* How often do you feel "encouraged" by the instructor to relate
course material to your personal life? 
* How often in the classroom do you verbally express a personal
connection to course content ? 
* How often does course content actually affect you or your life in
some significant way? 

Applying a simple t-test, we found that students in the women's
studies classes scored significantly higher than students in the
other classes on all of these questions. Moreover, we found that
students in the English Department course "American Women Writers"
scored significantly higher than students in the other non-women's
studies classes but lower than students in the women's studies
classes. This appeared to confirm our supposition that both content
and student culture contributed to the personal connection, but we
are looking forward to conducting a more elaborate statistical
analysis of the questionnaire before drawing conclusions from these

Nevertheless, the students' written responses to the open-ended
questions certainly confirmed the patterns of the initial class
observations and the answers to the questions on personal
connection to the material. When asked how the course content
affected their lives, students in the English Ind religious studies
classes responded generally by referring to what they learned, "It
gave me a new perspective on American literature and life." "It
gave me a broader perspective on literature." "It has helped me to
understand a religion and culture different from my own." Very few
students from these classes stated that the course helped them to
think differently about or reevaluate their lives (the majority of
these comments came from women students in "American Women
Writers"). And one male student responded angrily to the question
itself, "Although courses in religious studies (including this one)
touch me deeply, I have little or no interest in sharing my
'personal life' (in regards to religion) with my classmates.
Spirituality and academia do not go together very well. The mind
often cannot relate to the heart. I don't really want to talk about
it here."

In contrast, the responses from many of the students in the women's
studies class indicated an ease with and desire for making a
personal connection to the material, "This course will stay with me
for the rest of the summer." "I apply everything I learn in women's
studies classes to my life." "My women's studies courses have
strengthened me." "I tend to read theories and think about how they
apply to my life." "This class pushes me to self- examination and
reevaluation and opens new avenues of thought." A political science
major who had taken numerous women's studies classes noted,
"Without women's studies classes half of my sanity would be missing
in my educational experience. I think my education was extremely
enhanced through taking women's studies classes."

The comments on the questionnaires helped us to clarify more fully
the difference that we had noted earlier between students' active
and personal engagement in their classes. When the students in the
non-women's studies classes were intellectually involved with the
material, they were excited by the ideas and enjoyed the learning
process itself. We noticed this same pro- cess with the women's
studies students, but they also expressed another dimension that
could best be described as ethical. The women's studies students
were concerned with drawing the implications of their learning for
Our students become excited by this material not only because it is
intellectually innovative and compelling but especially because it
explains their own experiences guiding their own actions in the
world. They wanted to learn about the world: its history; its
political, economic, and social structures; its cultural forms; its
irrationalities and its positive possibilities. They also wanted to
learn about themselves in relationship to the world in order to
help them make judgments about making choices and interacting with

The ethical concerns that our students bring to their women's
studies classes reflect the conditions that bring them to these
classes in the first place--an experience of the world in which the
traditional expectations for women and men are challenged. They
want to understand the traditions and the challenges, not in order
to discover some new "politically correct" mode of behavior, but to
explore the possibilities for change and to revalue parts of their
own past.


Our two major discoveries--the importance of course content in
promoting activity, personalized learning and the culture of
women's studies that assumes personal/intellectual
connections--raise for us many additional issues and questions. The
influence of content (over either course structure or teaching
dynamics) in creating a personally and intellectually exciting
learning experience cannot be overemphasized. It suggests the
powerful influence of simply exposing students to works on women's
history and literature, to analyses of the economic, social~ and
political structures influencing women's lives, to feminist theory,
to the psychology of women, to women's art and music and theater.
Our students' positive responses to the content of women's studies
remind us of our own personal and intellectual excitement in
"discovering" the works that eventually came to define women's
studies as a new field. It also suggests the importance of the
efforts of the past ten years to create curricular reform. The
current backlash against that reform reflects the power that the
new scholarship wields. Women's studies is a new perspective that
challenges traditional structures and beliefs. Our students become
excited by this material not only because it is intellectually
innovative and compelling but especially because it explains their
own experiences. These are the "aha" moments when students
understand their personal lives in the context of wider,
overlapping, and interlocking fields.

We suspect that the culture of personalized learning created by
women's studies students is grounded in this compelling connection.
In the absence of a dominant cultural discourse that would validate
their lives, and in the context of prevailing cultural forms that
undermine them, our students often seek out their first women's
studies classes as avenues to self-understanding. The desire for
the intellectual is deeply rooted in the personal. When they do
encounter the material that helps them to make sense of their
lives--and those issues and problems that were hitherto
"nameless"--they establish an expectation that women's studies
course content will pertain to women's lives in general and to
their lives in particular. We suspect that the student culture of
personalized learning emerges from this shared expectation for the
intellectual to explain the personal. It appears, also, that the
expectation is reinforced not only by course content and faculty
support and modeling but also by students' mutually supportive

We would like to learn more about this student culture. Ideally, we
would like to follow a cohort of student majors longitudinally from
their first introductory women's studies course through graduation.
We would want to learn why of all the students enrolled in
"Introduction to Women's Studies"--some choose to become majors. We
would want to follow their initial encounter with the material--and
with the struggle with it that Lee Knefelkamp identifies as the
tension between support and challenged. By observing middle-range
classes, we would want to learn how individual expectations for
personalized learning develop into a student culture that fosters
it. Are there certain student-teacher interactions that support it?
Are there other components to this student culture? other
activities that promote it? What is the influence of an all-female
class in promoting a culture of personalized learning? We would
also want to know more about the culture it- elf. Are certain
voices and perspectives privileged? Are some groups silenced or
intimidated? Are there assumptions about what constitutes a
personal connection that are culturally limiting? Is there a
tension between what Belenky et al. have called connected knowing
and separate (for example, analytical) knowing? What happens when
students encounter material that is difficult or "inconvenient" to
know? These are the questions that we are starting to ask in phase
three, which extends our work from "The Courage to Question." We
have begun to study "Introduction to Women's Studies," using
classroom observation, student journals, questionnaires, and

Meanwhile, we still are required by the state to conduct a yearly
assessment of student learning. Our experience with "The Courage to
Question" has led us to abandon our previous approach and to adopt
a portfolio method. Our approach rejects a method whereby faculty
members alone measure student learning and proceeds from the
assumption of an equal partnership between students and faculty in
assessing student learning. 

Our portfolio process is embedded in a new capstone course for
majors and certificates. A major requirement for the course is a
ten-page paper, a reconstructive narrative of the student's journey
as a women's studies major. To help prepare to write the narrative,
students are asked to pull together materials from their women's
studies courses (in the future, newly declared majors will be asked
to keep a portfolio of these materials). As another building block,
students are asked to write short memoirs of their individual
courses, addressing questions such as, "Why did I take this course?
What did I learn? How? Was I challenged? How? Was I supported? How?
How would I change the class? What questions did I have going into
the class? Were they answered? Were any left unanswered?" Building
from these class memoirs and portfolio items, the students write
narratives that make sense of their learning experience as women's
studies majors and certificates. By sifting through memories,
papers, exams, and personal journals, students must remember
themselves as they were before they became women's studies majors
and reconstruct their development. In doing so, students are
required to recognize the interplay between personal connections
and intellectual experience.

The second capstone course requirement involves students' extending
their narratives to a project, the "next step." The definition of
the project is flexible. It might be an artistic expression that
interprets their learning experience, an analytical paper that
pursues an unanswered question, an investigation of an intended
career, a short story. When students present their narratives and
"next step" projects, they may invite other faculty members and
students to the class. Through her presentation and dialogue with
those present, each student will be encouraged to reflect on her
learning (both product and process) and to link her learning
experience to her future plans. The assessment report will draw
from these presentations, narratives, and portfolios. Authored by
a subcommittee of faculty and student participants, the report will
be submitted as the Women's Studies Program's yearly assessment of
student learning.

Creating an assessment method that is more informative and useful
to students and faculty members is only one of the benefits of our
participation in "The Courage to Question." The process itself has
encouraged us to reflect more fully on our classroom experiences.
It has helped us with redefining our requirements for the major (to
include new courses on critical thinking and a capstone course~. We
also have revitalized connections with faculty outside of women's
studies. Other faculty members who participated in the project have
expressed an interest in our focus on personalized learning. We, on
the other hand, have learned from them useful techniques to foster
student-centered learning. Our participation also has introduced us
to new scholarship on assessment, student learning, and curricular
reform, enabling us to assume some leadership in recent campus
efforts to revitalize undergraduate education.

Although our approach to "The Courage to Question" looks more like
research than assessment, we are pleased that we have taken this
direction. It has allowed us to gain some perspective on classroom
learning in women's studies that will enable us to clarify our
goals both individually and collectively. Our discovery of the
personalization of knowledge is not exactly new. Women's studies
from the beginning has made the connection between the personal and
the intellectual. What is new for us is to begin to consider what
t:his connection means specifically for teaching and learning.

1. Involvement in Learning: Realizing the Potential of Amencan
Higher Education (Washington, D.C.: National Institutes of
Education, 1984), 17.

2. A. W. Astin. Achieving Educational Exceuence: A Critical
Assessment of Priorities and Practices in Higher Education (San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985). 

3. Campus Life: In Search of Community (Princeton: The Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990). 

4. The Condition of the Professoriate: Attitudes and Trends
(Princeton: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching, 1989). 

5. E. L. Boyer, College: The Undergraduate Expenence in America
(New York: Harper and Row 1987). 

6. A New Vitality in General Education (Washington, D.C .:
Association of American Colleges, 1988) 42. 

7. A New Vitality, 23. 

8. The Challenge of Connecting Learning, Liberal Learning and the
Arts and Sciences Major. Vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Association of
American Colleges, 1991). 

9. M. Culley and C. Portuges, eds., Gendered Subjects: The Dynamics
of Feminist Teaching (Boston Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985), 2. 

10. M. Parlett and G. Dearden, eds., Introduction to Illuminative
Evaluation: Studies in Higher Education (Cardiff-by-Sea, Calif:
Pacific Sounding Press, 1977); M. Parlett and D. Hamilton
"Evaluation as Illumination: A New Approach to the Study of
Innovative Programs," in Beyond the Numbers Game, D. Hamilton. et
al., eds., (London: Macmillan, 1978), 6-22; J. P. Shapiro and B.
Reed, "Illuminative Evaluation Meeting the Special Needs of
Feminist Projects," in Humanity and Society (November 1984) 432-41;
M. A. Trow, "Methodological Problems in the Evaluation of
Innovation," in M. C. Wittrock and E. E. Wiley. eds., The
Evaluation of Instruction (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
1970), 289-305. 

11. M. Parlett and D. Hamilton. "Evaluation as Illumination: A New
Approach to the Study of Innovative Programs," in D. Hamilton et
al, eds., Beyond the Numbers Game (London: Macmillan, 1978) 6-22,

12. Ibid, 18. 

13. Martin Bickman, "Active Learning in the University: An Inquiry
into Inquiry," in Mary Ann Shea, ed., On Teaching, Vol. I (Boulder:
The University of Colorado Faculty Teaching Excellence Program,
1987): 31 66. I 4. L. Lee Knefelkamp, Developmental Instruction:
Fostering Intellectual and Personal Growth of Students (Doctoral
dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1974). 

15. M. F. Belenky, B. M. Clinchy, N. R. Goldberger, and J. M.
Tarule, Women's Ways of Knowing (New York: Basic Books, 1986).


Provide three responses to each question below: 
A. answer in regard to courses from your major area of study 
B. answer in regard to courses from outside your major area of
C. answer in regard to this course

1 . On the average, how often do you miss class sessions ? 
     Never    Rarely    Occasionally    Frequently    Always 
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

2. What is the usual reason for missing class?

3. How many fellow students do you usually know by name? 
      None    A Few     About Half          Most      All
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

4. How often do you meet with fellow students outside of class?   
     Always   Never       Rarely       Occasionally  Frequently 
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

5. What is the usual purpose of meeting with students outside of

6. How many fellow students would you say you have friendships
     None     A Few      About Half        Most       All
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

7. How often do you think about or "mull over" course or course
related material out-side of class (other than for class
preparation or for class assignments)? 
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

8. How often do you discuss aspects of the course material with
someone outside of class? 
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

9. With whom do you generally have these discussions? (e.g.,
friends, mother, roommate. etc.)?

10. How often does course content motivate you to do additional
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

11. How often do you find yourself getting "interested" in the
course material? 
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

12. How often do you find yourself getting "absorbed" in the course
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

13. How often does course content relate to you personally?
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

14. How often in the classroom does it feel acceptable to relate
course material to your personal life? 
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

15. How often do yoU feel "encouraged" by the instructor to relate
course material to yourpersanal life?
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

16. How often in the classroom do you verbally express a personal
connection to course content?
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

17. How often does course content actually affect you or your life
in some significant way? 
     Never   Rarely     Occasionally    Frequently   Always
A.     1        2            3               4         5 
B.     1        2            3               4         5 
C.     1        2            3               4         5

18. Describe how course content has affected you or your life?

19. In the space below or on the back, write any additional
comments you might have regarding any of the question(s) in this

20. Age:

21. sex: Female/Male

22. Which one of the following race groups do you identify with and
feel you belong to? 
1. American Indian 
2. Black (or Afro American) 
3. Hispanic (or Mexican American/Chicano, etc.) 
4. Asian (or Oriental) 
5. Anglo (or Caucasian)

23. How much education was completed by your parent who went to
school longer? 
1. junior high 
2. high school vocational/technical 
4. college (4 year degree)
5. graduatc school (doctor, lawyer, Ph.D., etc.)

24. In which social class would you say that your family is
1. lower class 
2. working class 
3. middle class
4. upper middle class 
5. upper class

25. Your current student classification: 
1. Freshman 
2. Sophomore 
3. Junior 
4. Senior 
5. Unclassified

26. Your academic major:
    Second major/certificate:

27. If you would be willing to participate in further discussion
regarding your learning experiences at the University of Colorado,
please list your name, current address, and permanent address
                          CHAPTER THREE

                    LEWIS AND CLARK COLLEGE 
                      A SINGLE CURRICULUM 


Lewis and Clark College bases its assessment on the three questions
that summarized their program goals: How effectively do students
learn and apply gender analysis? What impact, if any has gender
studies had on the classroom and institutional climates at Lewis
and Clark ? And, what impact, if any, has gender studies had on the
personal growth of students and alumnae?

Since its founding as Albany Collegiate Institute in 1867, Lewis
and Clark College has been committed to an equal education for
women and men within a single curriculum. Martha Montague's
centennial history of Lewis and Clark includes a report on those
early days:

During the year 1869-1870, the student body numbered eighty-six:
forty-three women and forty-three men. Albany always received women
on equal terms with men, never keeping them separate in academic
work or making special rules for them, as in some neighboring
colleges. Both were "scholars" or students, and often the
scholastic records of the women were higher than those of the 
men. -2

Today, 125 years after its founding, Lewis and Clark, a private
liberal arts college located in Portland, Oregon, remains committed
to a single curriculum for the 1,850 women and men enrolled in the
College of Arts and Sciences. In 1990-91, 55 percent of these
undergraduates were women and 45 percent were men. Undergraduates
represented forty-five states and forty nations, and 12 percent of
these students were minorities.


In the early 1970s, Lewis and Clark offered some women's studies
courses mainly in literature and history, and, with the assistance
of faculty members, a number of students designed interdisciplinary
majors in women's studies. Instead of establishing a formal women's
studies program, however, the college sought to meet its historic
commitment to "balanced exploration of the perspectives,
traditions, and contributions of women and men" by integrating
scholarship by and about women across the curriculum and creating
an interdisciplinary minor that examined women and men in relation
to one another.

Progress in curriculum integration was spurred by an intensive
faculty development seminar on women's studies held in the summer
of 1981 and supported by a grant from the National Endowment for
the Humanities. Male and female faculty members, representing
fourteen academic disciplines, studied for a month with four
visiting scholars from history, psychology, anthropology, and
literature. Gender studies was approved as the first
interdisciplinary minor at Lewis and Clark by unanimous vote of the
College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee on February 20,
1985. A Gender Studies Program that spoke to all students--women
and men--and addressed the intersections of gender, race, class,
and culture was seen as central to the mission of the college.

The Gender Studies Program provides an interdisciplinary minor,
promotes ongoing efforts to integrate scholarship by and about
women and minorities across the curriculum, serves as a critical
element in the core curriculum, and sponsors an annual symposium.
The Gender Studies Symposium, begun in 1982, brings together Lewis
and Clark students and faculty members, scholars from other
institutions, and representatives from community organizations to
share scholarship and concerns. A unique feature of these symposia
is the full involvement of Lewis and Clark students.

                    WHAT IS GENDER STUDIES? 

Gender studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines the
biological, social, and cultural constructions of femininity and
masculinity, as well as the ways women and men locate themselves
within gender systems. Gender defines relationships among women,
among men, and between men and women. Interacting with factors such
as race, class, and culture, gender studies examines the
relationships between biological differences and social inequality,
explores the construction of sexual identity, and analyzes the
variations in gender systems that have occurred across cultures and
over time. It also illuminates the images of femininity and
masculinity that shape cultural representations and explores the
similarities and differences in women's and men's communication and
artistic expression. Finally, gender studies involves the political
and philosophical exploration of strategies for change that can
transform coercive and unequal gender systems and enhance both
individual choice and our common humanity.

The gender studies minor at Lewis and Clark consists of a minimum
of six courses (thirty quarter hours): four required courses and
two electives drawn from a list of over fifty approved electives
offered by eighteen departments. The four required courses include:
GS 231, "Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective" (formerly GS 210,
"The Social and Cultural Construction of Gender"); GS 300, "Gender
and Aesthetic Expression"; GS 310, "Sex Differences and Social
Inequality"; and GS 440, "Feminist Theory." GS 200, "Women and Men
in American Society," is an introductory course but is not required
for the minor.

The gender studies minor differs in several ways from Lewis and
Clark's ongoing efforts to integrate gender across the curriculum.
Integrating gender issues is not the same as focusing on them. A
gender-balanced course, for ex- ample, might include the
experiences, perspectives, and voices of women, as well as men,
without making the similarities and differences between them the
central question; the primary focus of a gender-balanced course
might be a historical or literary problem, of which gender is but
one dimension. Although there is heuristic value in approaching any
inquiry with the assumption that gender and culture matter, to be
aware of these dimensions of inquiry is not the same as undertaking
a systematic investigation of the differences that gender makes.

                         KEY QUESTIONS 

Participation in "The Courage to Question" has been timely for
Lewis and Clark. After six years of experience with a gender
studies minor and a decade of curriculum integration efforts and
annual Gender Studies symposia, we welcomed the opportunity to
pause and focus on student learning. Three key questions that
summarized our program goals (see page 78) and informed our study

* How effectively do our students learn and apply gender analysis? 

* What impact, if any, has gender studies had on the classroom and
institutional climates at Lewis and Clark? 

* What impact, if any, has gender studies had on the personal
growth of students and alumnae(i)?


Throughout the process of data collection, data analysis, and
writing this re- port, four of us--one student, one staff member,
and two faculty members/administrators--have worked collaboratively
as a team and brought different disciplinary perspectives to our
work (see note 1). For our study, we relied on three significant
data collections: questionnaires, student papers and projects, and
selected course syllabi. In addition, we relied on previously
collected materials, such as computer conversations, symposium
papers and programs, student journals and diaries, student honors
projects, and practica reports.


Anonymous questionnaires distributed to students, faculty members,
and alumnae(i) in 1990-91 provided both quantitative and
qualitative data about the Gender Studies Program, including
student learning, integration efforts, and personal growth. For
student questionnaires, we used random sampling, stratified by
distribution of majors. Respondents, whose ages ranged from
eighteen to forty-six, represented twenty-one named majors and
twenty minors. Faculty questionnaires were sent to all
undergraduate teaching faculty members; alumnae(i) questionnaires
were mailed to all alumnae(i) who had participated in the gender
symposia over the past five years and for whom we could obtain
mailing addresses. A total of 210 questionnaires were returned and
analyzed: 145 student questionnaires (41 percent males and 59
percent females), 41 faculty questionnaires, and 24 alumnae(i)
questionnaires. These questionnaires reflect an unusually high
retention rate of 48 percent for students and alumnae(i) and 46
percent for faculty members.

                      PAPERS AND PROJECTS 

To gain information about students' gender analysis (knowledge base
and learning skills), we collected and analyzed sets of papers and
projects from three gender studies classes (five sections). Where
possible, longitudinal materials, including journals, were used.
Papers and projects were collected from two courses required for
the gender studies minor and one elective gender studies course.

As a comparison with students' gender analysis in gender studies
classes and to gain information about curriculum integration of
gender issues, sets of student papers were collected and analyzed
from fall term 1991 core curriculum courses: "Basic Inquiry,"
"Critical Inquiry," and "Advanced Inquiry." For the "Basic Inquiry"
classes, longitudinal information was obtained through examination
of first and last portfolios written during the term. A scoring
sheet (see pages 80-81 ) was developed for knowledge base and
learning skills. All student work was scored independently by two
readers and by a third if there were disagreement. 47


To obtain more information about curriculum integration efforts, we
began with a list of more than one hundred courses generated by the
student questionnaires. We were interested in courses that were
neither required nor elective gender studies courses but that
students claimed incorporated a gender perspective. We then
selected twenty courses from the student-generated list, divided
proportionately among the three divisions of the College of Arts
and Sciences (humanities and fine arts, mathematics and natural
sciences, and social sciences) and between male and female
professors, and requested syllabi and course materials to assess
gender content.

As was the case for student papers and projects, all syllabi were
scored independently by two readers and by a third if there were
any disagreement between the first two readers. The evaluation
system used for curriculum integration was adapted from Mary Kay
Thompson Tetreault's "feminist phase theory.

                      PERSONAL GROWTH DATA 

Finally, to assess students' personal growth in the Gender Studies
Program, we turned to student and alumnae(i) questionnaires.
Qualitative analysis of questionnaire comments and narrative
statements complemented our quantitative analysis of questionnaires
and revealed a number of personal growth themes.


When asked on the questionnaire to rate their overall learning in
required gender studies courses on a scale of 1 to 5--with a 1
being poor and 5 being excellent--students rated their courses at
4.4, while alumnae(i) who had taken one or more required courses
rated their learning at 4.7. Of students who had taken required
gender studies courses (N=42), seven said these courses were the
most intellectually challenging courses they had taken. One
sophomore international affairs major wrote that the program is
"one of the most academic, theoretical, and demanding. Something
that is lacking in most departments."

To answer our first key question, we needed to determine what
knowledge and skills students were learning that enabled them to
analyze gender effectively. To confirm students' self-reporting, we
developed a system of coding for student portfolios, papers, and
journals. Our articulation of our knowledge 4~

While we recognize that feminism, and hence feminist teaching, is
ideological and even political, we also contend that it is no more
so than other so-called "objective" and "apolitical" teaching

base had to include the first five goals listed in the Gender
Studies Program Goals (see page 78). While knowledge about gender
is potentially limitless, we can articulate at least a provisional
structure of knowledge.

Feminist inquiry is at the core of knowledge in gender studies. We
do not see gender studies as a retreat from a commitment to
feminism either as a political or an intellectual movement. While
we recognize that feminism, and hence feminist teaching, is
ideological and even political, we also contend that it is no more
so than other so-called "objective" and "apolitical" teaching.
Indeed, it is the goal of feminist inquiry to expose the political
agendas that lurk behind inquiry in the sciences, social sciences,
arts, and humanities. Furthermore, since feminism has been an
intellectual, social, and political movement for almost two
centuries, it is a legitimate area of inquiry in and of itself.

Therefore, we want our students minimally to understand feminism
both historically and theoretically. This is a major content area,
the foundation of the knowledge base of gender studies that grounds
other areas of inquiry within the field. As one student, a senior
in "Feminist Theory," put it:

Women are not born inherently submissive, inferior objects. Society
teaches these roles. It is the goal of feminist theorists to bring
this fact of socially constructed roles into direct scrutiny, and
attempt to clarify their destructive force, eliminate them and thus
change the world.

                      KNOWLEDGE BASE PLOTS

[A] good course, like a novel, has a plot, or an underlying
framework which gives coherence to the more specific detail. -4

To make some sense of the boundless content of gender inquiry, we
had to construct a flexible scheme to give coherence to the
knowledge base of our Gender Studies Program. We were inspired by
the remarks above by Barrie Thorne, Cheris Kramarae, and Nancy
Henley that the structure of knowledge resembles the narrative plot
of a good book. Following an idea suggested in a 1986 essay by
Paula Treichler, we defined eight basic "plots," or narratives,
which represent current intellectual activity in gender studies.S
We adapted Treichler's "plots" to create an underlying framework
for the knowledge base of gender studies. Those eight plots are:  

* The politics of sex/gender: Who benefits from a social and
political construction that subjugates women? What social and
political relations exist and have existed between men and women,
among women, and between women and other disempowered members of
society? How do the oppressions built into a given social structure
relate to economic, political, and sexual practices ? What kinds of
analyses and activism are needed to bring an end to the subjugation
of women? 

* Cultural images of sex/gender: How is gender represented in both
high and mass culture? How do words, images, and patterns of
discourse intersect to construct our notions of femininity and
masculinity? How are these systems of representation linked to
cultural "facts" and internalized as cultural knowledge? How do
those oppressed by such representations create more empowering

* Nature/nurture: Are there any foundational biological differences
between the two sexes or are all differences socially constructed?
Are there any biological differences between heterosexuality and
homosexuality or have these differences been socially constructed?
What difference does it make if we ask why people become
heterosexual rather than why they become homosexual? 

* Diversity: The category "woman" cannot erase the differences
among individual women's lives. What are the relationships of other
social differences-- which include but are not limited to class,
race, ethnicity, sexual preference, age--to gender? O The body: How
do both men and women understand their embodiedness differently?
How can we describe and interpret female sexuality on its own terms
and in relation to male sexuality? How do scientific theories of
the nature of female sexuality reflect and construct social,
economic, religious, and medical policies and practices? 

O Communication: What does it mean to say that language is
patriarchal? Through what processes do women learn to use language
? Do they have equal access to linguistic resources? How are women
represented within the symbolic order? How do women make meaning?
By whose authority are particular meanings "authorized"? 

O Interpersonal relationships: This plot examines the structuring,
maintenance, and termination of dyadic, family, and work
relationships and other small group interactions. How do socially
constructed gender roles con- tribute to the dynamics of
relationships? What are the dynamics involved in dysfunctional

O Women's creation of knowledge: How have women contributed
throughout the disciplines to the creation of knowledge? How does
the inclusion of women in all disciplines change the ways in which
those disciplines constitute knowledge?


When we devised our system of eight "plots" to describe the
knowledge base of gender studies, we had assumed that these plots
were more or less equal and accessible to all students at every
level. Therefore, the presence or absence of a plot would tell us
whether or not those cultural narratives were being effectively
taught. We expected that students given a choice of topics for
research and writing would distribute themselves across this range
of potential narratives. The results of our scoring, however,
prompted us to rethink this assumption (see Table I ). (The courses
referred to are Gender Studies 200, "Men and Women in American
Society"; Gender Studies 300, "Gender and Aesthetic Expression";
and Gender Studies 440, "Feminist Theory.") One unexpected outcome
was that student papers clustered around the first four plots. This
finding was corroborated by the results from the non-gender studies
inquiry courses (see Table 2) in which, once again, the first plot
(politics) and the fourth (diversity) were heavily represented.


Plots                         GS 200  GS 300  GS 440  Totals 
politics                          11      8       9    28 
cultural images                    2     18      10    30 
nature/nurture                     7      0       3    10 
diversity                          4      0       8    12 
body                               2      1       1     4 
communication                      1      4       2     7 
interpersonal relationships        6      0       3     9 
women's creation of knowledge      0      3       8    11 


Plots                 Basic        Critical      Advanced    Totals
                     Inquiry       Inquiry        Inquiry 
politics                2             2              18        22
cultural images         2             5               0         7 
nature/nurture          0             0               2         2 
diversity              31             7              14        52 
body                    0             1               0         1 
communication           3             0               0         3 
     relationships      3             0               0         3 
women's creation 
of knowledge            2             0               0         2

Our results suggest that knowledge in gender studies is not chaotic
or random. Certain key concepts precede others, laying foundations
for other narratives. While limitations on space prohibit a
detailed discussion of the results for each plot, certain patterns
emerge from the data. The first four plots--the politics of
sex/gender, cultural images of sex/gender, nature/nurture, and
diversity--seem to be both more general and perhaps more basic than
the last four.- ln GS 200 ("Men and Women in American Society"),
the ratio between the first four and last four plots is twenty-four
to nine; one of the first four plots was almost three times more
likely to show up than the last four. In GS 300, the ratio is 26 to
8; in GS 440, 30 to 14. By the time students reach GS 440
("Feminist Theory"), the ratio has dropped to 2 to 1. In the
non-gender studies inquiry courses, the disparity is much more
pronounced: eighty-three to nine, which means that in inquiry
courses the first four plots are nine times more likely to show up
than the last four.

Our results suggest that students need to feel comfortable with the
first four plots before they are ready to move on to the final four
plots. Students must grasp the political ramifications of gender
inequality, the social and political relations that exist between
men and women, and the oppressions built into social structures,
before they can begin to articulate possibilities for change. It
makes sense that students would move from an analysis of sexual
inequality to explore the cultural images that create and reinforce
that in- equality, and then to question whether or not such
inequalities are natural or socially created. The frequency of the
diversity plot in non-gender studies inquiry courses may suggest
that the integration of gender into the core curriculum at Lewis
and Clark is being accompanied by at least some consciousness of
the importance of race and class as complementary categories of
analysis. It also suggests that students might come to understand
gender as a social issue by first understanding other kinds of
inequalities, primarily racial inequalities. The politics of
diversity--racial, class, and sexual--may provide yet another
"gateway" into gender studies.

The virtual absence of the final four plots in non-gender studies
inquiry courses is perhaps the most telling finding, suggesting
that these topics may not be fully covered anywhere in the
curriculum outside of gender studies classes. Taken together, these
findings suggest that integrating gender into the disciplines in
itself is not sufficient remedy to women's past exclusion from the
academy. The focus on certain issues--the body and sexuality,
gender and communication, interpersonal relationships, and most
importantly women's creation of knowledge--may require the kind of
focus only a gender studies minor allows.

                        LEARNING SKILLS 

Our second task in answering the first key question was to
determine what learning skills we hoped students would acquire in
gender studies courses. After considerable discussion, the
following six learning skills emerged: 

* Analyzing gender as a social construct. Students should not only
understand that gender is socially constructed but should be able
to analyze the implications of that assertion as well. They should
understand that masculinity and femininity are relational and not
essential qualities which can simply be labelled as either "good"
or "bad." 

* Questioning the adequacy of traditional form. Since the
traditional academic essay, with its stance of distanced
objectivity, does not encourage self-revelation, students ought to
understand and question the relationships between form and content
in their own and others' writing. They ought to experiment with
forms beyond the traditional academic essay, including (but not
limited to) poetry, epistolary, or journal writing--forms that
reveal more directly the situatedness of knowledge (see below).6 

* Establishing positionality. Students should become increasingly
aware of what we might call their own positionality in relation to
knowledge about gender. Positionality is the point at which
intellectual curiosity becomes personal engagement with the
material studied, often experienced by the student as a sense of
self-awareness or sudden epiphany. We see this movement most
strikingly recorded in student experiments with nontraditional
forms of writing once the student has become aware that his or her
experience may contribute to the ongoing knowledge that constitutes
the study of gender. The student is no longer objectively
reiterating the history of gender relations but has become a
contributor. This personal engagement, once articulated, moves the
student toward a recognition of agency and the ability to produce
rather than repeat knowledge.

* Recognizing agency as well as oppression. Students in gender
studies courses should move from an analysis of power, oppression,
and victimization to one that accounts for the agency of all
oppressed peoples.

* Producing rather than repeating knowledge. In keeping with our
notion that knowledge in gender studies is without boundaries,
students ought to move from a position in which they are repeating
knowledge to one in which they are producing knowledge.

* Understanding the social construction of knowledge. Students
ought to move from the specific analyses of the various "plots" to
a meta-analysis of how knowledge is socially constructed and not
simply "there" to be discovered.

Unlike the knowledge-base plots, learning skills were rated on a
5-point scale with I being the weakest and 5 the strongest. If a
reader saw no evidence of a particular skill, it was not scored. We
scored essays from the same three gender studies courses and, for
comparison, the same set of non-gender studies inquiry courses. The
results of scoring for learning skills are recorded in Tables 3, 4,
and 5.


Skill                         GS 200    GS 300    GS 440    Average
social construction of gender    3.3       4.0       4.0      3.8 
form                             0.8       2.3       0.8      1.1 
positionality                    1.3       1.6       1.6      1.5 
agency                           1.6       2.5       2.2      2.1 
producing knowledge              1.3       2.5       2.1      1.5 
social construction of knowledge 0.0       2.2       3.1      1.8 

Skill                    Critical Inquiry    Adv. Inquiry   Average
social construction 
     of gender                     1.8             0.73       1.27 
form                               0.11            0.5        0.31 
positionality                      0.25            1.26       0.76 
agency                             1.19            0.86        .03 
producing knowledge                0.0             0.4        0.2 
social construction of knowledge  1 .47            1.18       1.33


Skill               A1      A2      B1     B2     C1     C2   Avg 
social construction 
     of gender    0.07     0.0    0.09   0.47    0.0    0.0  0.11 
form              0.0      0.0    1.84   1.3     2.8    2.4  1.39 
positionality     0.07     0.64   1.69   1.77    2.7    1.8  1.45
agency            0.0      0.14   0.38   0.5     0.0    0.0  0.17 
     knowledge    0.0      0.0    0.0    0.43    0.28   0.22 0.16
social construction 
     of knowledge 0.0      0.0    0.0    0.33    0.11   0.05 0.08

Looking at learning skills in related clusters suggests the ways in
which students build on previously acquired skills. Cluster One
includes only the understanding that gender is socially
constructed. Cluster Two includes experimentation with traditional
form as a vehicle for understanding the knower's positionality.
Cluster Three (recognizing agency, producing rather than repeating
knowledge, and the understanding of the social construction of
knowledge) is an interrelated third cluster that leads toward a
greater integration of self-knowledge within a wider social

* Cluster 1: The results indicate that the skill students in gender
studies courses learn most effectively is the social construction
of gender, suggesting that this skill may be foundational. The
results confirm many student responses on the questionnaires that
ranked the social construction of gender and/or sexuality as their
most significant learning experience. For instance, a female
political science major who had taken two required courses wrote,
"To be frank, when I first came to L&C and enrolled in the Social
and Cultural Construction of Gender [GS 210], 1 thought there were
huge biological differences between men and women. I wouldn't have
articulated that but, deep down, I didn't move beyond that social
construction until taking a gender course." Students in gender
studies courses are much more likely to understand and write about
the implications of gender as a social construct than students in
non-gender studies courses, perhaps another indication of the
differences between gender integration and gender focus. 

* Cluster 2: A second cluster of skills, which also might be
characterized as a part of the foundation of gender studies,
includes form and positionality. Gender studies courses scored
somewhat higher on these two skills in comparison with most
non-gender studies courses. Gender studies courses aver- aged 1.1
on experimentation with form and 1.5 on positionality--with GS 200,
as we would expect, the lowest on both skills. The results compare,
however, with an average in "Basic Inquiry" classes of 1.39 for
experimentation with form and 1.45 on positionality. This finding
might suggest that B1 is at least as successful in introducing
these skills as any gender studies course but that these skills are
not reinforced in other parts of the core curriculum. B1 introduces
students to thinking and writing by encouraging them to experiment
with different forms of writing. In addition, B1 portfolios often
rat- ed high on positionality because, once again, the course asked
them to think about themselves in relation to the knowledge they
were acquiring.

Unlike the BI portfolios, which show student development in
thinking and writing over time, the gender studies papers we looked
at can only give us a snapshot of a student's learning at a
particular moment. Because most of the papers we scored--with the
exception of B1 portfolios--were responses to fairly traditional
assignments, it was difficult for students to demonstrate
experimentation with nontraditional form and even, in many cases,
positionality. With the exception of GS 300 (which is a course
about aesthetic form), experimentation with form did not seem to be
a major concern in these papers. There are, however, other places
in which students in gender studies courses are encouraged to
experiment with form and to write about their own epiphanies. Most
gender studies courses require some combination of journals,
diaries, daily logs, computer conversations, and reflective and
exploratory writing--material reviewed but not scored for this
study. This nontraditional writing contributed significantly to the
outcomes of the papers we did score. Here we run up against the
limits of the quantitative method we chose. The data from the
questionnaires and from informal student writing tell us that
students in gender studies courses experience all sorts of
connections, clicks, epiphanies and the like, but because we did
not score the kinds of writing in which they are revealed, we must
turn to a more textured qualitative analysis as evidence for those

A representative illustration demonstrates the powerful
longitudinal self-discovery our students claim gender studies
promotes. This example comes from the journal of a male student who
took "Communication and Gender," which serves as a gender studies
elective. At the beginning of his notebook, this student writes
that some of the authors of course readings have "chips on their
shoulders" and offend and anger their readers. He goes on to say,
"So I have some problems trying to understand and deal with all of
the 'complaining,' as I think of it, that women are doing these
days." At the beginning, he does not see the relevance of the
examples given by the authors in support of their arguments. He
says, "Who is coming up with all of this? It kind of comes across
like these people are of a communist type of thinking." He believes
that there really is no cause for change and that "women see only
what they want to see." Later on, this student becomes less
defensive, yet he still says, "I don't see the male sex as ever
changing." Furthermore, he does not see anything wrong with using
generic terms such as "he" or "man."

However, he begins to see that "culture has a big effect on the
roles of men and women and their conversational differences." His
comments about an incident he saw on ESPN reveal his growing
awareness of how certain off-hand comments can affect others who
hear them. He even begins to value so-called feminine traits and
says that homophobia and expectations of "masculine" behavior stand
in the way of gender communication. He be- comes aware that
socialization influences gender ideals and communication. Finally
he says, "Bate describes what feminism is and what it wants to
accomplish. I have been kind of vague about what feminism is, but
this chapter has helped me develop a much better understanding of
the actions and goals of the movement." Perhaps the most remarkable
feature of this student's development is the movement from vague
assertions and attacks--"Who is coming up with all this?"--to
specific analyses of readings which have particular authors, "Bate
describes what feminism is." Not only has this student be- gun to
understand what the social construction of gender means in his own
life, he has begun to engage intellectually with the material as
well. This same student is currently enrolled in a second gender
studies course.

* Cluster 3: The second cluster of skills focuses on students'
abilities to see the relationships between knowledge about gender
and their personal lives, a connection that turned up repeatedly in
our questionnaires as one of central importance. The next level of
learning skills would involve integrating this newfound personal
engagement with a wider social context of which the self is a part.
This stage involves the integration of intellectual knowledge and
political activism for change.

Students' understanding of the agency of the oppressed tended to be
lower than we might have hoped, particularly in the upper-level
courses. Gender studies courses on the whole, however, did better
than non-gender studies courses on this skill, suggesting that
students in gender studies courses are more likely than students in
other classes to be able to move from an analysis of oppression and
victimization to an understanding of how oppression is resisted.

Students in gender studies courses, especially in upper-level
courses, scored consistently higher on the fifth learning
skill--producing rather than repeating knowledge. This is perhaps
because students do not see knowledge as isolated and fragmentary.
Instead, again and again, they remark that their understanding of
gender connects the various parts of their lives and education.

Deciphering the social construction of knowledge may be the most
difficult of all the skills to acquire. Not surprisingly, it was
not addressed in GS 200, the introductory course, but received the
highest score in the upper-level courses, particularly GS 440, a
course that investigates the social construction of knowledge.
Non-gender studies courses consistently scored lower than
equivalent gender studies courses, a finding that puzzled us since
the goal of understanding knowledge as socially constructed is not
unique to gender studies. However, our findings suggest that
feminist inquiry may be more committed than other nontraditional
pedagogies to a social constructionist perspective.


The first and most significant conclusion from the data is that
there is a crucial difference between the integration of gender
into the curriculum and the kind of systematic investigation of
gender that the minor allows. The in-depth inquiry into gender as
a system allows for an analysis of issues that a course which is
gender-balanced hut not gender-focused usually cannot achieve
because the students have not yet grasped the key assumptions on
which gender studies is based. Without such a basis, students will
be impeded in their discussions of, say, sexuality or language and
gender because they will he struggling to understand the politics
of the issue. All of the non-gender studies inquiry courses we
examined were relatively gender-balanced. Yet the relative
infrequency of the final four plots and the low scores on the last
cluster of skills in non-gender studies courses suggest that
students acquire some knowledge and skills from gender-focused
courses that they cannot acquire from even the most well-integrated
non-gender studies courses.

A second conclusion we might draw from these data is that the
sequence of courses in our minor is well designed to lay the
groundwork required for students to advance to more in-depth and
critical analysis of gender. The elective introductory course, GS
200, focuses primarily on the politics of sex/gender while
introducing elements of the next three plots cultural images,
nature/nurture, and diversity. While in the past elements of the
last four plots have been included in the courses our results might
suggest that this is not necessarily a good idea. We might do
better using the course to integrate the first four plots more
fully. In addition, this course is the place to work on the
development of the first two clusters. Faculty members designing
this course in the future may want to think more about how writing
in the course can be designed to enable students to track
discoveries about themselves more fully and to experiment with a
greater variety of writing forms.

We do not mean to suggest that students encountering this model of
knowledge base and learning skills must move through it in a lock
step fashion. Indeed, that is hardly ever the case at Lewis and
Clark College, where students often do not take courses in
sequence. Students enter gender studies courses at several points
in the curriculum and for very different reasons. We hope that our
discoveries suggest not a rigid and hierarchical curriculum, not a
topography, but a topography, or a map, that might help students
find their way around in the field, allowing movement in a variety
of directions but still enabling students to forge connections and
to build on previously acquired knowledge and skills.

                      INSTITUTIONAL CLIMATE

"There is support for being a man [at Lewis and Clark]."

"Lewis and Clark is a comparatively safe and supportive place to be
a woman." 

"[The Gender Studies Program] defines L&C as a safe place for
people, where they can express their gender as they see fit."

To assess the impact of gender studies on classroom and
institutional climates at Lewis and Clark, we looked at three
areas: I ) efforts to integrate gender analysis into disciplinary
and interdisciplinary courses; 2) whether or not there is such a
thing as feminist pedagogy and if so whether it has been integrated
into the institutional culture; and 3) the effectiveness of the
Gender Studies Symposium as a means of integration and connected
learning for our students. Due to space constraints and a focus on
pedagogy by other reporting institutions we will not report here
the results of our study in that area.

The qualitative evidence from our questionnaire demonstrates that
students perceive that the Gender Studies Program has a significant
impact on the institutional climate. A transfer student describes
the impact as "profound": "[the Gender Studies Program] is why I
transferred here.... I know many people for whom it has been
transformative.... Also, because gender is put on the line here, I
feel more comfortable dealing with my professors openly on the
issue as well as bringing it into class.... Each class (even
outside Gender Studies) heightens my awareness about these
issues.... L&C seems to be a safe atmosphere for women to speak out
and not worry about being disregarded. Although I'm sure it's not
perfect. . .I feel that in comparison to other schools I've
attended, L&C is a 'gender haven'."

Even relatively new students notice an institutional climate that
permeates the classroom. At the end of her first year, an
eighteen-year-old who had taken no gender classes reported these
observations: "One thing I have noticed at Lewis and Clark is that
all professors, from sociology to physics, are aware of their
language as it applies to gender. This awareness is perpetuated and
enforced by students who will stop a professor or another student
if s/he says something inappropriate.... [E]very male should be
required to attend Lewis and Clark for a year.

Men here cannot get away with slander against women commonly used
by men at other schools."


Students singled out integration of gender in non-gender studies
courses as a significant dimension of their educational experience.
When asked on the questionnaire to rate their overall learning in
other general college curriculum courses that included a focus on
gender issues, the average student rating was 4.3. Most of these
students commented in positive terms about their experiences in
these courses, placing them into the categories of"excellent/
best/favorite/good/better/more interesting/more personal/more
challenging/more discussion-oriented/more diversity of issues/more
student participation." Typical comments were: "They were more
interesting and intellectually stimulating than most" and "Better
than average. Generally more thorough, thoughtful, and demanding."

To document this student assessment of gender integration across
the curriculum at Lewis and Clark, we took the list of courses
students identified in the questionnaire as having a gender focus
and eliminated those which were either required or elective courses
for the gender studies minor. We were left with eighty-one courses
which students claimed incorporated a gender perspective. The
distribution among the three college divisions was remarkably un-
even. In Fine Arts and Humanities there were forty-seven courses
named; in Social Sciences, twenty-seven; and in Natural Sciences,
only seven.

We were surprised, however--even astonished--by the number of
courses on this list and the diversity of course titles. A focus on
gender issues in "Labor Economics"? "Europe in Crisis"? "Old
Testament"? To examine the issue more thoroughly, we chose twenty
of these courses, divided among the three divisions and between
male and female professors (see page 79). Using an adaptation of
Mary Kay Thompson Tetreault's "feminist phase theory," we scored
syllabi and course materials for curriculum integration.

Based upon our evaluation of syllabi and course materials
submitted, each course received a numerical score for its stage of
curriculum integration, according to the following scale: 

* 0: Women Invisible. Who are the truly great actors/thinkers in
history? At this stage, they are overwhelmingly, perhaps
exclusively, male, white, and European. The need to maintain
"standards of excellence" is stressed either through a "back to
basics" core curriculum or through an emphasis on upholding the
great Western tradition.

* 1: The Search for Missing Women. Who were the great women, the
female Shakespeares, Napoleons, Darwins? At this stage, new data
about women are added to the conventional paradigms of knowledge in
the disciplines as a kind of affirmative action program. You would
expect to see "exceptional women" on the syllabus or as subjects of
student writing.

* 2: Women as Disadvantaged, Subordinate Group. Why are there so
few great women thinkers/actors? Why are women's contributions
devalued? The incentive at this phase might be anger or a desire
for social justice. At this stage, one is protesting the existing
paradigms but within the perspective of the dominate group. Here we
would include "images of women" courses, women in politics, the
beginnings of women-focused courses.

* 3: Women as Agents/Actors. What were/are women's experiences?
What are the differences among women? Here we expect inquiry to
take place outside existing disciplinary paradigms, challenging the
dominant perspective. Women-focused course would predominate, along
with interdisciplinary or discipline-challenging course. Links with
ethnic and cross-cultural studies are explored.

* 4: Women's Experiences as Epistemological Challenge to
Disciplines, How valid are current definitions of historical
periods, greatness, norms for behaving? How must our questions
change to account for women's experience, diversity, and

* 5: Transformed, Gender-Balanced Curriculum. How can both women's
and men's experience be understood together, in relation to each
other? How do class, race, sexual preferences, and age intersect
with gender? This course would present an inclusive vision of human
experience, which would seek to transform paradigms of knowledge
and reconceptualize the "core curriculum."

Our analysis of syllabi is confirmed the students' perceptions
about gender focus in the course they had identified. Table 6 shows
our findings on stages of gender integration listed by division.


Division            No. of Courses           Average Stage of
                    Evaluated                Curriculum Integration

Arts & Humanities        9                        3.6
Social Science           9                        3.2
Natural Science          2                        3.5


Stage          0         1         2         3         4         5
No. of Courses None      None      2         12        2         4

The average stage of curriculum integration for all twenty courses
analyzed in the three divisions was 3.4. In no case did we identify
a syllabus that scored lower than 2 on the scale. Although we had
expected to find some degree of gender integration in these course
syllabi, we wer pleased by the depth of integration which emerged
from this analysis. It is worth pointing out, however, that in the
natural science division we scored only two of the seven course
named, so that the average score of 3.5 for the natural sciences
may be skewed. The fact that out of eight-one courses only seven
named by student as being gender balnaced were from this division
suggests that continued curriculum integration is necessary for
mathematics and the natural sciences.


To add another dimension to our analysis, we scored a collection of
student papers from five core curriculum inquiry courses using the
same integration stage scale developed for the course syllabi
above. We found that student papers scored consistently lower than
course syllabi (see Table 8).

                     ADVANCED INQUIRY PAPERS

Integration Stages       Critical Inquiry         Advanced Inquiry

0-Women Invisible             2                        0
1-Search for Missing Women    0                        9
3-Women as Agenst             4                        6
4-Epsitemological Challenge   10                       1
5-Balanced Curriculum         2                        1
Average Integration           3.22                     2.0

Papers from the critical inquiry course showed an average of stage
3 on the integration scale, with most of the papers clustered at
stage 4. The syllabus for this course was at stage 5. In the
advanced inquiry course, papers were predominantly clustered at
stages 1 and 2, while the course syllabus scored at a stage 3 of

One conclusion we can draw from this analysis is that it again
points to the difference between courses with a gender focus and
thos which are gender integrated. While an integrated course may
contain a gender-balanced presentation in its course materials, it
will contain many other agendas as well. When students choose paper
topics, gender is only one of many possibilities for further
exploration. In a course with a gender focus, however, students
cannot ignore the issue of gender.

Having looked at course syllabi and student papers in some core
curriculum courses, we moved to consideration of longitudinal
effects by scoring the first and final portfolios from three
sections of "Basic Inquiry" using the integration scale. By the end
of the term, all three sections gained approximately a percentage
point in integration, although variation across sections occurred.
The finding suggests significant longitudinal growth for first-year
students across their first term. In the initial portfolios, women
were invisible in nineteen cases; by the end of the term, there
were no portfolios in this category.

Table 9 shows the average gender integration scores for each
section's portfolios.

                      SECTIONS A, B, AND C

Average             1st Portfolio    2nd Portfolio     Longitudinal
Integration                                                 Gain
Section A                .29            1.7                 1.41
Section B                1.13           2.0                 .87
Section C                .55            1.3                 .75

In summary, we concluded that the strength of gender integration in
non-gender studies courses confirms the observations of the
sophomore who told us on the questionnaire:"I've not taken a gender
studies course, but I've been exposed to gender issues through
other classes. My time commitments to my major and minor don't
allow for elective gender classes, so I'm truly glad and
appreciative of the focus that gender receives in my other


In 1982, the first Lewis and Clark Gender Studies Symposium was
composed of one community presentation and papers by two Lewis and
Clark faculty members and one student. It has grown each year.
Table 10 shows the growth in symposium presenters over the last ten


Year      LC faculty     LC students    Community      Other
1982           2              1              1           1
1983           4              4              0           2
1984           13             13             0           14
1985           4              42             5           25
1986           9              40             0           21
1987           8              28             4           10
1988           23             40             17          10
1989           17             53+            4           13
1990           17             50+            26          4
1991           25             100+           16          23

In 1991, our tenth year, attendance and participation set all-time
records. The symposium had a total of fifty-three events spread
over four days. Attendance at the three keynote addresses by Gerda
Lerner, John Stolenberg, and Carter Heyward ranged from five
hundred to seven hundred people per evening. Attendance at the
panels and workshops throughout the four days was also very high,
occasionally "standing room only." The range for panel attendance
was a minimum of thirty-five to a maximum of two hundred fifty,
with an average of seventy-five to eighty for panels, theatre
performances, and workshops.

We do not know of another annual symposium where student papers are
presented with those of faculty members and visiting scholars.
During the 1991 Gender Studies Symposium, more than one hundred
Lewis and Clark students presented scholarly papers, read original
poetry or fiction, exhibited artwork, or participated in theater
productions. This is in addition to the students who moderated
panels or introduced speakers and the members of the planning
committee who worked behind the scenes in many capacities,
including hosting keynote speakers and Fulbright scholars. In
addition to the number of students who are actively involved in
planning the symposium and presenting their work, many students
receive their initial "introduction" to the discussion of gender
issues through attendance at symposium events. Many faculty members
integrate symposium sessions into their syllabi.

We hoped to learn whether the symposium is reaching the general
college population in any significant ways or if it merely
"preaches to the choir." Of the 145 students responding to our
questionnaire, 109 had attended one or more symposia, and 42 of
these students had taken at least one required gender studies core
course. When asked, "What was the effect of symposium attendance on
your understanding of issues of gender, race, and class?" the
average rating from those who attended was 4.2 on a scale of 1 to
5. The twenty-four alumnae(i) respondents rated their learning in
the symposia at 4.3. In describing their participation in the
symposium, students frequently used adjectives such as
"challenging," "revolutionary," "inspiring," "excel- lent,"
"amazing," "transforming," "informative," "educational," and
"empowering. "

Twenty-one students had been symposium planners, presenters, or
moderators and rated their learning experience at 4.6. Symposium
presenters scored their learning the highest, illustrating their
stronger sense of learning through the experience of direct
involvement. They commented: "I spoke on campus attitudes regarding
rape.... It seemed to define my position as a feminist more clearly
for me. I was very glad that I spoke. I learned a lot about my
feelings on the issues." "Being asked to present my paper and doing
it was frightening and exhilarating as a woman afraid of public

Of the students who had taken no required gender studies courses,
seventy-three had attended at least one symposium, and five had
participated in presenting, planning, or moderating. Clearly, the
symposium attracts students who are not enrolled in gender studies
courses. One first-year student commented: "Although I have not
taken any classes in the Gender Studies Program, I have gone to
three of the symposium events. I was pleased with all of them; I
can't believe how much a few hours can change one's perspective....
Not all of us have enough interest or time to take the classes, but
we still want to learn. The symposium is perfect for this
objective.... Everything I saw at the symposium reminded me of what
I can do or not do to make the world between men and women easier
to cross."

Many other students commented on the intellectual excitement and
new awareness generated by attending symposium sessions: "Woke me
up! I just attended and listened and listened and thought and
questioned. I'm be- ginning to see new perspectives on things." "It
was so incredible to see people (staff and students) present things
they had worked on. There were so many varied issues that it made
me really think about a variety of subjects, not just my own area
of concentration." "Learning from my peers, through their papers is
a rare and valuable experience, in that it generates a sense of
community among us." "I gained a new perspective on the sometimes
angry and/or defensive pose developed by many lesbians as a result
of society's rejection and condescension about their
lifestyle/sexual orientation."

Because of the excitement surrounding symposium discussions,
various groups have formed that meet year round and are ancillary
to or spin-offs from the Gender Studies Symposium. In 1991,
students initiated a computer conversation program for gender
issues, which included topics such as rape, gay, lesbian and
bisexual issues, abortion, and "survivor stories." Also in 1991,
students conceptualized and published the first issue of Synergia,
a gender issues journal.

                         PERSONAL GROWTH

As the New York Times etc. whips up hysteria nationwide about
alleged "indoctrination" by feminists, "leftists," and
anti-Bloomites, I am bemused by the retro-stupidity of it all and
grateful that at Lewis and Clark the people who mattered understood
that a mono-cultural androcentric, hetero-sexist education was not
an education! I didn't learn how to be "politically correct" at
LC--I learned how to take myself and other people seriously and to
value complexity. If that's "PC, " thank god for it! And, as a
teacher now, I value the example of LC faculty who understood and
showed that they understood their own responsibility to be
self-critical and generous. 
                          A LEWIS AND CLARK GRADUATE

Of the students (N= 145) and alumnae(i) (N=24) who responded to the
questionnaire, most saw learning about gender, race, and class as
essential to their education and called for more institutional
support of the Gender Studies Program. A typical comment was,
"Gender studies is a necessity in a liberal arts education." One
first-year male student, who had taken gender studies elective
courses and attended one symposium, wrote: "It is the
responsibility of a liberal arts college to provide gender
education to its students. Never let gender studies at Lewis and
Clark be ended. It is one of the most important programs here."

The Lewis and Clark alumna above who referred to political
correctness in her 1991 questionnaire response has completed her
Ph.D. and currently is a professor at a large midwestern
university. She writes that when she arrived at Lewis and Clark, in
the early 1980s, she was already "a committed feminist" and was
thrilled by the "extraordinary proliferation of feminist
perspectives across the curriculum, not just in gender studies
classes." While the majority of students who arrive at Lewis and
Clark are not typically self-proclaimed "committed feminists,"7
data collected for our study suggest similar personal growth themes
introduced in this alumna's questionnaire: heightened awareness
through intellectual community, increased self-esteem, empowerment,
and agency. To understand how learning through the Gender Studies
Program affects the personal growth of women and men, we asked a
number of open-ended questions in our questionnaires, which invited
students and alumnae(i) to reflect on what impact, if any, the
program had on their lives.


The first personal growth theme that emerged was heightened
awareness through intellectual community. The annual Gender Studies
Symposium was the vehicle which provided intellectual community for
many students. An alumna recalled: "Learning from my peers, through
their papers, was a rare and valuable experience...that...generated
a sense of community among us." 

Another graduate wrote: "The symposium ratified my sense that the
world of gender scholarship was a big place with enormous
complexity and that any denial of that complexity--in the name of
'excellence' or 'unity' or even 'sisterhood'--was dangerous and
counterproductive." Heightened awareness through intellectual
community was underscored by the woman student who reflected on her
symposium participation:

The most significant experience I have had at Lewis and Clark was
participating in the Gender Studies Symposium.... Much of what I
learned changed my attitudes and beliefs and gave me new concepts
to examine. Many of the ideas deeply moved me, making me aware of
unfulfilled desires in my personal life and in the world as a

Respondents noted that the symposium promotes heightened awareness
by reaching students who, due to enrollment demands, frequently are
denied access to gender studies courses. Seventy-five percent of
our random, stratified student sample had attended one or more
symposia. A senior who had attended four symposia observed, "The
Gender Studies Symposium was, I believe, the most well-attended
event on campus this year. You don't have to have taken gender
courses or be a gender minor to be affected by the Gender Studies
Program on this campus." This observation was confirmed by a first-
year student's comment: "I've become aware of gender discussions
that I've been completely blind to before." For a graduate, the
gender symposium had "an eye-opening effect [and was] an entrance
to an unfamiliar and very familiar world of issues." Another
graduate reflected, "I always learned more about other races,
especially during the symposium and felt more aware and sensitive
to people of color."

As an example of heightened awareness through intellectual
community, we turn to a narrative provided by a male student, a
double major in international affairs and economics, who wrote: "As
a white male, who thought I was open-minded and aware, feminism and
my own sexist behavior have shattered that illusion. I'm thankful
for it; I just wish it had occurred earlier." After attending his
first symposium in 1991, he wrote:

Until April of this year, I would not have labeled myself a
feminist, nor was I even aware of what it meant. The impetus for me
was hearing [in a class] an LC woman tell about her rape. I was
deeply moved and disturbed by this. I did not think that rape was
so pervasive, so I decided that I was not as informed about what
was happening in the world. I went to the International Woman's Day
at [Portland State University] and. . . I signed up for the
Portland Women's Crisis Line training for men.... The Gender
Symposium brought all the information and more into the core of my
being.... The pornography presentation on Wednesday drilled home my
internalized sexism and made me internalize all the other
information that had been previously left out of my life .... The
experience was extreme, but I would want it no other way. I'm
thankful to those women who have helped open my eyes. I realize
that the issues must become a responsibility of men to correct. My
actions and behavior in the future will show the impact that the
gender symposium had on me. Gender studies and the symposium must
keep growing so that we may, one day, see a world of equality.

For those who enrolled in gender studies courses, awareness is
heightened even more. After taking GS 440, "Feminist Theory," a
senior male student wrote: "It has made me open my eyes and see
more clearly the complexities concerning gender, race, and class in
our society. It has made me examine myself much more critically."
Another student found that gender studies courses had "an
incredible impact" on her "gender awareness and sensitivity." After
taking GS 231, "Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective," a male
student majoring in biology and chemistry wrote: "I used to be
really homophobic. Presently, several of my friends are admitted
homophiles. I love them!"

Fourteen alumnae(i) rated their gender courses at the 5 level,
three at the 4 level, and one at the 3 level. One alumnus, now a
graduate student in international affairs, commented: "Before
coming to LC, I had not been ex- posed even to the idea that gender
was a subject in and of itself.... I started to recognize what
little I knew and what I still had to learn." Another graduate
wrote: "They [the gender courses] completely revolutionized my
understanding of life on this planet, and more specifically, my
life. They were the most important part of my education." "Not
until I got in law school," wrote an- other alumna, "did I realize
the everyday understanding and sensitivity that I had gained about
gender, race, and class was so unusual."

                     EMPOWERMENT AND AGENCY 

For male students, heightened awareness was the most frequent and
dominant personal growth theme. As one male senior put it, "We men
have a lot The majority of respondents did not see gender studies
as an isolated retreat...but as an integral part of their
experience at Lewis and Clark to learn." But while men most
frequently cited heightened awareness, women were much more likely
to point to empowerment and agency as personal outcomes of their
education. For many women, the presence of female professors in
gender studies was empowering. One student recalled: "Some of the
profs really served as mentors--strong women role models are so
important to all students." After taking "Rhetoric of Women," a
gender studies elective, a woman who plans to pursue graduate study
in psychology wrote: "The experience of studying women who worked
to make changes in our country was empowering, giving me new role
models to admire and emulate. I developed a new confidence in
myself as a woman. I want to be a part of the continuation of
spreading new knowledge and research, and making a difference in
people's lives."

Movement from heightened awareness to empowerment and agency was
apparent in many student and alumnae(i) statements, again
particularly those of women. One woman student described this
personal growth as "a sense of pride in who I am and what I can do
as an individual in society." Another student felt empowered with
"the ability to question what I see happening" and able to act as
an agent to "change what I am doing." "For me personally," wrote
one student, "this awareness within the classroom validated my
experience as a woman (so that it was just as real and valued as
male experience), as a lesbian, and as a powerful person. In many
ways, it has been and continues to be very empowering." Another
student wrote: "Getting in touch with my feminist voice put me in
touch with a lot of issues around me. It also helped me to get
involved with the symposium planning committee and the Portland
Women's Crisis Line." For another woman student, gender studies
courses "let me learn to think critically and be more confident and
challenge oppressing situations...."

Finally, the narrative provided by a forty-six-year-old student is
a moving reflection on personal growth through gender studies
courses. This student excelled as a major in English and a minor in
gender studies, and she celebrated a June graduation with her
husband and children. In her student questionnaire, she wrote:

When the Women's Movement was prominent in the late '60s and 7051
1 was raising my two children and didn't get involved at all. I
lived in a very conservative state (Nevada), and I was ignorant. At
thirty, I thought I was too old to go to college. When I was
forty-two, I realized I couldn't go on being a secretary. I started
college for the first time -  the community college here in
Portland. After I had seventy-two credits, I transferred to Lewis
and Clark because (I) they emphasize writing and critical thinking,
and (2) they have a Gender Studies Program. I had felt a lack over
the years because I didn't have the knowledge to put into words
what I'd experienced, felt, or thought. I wanted to know women
writers and see if I could become a better me. Being an older
student was very difficult the first term.... This year, my senior
year, I spoke out against unfairnesses and supported friends and
issues. This year, I realize I'm smart, strong, worthy, thoughtful,
analytic--yes, I'm what I always wanted to be--Me. I used to be
afraid to be me; now I feel I can stand taller.


The exploration of our three key questions and the conclusions
suggested by our data can be broken down into four findings: 

*Student and alumnae(i) enthusiasm for gender studies translates
into enthusiasm for Lewis and Clark as an institution. The majority
of respondents did not see gender studies as an isolated retreat
from the rest of the college but as an integral part of their
experience at Lewis and Clark. Many felt gender studies defined
Lewis and Clark. This finding has, we think, important implications
for recruiting and retaining students and faculty members. 

*Although many respondents spoke about the integration of gender
into the curriculum along with the minor as interdependent
components of the Gender Studies Program, the study shows that
there are important differences between attempts to integrate
gender into the curriculum as a whole (including the symposium) and
the minor with its focus on gender. The study reminds us that while
both elements of the program are essential, they serve different
ends and often reach different audiences. One could not, and should
not, be substituted for the other. Gender integration enables the
program to heighten awareness of gender issues on campus, introduce
new information about women's contributions to the disciplines, and
generally to improve the institutional climate, while the minor
creates a space for in-depth analysis of gender and for exploration
of the full range of cultural narratives articulated in our
knowledge base. Without the minor, many of the knowledge plots and
learning skills would not be available to students; without the
integration component, the program would risk becoming isolated. 

* It follows from the second conclusion that the Gender Studies
Program at Lewis and Clark should not expand to become a major. The
interrelationships between integration efforts and the minor
provide the best possible combination for our students at this
time. The data indicate that the minor enables students to forge
connections not only between their academic studies and their
personal experiences (as we would also expect a women's studies
major to do) but also between the gender minor and other course
work they do, including their majors. The breadth of majors
represented both in our minors and in other students who enroll in
gender studies courses is striking and contributes enormously to
the interdisciplinary nature of the program. This conversation
among various disciplines might be lost if the program were
institutionally isolated as a department or major. 

* Based on our own analysis of the knowledge base and learning
skills of gender studies, we might conclude that the sequencing of
courses within the minor is well designed to take students through
the various knowledge plots and learning clusters, enabling
students to build upon previous learning; but we are not able to
guarantee that students take the courses in the designed sequence.
One recommendation might be to require GS 200, "Men and Women in
American Society," of all gender studies minors and make it a
prerequisite for other gender studies courses. We plan to initiate
a discussion of the feasibility of such a move and its impact on
staffing and student accessibility.

Most significantly, our study validated our own sense of the
importance of gender studies at Lewis and Clark. In all our
investigations for this study, only one respondent (a male who had
never participated in gender studies) called for the abolition of
the program. Most representative were the responses of two students
who wrote:

I think one of the best things about the LC Gender Studies Program
is that it does attempt and has had some success in getting an
integrated body of students (I mean men and women) in the
classroom. When the issues can be discussed between men and women,
different perspectives can be offered, and everyone can learn

I like men being in the classroom . (They are, since they feel
included. ) I get to know them in a different way.

It seems, in a delicious irony, that we have come full circle. At
the founding of Lewis and Clark over a century ago, women were to
be included along with men in a curriculum that recognized that the
presence of women in the classroom could contribute significantly
to the quality of the academic conversation. As the twentieth
century draws to a close, the Gender Studies Program at Lewis and
Clark College provides a space in which men can work side by side
with women to formulate more effective strategies for promoting
social equality, justice, tolerance, and diversity.

1. We are indebted to a number of people who contributed to the
structure and content of Lewis and Clark's study. Mary
Henning-Stout, Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at
Lewis and Clark, provided advice about research design in the early
stages of our work. Joan Poliner Shapiro, Lee Knefelkamp, and Caryn
McTighe Musil, along with other members of the National Assessment
Team, provided valuable suggestions throughout the process.
Finally, we are indebted to the faculty, students, and
administrators at Lewis and Clark who contributed in so many ways
and made this study possible. 

2. Martha Frances Montague, Lewis and Clark College, 1867-1967
(Portland, Ore.: Binfords and Mort, 1968), 11-12. 

3. Mary Kay Thompson Tetreault, "Integrating Content About Women
and Gender into the Curriculum," in Multicultural Education: Issues
and Perspectives ed. James A. Banks and Cherry M. McGee Banks
(Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1989). 

4. Language, Gender, and Society (Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House,

5. Barrie Thorne, Cheris Kramarae, and Nancy Henley, "Teaching
Feminist Theory" in Theory in the Classroom, ed. Cary Nelson
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 58 66. 

6. For the literature on situated knowledge, see Donna Haraway,
"Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the
Privilege of Partial Perspective," Feminist Studies 14 (1988):

7. Review of several years of comparative data on entering
first-year students at four-year, private, nonsectarian colleges
shows that Lewis and Clark students are more likely to enter with
higher interest in political and social action than their
counterparts at other institutions and are more likely to take
"liberal" positions on issues such as the death penalty, military
spending, and homosexual relations. Lewis and Clark students report
that they arrive with high interest in obtaining a "general
education" and less interest in attending college "to make more
money." For detailed information, see: "The Astin Study," data
collected by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program and
sponsored jointly by the American Council on Education and
University of California-Los Angeles. 

                      STUDENT QUESTIONNAIRE
                     LEWIS AND CLARK COLLEGE

Year in School: 

                 Part 1: Gender Studies Program 

1. What do you think are the objectives of the Gender Studies
Program at Lewis and Clark ?

2. How well do you believe these objectives are being met? (What
particular strengths and weaknesses do you perceive?)

3. What difference, if any, do you see between a gender studies
program and a women's studies program?

4. What impact, if any, do you believe the gender studies program
has had on Lewis and Clark ?

5. In your opinion, should Lewis and Clark have a gender studies
program? Why or why not?

              Part II: Gender Studies Core Courses 

1. Indicate which, if any, of the following gender studies core
courses you have completed and in which courses you are currently
C = completed course E = enrolled course 
[list of courses followed on original questionnaire]

2. Circle the number on the scale that best represents your overall
learning in the above gender studies core courses: 
            1       2       3       4        5 
           poor    fair  average   good   excellent 

3. What do you consider to be your most significant and least
significant learning experiences in these courses?

4. How do these gender studies core courses compare with other
courses you have taken at Lewis and Clark?

5. Was the learning/teaching climate in these gender studies core
courses different from your non-gender studies classes? If so, how?

6. What effect, if any, have these gender studies core courses had
on your understanding of issues of gender, race, and class?

7. Which of these courses would you recommend to other students?

        Part III: Practicum/Internship in Gender Studies 

If you completed or are currently involved in a
practicum/internship in gender studies, describe the practicum and
comment on the experience:

           Part IV: Other Courses with a Gender Focus 

1. What other courses have you taken in the Lewis and Clark general
college curriculum that included a focus on gender issues?

2. Circle the number on the scale that best represents your overall
learning in these courses:

               1       2       3       4       5 
              poor   fair   average   good    excellent

3. What do you consider to be your most significant and least
significant learning experience in these courses?

4. How do these courses compare with other courses you have taken
at Lewis and Clark ?

5. Which of these courses would you recommend to other students?

              Part V: Gender and Overseas Programs 

1. Have you participated in a Lewis and Clark overseas program? 

If yes, what was the program? 

2. How did gender issues figure in the program--in preparation,
during the course of the overseas study, after return to campus?

               Part VI: Gender Studies Symposium 

1. Have you ever attended any of the Lewis and Clark Gender Studies
Symposium events? 

If yes, circle the year(s) of your participation in the symposium? 
       1982  1983  1984  1985  1986  1987  1988  1989  1990

2. Which events do you recall attending, and what was your

3. What effect did your attendance at the symposium have on your
understanding of issues of gender, race, and class?

4. Circle the number of the scale that best represents your
learning experience in the symposium ?

                  1      2      3       4       5 
                 poor   fair  average  good  excellent

5. Have you ever been involved as a planner, presenter, or
moderator in a Lewis and Clark Gender Studies Symposium? Yes    No

If yes, circle the year(s) of your participation: 
     1982   1983   1984    1985    1986   1987   1988   1989   1990

6. Describe and comment on your participation in the symposium:

7. What effect did your participation in the symposium have on your
understanding of issues of gender, race, and class?

8 Circle the number of the scale that best represents your learning
experience as a symposium planner, presenter, and/or moderator: 

                  1      2      3      4      5 
                poor   fair  average  good  excellent 

                      Part VII: What Else? 

What else would you like to communicate to us about the Gender
Studies Program at Lewis and Clark as we plan for the future?


               Theory, Content, and Praxis Goals 

1. To examine feminist theories concerning the social and
historical constructions of gender, both locally and globally,
a. the relational rather than essential nature of women/femininity
and men/ masculinity; 
b. how gender defines relationships among men, among women, and
between men and women; 
c. how gender defines sexuality, sexual identity, social
inequality, and the family.

2. To improve upon our model of gender studies, including a
critique of Western feminist theory.

3. To recognize that women's lives have been under-represented in
traditional disciplines and to identify women's as well as men's
roles in cultural, social, and scientific endeavors.

4. To study, compare, and evaluate an array of disciplinary
constructions of gender including, but not limited to, aesthetic,
cross-cultural, psychological, and biological perspectives.

5. To identify the intersections of gender with race, class, age,
sexual identity, and ethnicity, both locally and globally.

6. To integrate gender analysis into students' academic programs,
a. the Core Program (general education program); 
b. the other College mission foci--International Education and STV
(Science, Technology, and Values); 
c. other interdisciplinary programs; 
d. disciplinary curricula.

7. To involve students and faculty in a critical appraisal of how
institutional and classroom climates affect the learning of women
and men.

8. To provide classroom and institutional climates that encourage
synthesis as well as questioning, connection as well as criticism,
action as well as thought, practice as well as theory.


Fine Arts and Humanities 
English 205 (Medieval and Renaissance Literature) 
English 206 (Seventeenth & Eighteenth-Century Literature) 
English 315 (American Literature, WWII-present) 
History 232 (Europe in Crisis, 1890-1950) 
History 270 (India: Past and Present) 
Art 224 (Painting) 
Philosophy 354 (Aesthetics) 
Philosophy 421 (American Ideology and Culture) 
Religious Studies 222 (Old Testament)

Mathematics and Natural Sciences 
Biology 111 (Perspectives in Biology) 
Health and Physical Education 350 (Mental Health)

Social Science 
Communications 101 (Introduction to Interpersonal and
Communications 330 (Communication and Culture) 
Economics 335 (Labor Economics) 
Education 305/550 (Historical/Ethical Perspectives on Education)
International Affairs 230 (African Politics) 
International Affairs 237 (Third World Politics) 
Psychology 218 (Abnormal Psychology) 
Sociology/Anthropology 110 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology)
Sociology/Anthropology 350 (Global Inequality) 

                          CHAPTER FOUR

                    OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY 
                       MAKING CONNECTIONS 


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?


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



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.


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.


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."


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. 


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."


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

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

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

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.


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

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


Social Security Number: 
Women's studies major/minor: 
Course name and number:
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

6. Are you currently earning any advanced degree? In what field?
Please provide us with an employment and volunteer activity

7a. First job (since graduation from ODU); number of years at the
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

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.
                           CHAPTER 5

                       WELLESLEY COLLEGE 
                      COUNTING THE MEANINGS


Wellesley College's overall query for the project was: what makes
women's studies at a women's liberal arts college different?
Comparing women's studies and non-women's studies courses,
Wellesley focuses on three questions: Did the courses change or
affect students' personal lives, their intellectual lives, and
their political beliefs? Did students feel pressure to give
politically correct answers and identify only with feminist ideas?
And, was the pedagogy different?

Wellesley College, founded in 1870 and opened in 1875, is one of
the traditional "seven sister schools" dedicated to the education
of women. Located in a suburb just outside of Boston, it has a
diverse student body of more than 2,200 women who came last year
from every state in the U.S. and from sixty-one different
countries. Nearly 70 percent of the students receive aid from some
source, and the college admits on a "need-blind" basis. -2 The
college also has had a traditional commitment to gender equity on
its faculty. The male/female ratio on the faculty is about 50/50,
even at the tenured level and the president of the college has
always been a woman. The college in recent years also has made an
effort to hire more faculty members of color with "target of
opportunity" hiring positions and other incentives to departments.

Somewhat ironically, Wellesley, like most women's colleges, was
somewhat slower than larger coeducational universities in making a
firm commitment to women's studies. Throughout much of the first
century of the college's existence, Wellesley built and supported
what Bryn Mawr's first president, M. Carey Thomas, labeled a "male
curriculum." Wellesley, as with many of its sister institutions,
was dedicated to proving that gender did not matter in education
and that women could do the work thought only appropriate for men.

When the first stirrings of women's studies began in other colleges
and universities across the country in the late 1960s and early
1910s, a 1971 report to the college's trustees entitled "Committee
on the Future of the College" considered, among other issues, the
question of women's studies. At that time, the report's faculty
authors concluded that specific courses on women in the
coeducational schools "seem intended to provide counseling services
as well as factual information to students often in desperate need
of advice and moral support." They unanimously rejected the idea of
a special institute on women and referred interested students to
courses in the existing curriculum "that dealt in large measure
with women's problems." At that time, a survey showed that students
could find such coverage in 3 courses, with women as sub-units in
4 other courses, and receiving some thematic mention in 9 others
out of a total curriculum of 493 courses. -3

Despite other similarly inhospitable pronouncements, the elements
necessary to create a women's studies program coalesced in the
interstices of the college. The availability of outside funding and
support from the college's president and dean led to the founding
in 1974 of a Center for Research on Women, a mile away from the
main campus (although in a college-owned house) and staffed with
researchers almost all of whom were not members of the faculty. But
as interest on the part of students and faculty members for courses
in women's studies grew, a small group of intrepid faculty members
created the beginning of a coherent program and voluntarily
directed its early students. These respected women faculty members,
both junior and senior and drawn from the humanities and social
science departments, were able to give the initial program
intellectual substance.

The program's viability became less problematic after 1981 when a
well-respected feminist scholar, Nannerl Keohane, became the
college's president. In 1982, it became possible for students to
major in women's studies without special petitioning, and the
president authorized hiring one junior faculty member (part-time
the first year, then full-time and tenure track from then on) with
an appointment solely to the Women's Studies Program. In 1986,
another half-time faculty appointment was made available, which
became full-time in 1989. A year later, another half-time faculty
member (with a joint appointment in another department) became part
of the program. -4

Ten years later, the program is still small in terms of control
over faculty lines but large in terms of student interest, course
loads, and majors. There are now nine overcrowded core courses,
two-and-a-half faculty members whose appointments are to the
program (including one tenured), more than sixty cross-listed
courses, and more students majoring in women's studies than in half
the departments at the college. More than 40 faculty members (out
of approximately 225) teach the cross-listed courses and consider
themselves part of the broader women's studies community. Women's
studies at Wellesley functions as a department with faculty
members, separate office space, majors, budgets, a secretary, and
a director who is treated administratively as a department chair.
In March 1992, Academic Council, the college's
faculty-administration governing body, voted to make de jura what
was de facto: the Women's Studies Program became a department after
trustee approval on April 8, 1992.

In its early years in the 1980s, the program's goals were to make
women's studies appear "intellectually respectable" at the college
and to build faculty, student, and administrative support for its
offerings as well as tenure for its key junior faculty members. The
program always had a commitment to multicultural education and made
this a requirement in its major in 1983, long before any other
department in the college. The program has grown in a college that
over the last ten years has had a liberal feminist ethic and the
continued historical belief that its mission is the empowerment of
women. If one phrase sums up what makes women's studies at
Wellesley different from the rest of the college, it is our saying
that "if Wellesley teaches our students that they can do anything,
women's studies helps them to understand that if they cannot, it is
not their fault."


As a liberal arts undergraduate college, Wellesley traditionally
has taken special pride in its teaching and small classes.
Discussion, even in the lower-level courses, is an expected part of
the classroom experience. By the time students are juniors and
seniors, they participate in small seminars that constitute the
core of their majors. Thus, as a women's college with small classes
Wellesley prides itself on giving "voice" to women. Speaking,
discussion, and student participation in various forms are to be
the hallmark of a Wellesley education.

While in recent years publications have become important to tenure
and promotions, teaching remains, at least rhetorically, the heart
of the college's mission. Students say they come to Wellesley over
other Ivy League institutions because they will have more contact
with faculty members who are expected to serve as exemplary
teachers, role models, and citizens. Besides laboratory assistants,
Wellesley has no graduate students serving as teaching assistants
or graders. -5 Thus, much of the commitment to student
learning--considered the core of women's studies elsewhere--is seen
as central to both Wellesley's mission and its teaching practices.
The institution publicizes and capitalizes on this seemingly unique
commitment to quality teaching over "renting" the scholarly
reputation of its faculty members to entice students to enroll.6

Despite the emphasis on teaching, what counts as "good teaching" at
Wellesley is supposed to be normative but is often ill-defined.
"Good teaching" is one of the things everyone knows when they see
it but still can be elusive. Wellesley does make an effort to make
its elements clear by requiring senior faculty members to visit
classes of junior faculty members and by annual meetings that
focus, in part, on a junior faculty member's teaching. Associate
professors are again visited in the classroom when they are up for
promotion to full professors. These visit reports serve diagnostic,
but primarily evaluative, purposes. Teaching seminars and some
support for innovative teaching is supported by the dean's office.
In the last few years, a move to emphasize teaching has again
grown. A Center for Learning and Teaching has now been proposed and
an invigorated committee on educational research has been holding
"shop talks" on pedagogy and providing "quick fix" grants for
teaching purposes. Faculty members also are encouraged to meet
students outside the classroom and to facilitate individual student
interests through tutorials.

Students are required to fill out an evaluation of the teaching
that is numerically quantified by the institution and used for
tenure and promotion. The medians for departments, divisions, rank
of the faculty, and the institution as a whole are distributed on
a regular basis. However, unlike at Swarthmore and Bowdoin, for
example, written letters about faculty members' performance are not
solicited by promotion committees, which rely heavily on the
statistical evaluations; students, however, are encouraged on their
own to write about teaching.

The evaluation forms that Wellesley has used for most of the last
decade (currently under review) involve three major questions: "Was
the instructor in command of the subject taught in this course?
Does the instructor convey his or her knowledge of the subject in
ways that facilitate learning? Did your instructor demonstrate an
ability to deal effectively with student work?" -7 As at many
colleges, there has been continued concern at Wellesley about these
questionnaires. Aside from the usual questions about how the
numbers are tabulated and used, discussion has focused on how the
questionnaires stifle pedagogical innovation. In thinking about the
"in command" question in particular, one women's studies faculty
member quipped: "The correct answer in women's studies' courses
should be 'no'. But if the students say 'no,' I won't get tenure!"

Many of these questions were raised by a faculty Feminist Pedagogy
Group, organized through women's studies as part of this FIPSE
study. In response, the dean's office has reported that at least
the "in command" question will be changed. Thus, our consideration
of teaching and learning in women's studies had to be made in the
context of the kind of evaluation that is ongoing at Wellesley.

                         KEY QUESTIONS 

Given Wellesley's emphasis on teaching, women's "voice," and the
respect accorded the intellectual content of women's studies in the
institution, our overall query for the FIPSE project became: What
makes women's studies at a women's liberal arts college different?
We felt that Wellesley's Women's Studies Program would be no
different than any other discipline at the college if we only
"conveyed knowledge" or heard women's voices in the classroom. We
wanted to know if women's studies was different: Did it change or
affect students' personal lives, their intellectual lives, or their
political beliefs? Did students feel pressure to give "politically
correct" answers and to identify only with "feminist" ideas, as
women's studies often is charged with in the media and by
conservatives? Finally, we also wanted to know whether the pedagogy
was different in women's studies classes and in what ways, given
Wellesley's emphasis on student participation in particular. We
were interested in the quality of debate among students and whether
or not discussion and learning continued outside the classroom, and
if so, with whom. -8

                      METHODS AND SAMPLING 

In the early spring of 1990, we wrote an open-ended questionnaire
that tapped various aspects of these concerns (see pages 130-131).
After a pilot test of the questionnaire in two classes, we
administered the revised version to students by using a selected
sample of courses taught in the spring of 1990. We waited until the
last two weeks of the semester to administer the questionnaire,
assuming that students would be in a better position to answer the
questions at this late point. Since we were interested in examining
whether women's studies courses differed from non-women's studies
courses, we used a matched sample of courses offered in the social
sciences. -9

Courses were selected in the following way: Women's studies courses
were defined as those courses listed through the Women's Studies
Program. All courses (five) taught as part of the women's studies
curriculum were included in the sample for a total of 135
questionnaires. Also included in this category were a sample of
cross-listed women's studies courses (seven) in other disciplines
for another 166 questionnaires. For the purposes of analysis, we
will treat all the core and cross-listed courses as women's studies
courses for a total of 301 women's studies' questionnaires (68
percent of the sample).

Non-women's studies' courses were those courses that were not
cross-listed, but were in the same discipline as the cross-listed
courses. In order to pull a matched sample for each cross-listed
course selected, we selected a course (at the same level of the
curriculum, where possible) that was not cross-listed with women's
studies. We surveyed five control courses for a total of 140
questionnaires (32 percent of the sample).

We telephoned faculty members who taught all the courses chosen for
the survey and asked for their participation. All solicited faculty
members were very cooperative (only one cross-listed women's
studies faculty member did not participate). Faculty members were
asked to distribute the survey during the last twenty minutes of
class and to designate one student to collect the questionnaires
and drop them off in a designated box.

This sampling strategy yielded a total of 441 questionnaires; 32
percent were control surveys and 68 percent were either core
women's studies or cross-listed women's studies courses. Students
in both groups were similar with regard to race and ethnicity,
though students in women's studies were slightly older than those
in non-women's studies classes. This may reflect the fact that
students wait to take women's studies courses as electives when
they are in their later years in the college. At the time of the
survey, only 4 percent of the students in either women's studies or
non-women's studies' classes were women's studies' majors. This is
important because what students report to have learned in women's
studies classes is not a reflection of their a priori choice of
major. -11

The responses to questions were coded. A student assistant tallied
the responses of each question and provided in-depth quotes in
order for us to understand what the percentages meant.

We also wrote a separate open-ended interview guide to use with the
majors and alumnae of the program. A random stratified sample of
alumnae was interviewed by telephone, and all graduating majors in
1990 were interviewed on site. In the latter case, interviews were
tape recorded and then transcribed. Questions were similar to the
course questionnaire with the addition of queries about how women's
studies affected their career decisions and lives. While this data
is very interesting, time constraints did not allow us to analyze
this material quantitatively for this report. However, we have used
some of the qualitative comments.

These questions were shaped by the two central investigators for
the project: Rosanna Hertz in sociology and Susan Reverby in
women's studies. These ideas were discussed in a Feminist Pedagogy
Group that met for three semesters to discuss multicultural
education, the institutional barriers to women's studies teaching,
and problems with teaching evaluations. We also discussed the
questionnaire with faculty members on the Women's Studies Advisory


* Does women s studies affect students' lives? There was little
difference between women's studies and control courses on how
students perceive the effects on their intellectual lives and
political beliefs. Most students say that their courses affected
them in positive ways. In the women's studies courses, however,
students tend to see the change as making them more critical
learners and participants in social change.

For instance, in the control group, in response to a question on
how the course affected their intellectual lives, student responses

     It helped me think in a more orderly manner and logically.

     This course has just inspired me to learn more about the world
     and to maybe even become part of the system that is now
     deciding what future outcomes will be.

     I am more knowledgeable and can contribute more to various

In the women's studies courses, the student responses were more
critical about thinking and about social change. It appears that
the students in the women's studies courses felt they were active
learners rather than passive recipients of received knowledge.
Rather than "closing" the American mind, women's studies' courses
seem to have "opened up" our students to critical and different
ways of thinking and valuing knowledge. Sensitized to human
diversity in her women's studies course, one student explained that
it "will help me be more open-minded in dealing with people and
situations in the future." Students in these courses answered the
query on intellectual change by saying, for example:

     It helped me to be more open-minded in terms of analyzing
     ethnic and racial issues. It also in some ways steered my
     point of perspective toward a more feminist--(Asian)--oriented

     It has given me a chance to write papers about things I care
     about, and it has given me "ammunition, " for lack of a better
     word, against those who try and beat me down.

     It has expanded my mind in every direction. I am more deeply
     affected by any form of racism or discrimination because I am
     so much more aware of it.

     Powerful stimulant to exploring old territory in new ways,
     taking note and sharing with others what I have discovered
     about history--who and what is left out and included and was great fun to try and sort things out.

Women's studies courses appear to make it possible for students to
center what they are learning intellectually upon their own lives
and experienCes. But in this regard, self-emancipation through
learning becomes something larger than self-aggrandizement or
simply "empowerment." The self becomes rooted in an intellectual
agenda. This is a far cry from the focus on "women's problems" that
worried the Wellesley faculty two decades ago. While these comments
are about "personal changes," they are clearly rooted in
intellectual considerations, demonstrating William Blake's dictum,
"for a tear is an intellectual thing." For instance, students
wrote: has brought into question many aspects of my life which
     I had never before questioned or viewed as political or
     philosophical--it has opened up awareness of questioning which
     has prompted me to actively pursue personal answers.

     This course really has affected my personal life in the sense
     that I am more aware of the way gender/class has played a role
     in my life. Now if a male says something that I find
     offensive, I can I feel.

     It's a liberating feeling to look at my world through a
     different/non-sexist perspective! I'm taking charge of my life
     more now because of this awareness.

In contrast, this answer in the control courses was much more
narrow and instrumental. Students saw the courses as helping them
read the newspaper better, make moral decisions about unemployment,
renew their interest in a particular topic, or direct their job
searches. It appears that in the women's studies classes, critical
engagement is rooted in an internal or self-understanding of the
world, while in our control courses this engagement is more
external and pragmatic. -12 On many of the women's studies
questionnaires students spoke about making future commitments to
social change in practice, such as doing work in communities or
becoming politically active. -13 They saw their lives as connected
to others in a globally linked way.

The effect of women's studies on our students' lives was most
poignant in the comments from the majors and alumnae. By making the
decision to major in women's studies, these students were
acknowledging that their commitment to this field was different
from those of students just taking a course or two. Many of the
majors and alumnae saw the applicability of the women's studies
courses both in their senses of self as well in their daily lives:

     "It's hard to fight the enemy with outposts in [your] head,"
     we were quoted in class. Women's studies is a friend in my

     I think it's given me a bit of more confidence that. . .books
     aren't al- ways the key; that sometimes the answers are right
     inside of you.'s learning that does more than fill your brain . It
     fills your body, it fills your heart, land] it makes you

Other majors and alumnae spoke eloquently of the way women's
studies had changed their awareness of the world. Phrases like "it
changed the questions I asked myself," "it's made me sensitive to
obstacles faced by other disadvantaged groups," or "my life will be
devoted to women's's my life's mission" pepper their
responses. Many of the alumnae discussed how it had shaped their
career choices or guided their "intellectual and professional
life." The effect seems clearest when one student, asked what she
can do with the major, replies, "Oh, I can do anything, I just have
a broad base of humanity, and I can just stem [off] from that." As
one student concluded, "that's the big difference in women's
studies [from other disciplines]: there's not only the opportunity
to argue, but there's almost a challenge to do something about it."

* Does women's studies teach divergent points of view? Women's
studies courses at Wellesley are not different in a statistical
sense from the controls in encouraging multiple points of view.
However, what "divergent points of view" means is clearly different
once the qualitative data is read. When asked if different points
of view were encouraged by the professor, almost three-quarters of
the students in both groups said "yes." In both groups, students
felt they were exposed to contrasting theories and differing ways
to consider a topic and were encouraged to find their own answers.
In the control group, however students interpret different points
of view to mean that faculty members teach divergent theories to
explain similar phenomenon rather than differing political
viewpoints. Students rarely understand that different theories in
all disciplines are suffused with political viewpoints. In women's
studies, where students come into the courses expecting the subject
matter to be suffused with political viewpoints, they still see the
professor as presenting contrasting political views but not
different theories. This reflects the continued problem that to
discuss gender, race, or class is perceived as "political"; by
contrast to ignore these categories entirely is not perceived as

In discussions with the faculty, however, it is clear that many
times faculty members see themselves as presenting "objective"
analyses of differing theoretical positions. Because the students
see the material itself as "loaded" however, the meaning of
objectivity takes on a different cast in women's studies than in
other fields. Faculty members often struggle in women's studies
courses to help students see that there are not just differing
"opinions" about particular issues but underlying theoretical
differences that could have political consequences. As many of us
have come to rethink what knowledge is and how it is constructed,
different disciplines have begun to recognize the deeply subjective
aspects of research. The view that the researcher is not
dispassionate, objective, or simply a conduit to the intellectual
community is becoming more commonly acknowledged. -14

Similarly, this set of issues needs to be discussed about teaching.
In the Feminist Pedagogy Group convened to consider such questions,
Wellesley women's studies faculty members were particularly
articulate about the problems of being seen as "non-objective";
these problems confront the women's studies professor and the
professors of color (even more sharply), regardless of subject

Women's studies teachers are struggling to find a new definition of
"objective" and "good teacher" that clearly fits with the kinds of
materials they are presenting and an understanding of the impact
their course content has on students. If women's studies professors
do not merely present "objective" facts nor arbitrate conflicting
viewpoints as the "in-command" figure, they are searching to find
a new way to describe their teaching. Perhaps this is best summed
up in Barbara Hillyer Davis' analysis that the role is one of
"simultaneous translator...hearing and giving back in other words
what another person has just said" and at the same time presenting
an explanation in another language which will illuminate for a
second group without alienating the first." -15 One student used a
different term for this when she labeled the classroom experience
one of "mutual discovery":

     I think there is a lot of difference between teaching someone,
     like standing up in front of a classroom and spitting out
     information and expecting the students to absorb it and learn
     it, and learning through. . .mutual discovery, which is more
     possible in women's studies because it relates so personally
     to your life....

In our Feminist Pedagogy Group discussions, we found that not all
of us functioned as "simultaneous translators" or were certain that
this was always the best way to function. Disciplinary and
personality differences were evident among women's studies faculty
members. In sum, while we can say that the women's studies faculty
members demonstrated a variety of pedagogical approaches, they all
shared a willingness to try different teaching techniques and to
focus on connecting the student to her learning.

* Does women's studies pressure students to give "politically
correct" answers? When students were asked if they felt "pressure
to give 'politically correct' answers" and to explain what they
meant by this, the majority said that they did not feel this
pressure. -16 In fact, women's studies students wrote rather
extensive commentary in which they emphasized how many different
viewpoints were overtly encouraged in the classroom, suggesting the
"simultaneous translator" role was working. "She tried to present
all points of view and/or always made it safe for differing views
to be presented," explained one student, while another said of the
professor, "She made it seem okay to have different points of view
and that there is never only one 'right' point of view." In
mediating what are sometimes necessarily intense emotional
responses to subject matter, one professor was praised because "she
taught us to try to connect with the person whose idea was at
hand--rather than taking a separated, confrontational approach." 

Our findings do suggest, however, that something different is going
on in women's studies courses in terms of how students experience
the discussions. Despite the affirmation by 70 percent of the
women's studies students that their classes did not pressure them
to conform to a classroom "line" 30 percent of the women's studies
group and only 14 percent of the control group felt silenced or at
risk expressing unpopular opinions. -17 At first, we considered the
hypothesis that there simply is more discussion in women's studies
and that this would affect students' sense of more people saying
the same things. However, our statistics on classroom format do not
bear this out: 88 percent of the students in the control courses
and 84 percent in the women's studies classes reported that the
"learning environment" was structured as discussion and lecture.
Only classroom observations might tell us if there is more talking
from students in the actual discussion times in women's studies as
opposed to other courses.

What may be at issue is less the time for talk in some quantitative
sense than the nature of the talk itself. We suspect that the
actual topics of women's studies courses allow for more discussion
of deeply felt and controversial issues. The work of our colleague,
David Pillemer, and his students in the Psychology Department on
what Wellesley students actually remember about their classroom and
college experiences supports this hypothesis. Pillemer found that
Wellesley students overwhelmingly "remember" interpersonal and
emotional encounters. -18

If students are more connected to the issues under discussion in
their women's studies classroom, we suspect their strong positions
on these issues may be due to their connecting the discussion with
the emotional concern they felt at the time. This explanation is
supported by the student answers in a set of questionnaires from a
women's studies history course. They reported more controversy over
the interpretation of the ending of the one novel they read in the
course than in the seemingly more "factual" historical materials.
As one student commented, "maybe it is difficult to debate
history." -19 The students' answers also make clear that the
pressure they felt comes from the student culture, not the
professors. As one student wrote candidly, "I don't feel the
pressure. I may apply it." Another in a control class wrote, "The
professor is very accepting of all ideas even if the students
generally aren't."

We note that this survey took place under the conditions of the
hot-house atmosphere at Wellesley when the issue of Barbara Bush as
Wellesley's commencement speaker was being debated both on the
campus and throughout the country's media. (A petition from 150
Wellesley students questioned the appropriateness of Mrs. Bush as
the graduate speaker, and this set off a firestorm of controversy
concerning the unresolved issues about the changes in women's and
family life.) The course surveys are peppered with comments about
women's roles in American society and reflect the content of the
Bush controversy. For instance, one student in a women's history
course reported: "Students at Wellesley don't want to hear about
women who choose more traditional roles such as wife and mother. To
support such a choice is to be 'politically incorrect' in a women's
studies class. The mind set is that this is what women did when
they were oppressed--now that they are liberated, only the most
meek would make such a choice." -20

We feel it is disheartening to read the student comments from this
question, but their honesty needs to be recorded. Thus, one student
said, "People hesitate to state what they really feel because they
don't know if it is right and will feel scorned by those who have
'political rightness' mastered." Another noted, "Sometimes when I
disagree with what the majority of the class is saying, I don't
speak up because I feel too uncomfortable." Or, in the words of
another student, "There seems to be a party line on feminist issues
that we had better not waver from. However, it is masked in a
feeling of openness."

The problem is best summed up by a student who wrote, "The pressure
is there all the time irrespective of being in this class or
outside--the pressure to go with the sway of public opinion." At an
elite women's college where there is a college culture of high
achievement for women and a legacy of politeness as the norm for
women's behavior, there may be pressure to make students feel they
should not speak up and express a minority view. Long before "p.c."
became a nationwide shibboleth, the problem of conformity and the
failure to hotly contest ideas of any kind in the classroom were
widely discussed by Wellesley faculty members. As one student
wrote, "It's a combination of societal pressure not to rock the
boat and Wellesley pressure to be nice." It also is possible that
this conformity is a result of the primary late adolescent culture
that pervades the college. -21 Not every student conforms. As one
women's studies student declared, "I refuse to fall into one more
form of politeness."

This "politeness" is further complicated in women's studies, where
the subject matter is so linked to a sense of self. Students often
write that they feel that to be critical of someone's ideas is to
be critical of them as a person. As one student reported in a
women's studies class before beginning her disagreement, "Don't
jump all over me, but...." -22 Encouraging students to feel "safe"
to voice criticism is one of the tasks discussed many times by
women's studies faculty in the Feminist Pedagogy Group. However, if
the theories that link women's development of self to connection
with others are valid, then the women's studies students reported
discussing the course materials outside the classroom 20 percent
more than the controls we may indeed he asking students to do
something that forces them to be in tension with their developing
sense of self. -23 The difficulty of helping students to understand
differing points of view about deeply held identity beliefs, at a
time when they are still working out who they are themselves, may
be reflected in these responses as well. As one student wrote,
"...sure there's a little pressure, but that's usually brought on
by personal insecurity." How we work to promote "safe" debate
without encouraging mere posturing, competition, and disconnection
needs further thought. More research on peer pressure in the
women's classroom should be done.

How much students' unwillingness to engage in debate is linked to
their "shyness" also would have to be studied. Studies suggest that
there is a slightly higher percentage of shy students at Wellesley
than at coeducational universities. Research on shyness suggests
that the metacognitive tendencies of shy people include "think[ing]
about 'who does this situation want me to be?' rather than 'how can
I be me in this situation'" which could be a factor in the
classroom culture. Similarly, another faculty member who has read
admissions files for Wellesley over the last two decades
anecdotally reports that more of the letters of recommendation in
the late 1980s as compared to the late 1960s describe the student
as "quiet." -24

Our students' answers also suggest that the words "politically
correct" may not always mean what such a phrase has come to mean in
the media in the last two years. Some students clearly thought this
meant more of a classroom-based "party line" regardless of the
topic. Thus, in one control class in answer to the "p.c." question,
a student wrote she felt the pressure because "if you disagree with
the professor he will squash you because he has more knowledge and
therefore will give a more persuasive, irrefutable argument."

* What quality of debate occurs in women's studies? While we have
sought to investigate the reasons why some women's studies
students,  more than students in the control group, felt pressure
from their peers to sign on to a common way of seeing the world,
the vast majority of students in both groups did not experience
such pressure. In fact, the statistical comparison between the two
groups also suggests that women's studies students debate issues
far more frequently both in and out of the classroom. Of all our
questions, the numerical differences between the two groups was
widest in the two questions about debate and discussion.

When we asked, "Do students debate or argue among one another?" 80
percent of the students in the women's studies classroom answered
"yes" as opposed to only 55 percent in the controls. As noted, this
difference is not one of format. As one student expressed
eloquently, "Yes--debate, argue-- no. Everyone respects everyone
else's beliefs. I've never seen anyone jump down anyone's throat
but there are certainly a wide variety of opinions." Yet in the
very same class another student reported "There is usually a
predominantly liberal or feminist general opinion in class (in most
classes in general) and it is difficult to go against this
attitude." These divergent reactions to what has happened in the
same course suggest how little we really can learn from statistical
generalizations and how different students actually are
experiencing a course even when they are sitting in a shared
classroom. Only 25 percent of the women's studies students answered
"no" to the question of whether students argue among one another.
By contrast, 48 percent of the students from the control group, or
almost half, answered "no."

Talking and learning in women's studies takes place in many
settings. We asked students how often they discussed course
readings and lectures outside the classroom and with whom. The
women's studies students reported discussing the course materials
outside the classroom 20 percent more than the controls did (84
percent in women's studies said they had such discussions either
constantly or occasionally as opposed to 63 percent of the
controls). Even more striking, 17 percent of the women's studies
students said such discussions were constant, as opposed to only 6
percent of the controls.

There is, however, very little difference between the groups on the
question of with whom these discussions take place. The only
difference is slightly more discussion (18 percent versus 13
percent) with male friends by the women's studies group. We believe
this reflects the fact that the women's studies courses do raise
issues about male/female relationships that the students then test
in discussion with their male friends. The courses also may provide
the students with a language and the "cover" of an intellectual
dialogue to discuss more "personal" male/female issues. Many
women's studies students also report increased dialogues with their

What our questionnaires did not tell us is whether there is more
debate as well as discussion taking place outside the classroom
than in it. With friends, roommates, or family, and away from any
kind of real evaluative situation like a class (especially ones
like women's studies where students know discussion really
matters), students may feel freer to actually wrestle with the
materials and ideas they are learning. -25 Despite students'
memories that there is much discussion in women's studies classes,
faculty members also report there is sometimes a good deal of
silence, especially when the topics are particularly sensitive.

We suspect that the silence, or the sense of pressure also may come
from the topics and reflect the real limitations of the set
classroom time and its evaluative nature. Often, students need more
time to process a set of ideas, to reflect upon them, to speak to
others before they really know what they think. -26 Faculty members
thus have found that if complex ideas can be introduced a number of
different ways and returned to later in the course, the discussions
often are more fruitful. Research on women's studies learning
therefore may have to take into account what happens outside the
classroom as much as what actually happens inside during class time
or studying.

In conclusion, our findings demonstrate the limitations of relying
on quantitative evaluative data and the ways they "flatten" human
experiences. Even when the quantitative answers were statistically
similar between the women's studies and control courses, careful
reading of the actual answers suggests that the meanings of the
answers varied widely between the women's studies and control
courses. Thus, the qualitative answers told us much more about what
was really happening in the courses and gave us a deeper sense of
how we might begin to "count" the meanings of our students'
responses. These answers also demonstrated how much women's studies
classes honed students' critical thinking and their own sense of
themselves as not merely learners but active participants in
linking intellectual endeavors and changing conceptions of the self
to social change.


For the faculty members, the project enabled us to make
self-conscious what is for many of us unconscious. In our
discussions, we discovered joint problems of topics in the
classrooms, expressed concern about both silences and pressures,
and became particularly aware of the difficulties facing our col-
leagues of color. The project also led us to discuss with the
relevant committees on campus and with the dean both evaluation
problems and the need for more money for internal research on
teaching. We became very aware of how the pressure of the student
evaluation questionnaires kept faculty members, especially junior
faculty members, fearful of innovation and controversy in their
classrooms. This report also will be given as a lecture in the
faculty's ongoing teaching seminars sponsored by the dean's office.
Although some parts of this report gave us pause, we felt
encouraged in the end by the comments of students in our classes
and by the words of one who noted what women's studies had meant
for her: "I will continue to question my beliefs and will continue
to try to educate myself." This seems to us to sum up succinctly
what we hope women's studies does for all its students.

We think our report raises the need for further studies on the
following questions: 

What are the relationships between the late adolescent student's
identity development and the kinds of issues raised in women's
studies? How does peer pressure affect student learning? 

How are we to understand the meaning of"silences" in the women's
studies classroom, and how are we to measure the "talk"? 

How can quantitative and qualitative research on classroom learning
be used together to give a fuller picture of student learning? 

What kind of changes will have to be made in student evaluation
questionnaires when the course content is perceived as "political"?

What difference does widespread societal discussion of"political
correctness" mean for the women's studies classroom and its mission
as we face the twenty-first century? 

Can we follow women's studies students in a longitudinal manner to
examine how much "social change" they actually become part of? 

How can we talk about "objectivity" in a way that helps students
understand more fully what women's studies is attempting to do?

How much does the very subject of women's studies--and its link to
an emotional/affective style of learning--affect what students
actually remember about their courses?

Should we, or can we, attempt to help students disengage the
personal from the content of the courses? How do we make them
understand that while the "personal is political," it is not always
true that the political is personal in the way they have come to
understand it?

In sum, women's studies in a women's institution is ironically in
a difficult situation: It must make gender matter and not matter in
a context that struggles to make gender matter and not matter, too.
The obvious demands on women's studies in coeducational
institutions--to support women's centers, create role models, serve
as focal points for women's issues, teach in different modes--take
on subtler and different shadings in the setting of a small liberal
arts college dedicated to women's empowerment and excellence in

In questionnaire responses from students and discussions among the
faculty, we tried to determine what does make women's studies
"different" at Wellesley. Our findings suggest that ultimately it
is the subject matter of women's studies that shapes the parameters
for teaching and learning. For many students, especially those
coming directly from high school, women's studies is the first time
that women and gender are legitimate subjects of study. In
connecting the student through "mutual discovery" to herself and
the wider world at the same time, women's studies creates a
critical edge in its students and a critical stance in its
teachers. This criticalness connects intellectual sharpness to the
contemporary issues that the students face, or that they come to
understand, that structure the lives of women whose life
circumstances are or have been quite different from their own.

As our comparative data suggest, while there is as much discussion
in women's studies as in other Wellesley classes, students perceive
both more conformity and more debate in women's studies. We believe
this reflects, in part, the pressure of "politeness" that still
defines many women's cultures. Because the material is so important
to the students and their lives, they both think differently about
it and speak in "pregnant pauses" as well. Sometimes, however, the
issues appear so overwhelming they do not know what they think.
Often, only time and life experience will help them sort this out.
We think, therefore, that the seeming contradiction--more
conformity pressure and more debate--really is not contradictory.

Further, our data show they do speak about it much more outside the
classroom. Thus, women's studies requires that we reconsider the
learning boundaries of our courses. Innovative assignments,
returning to similar topics in non-linear ways, use of the
silences, and even the seeming conformity in a dialogic manner
throughout the course may be required if we are to take advantage
of the kind of learning that is already taking place.

Finally, we will have to use some of the new analyses of identity
formation and community to come to terms with the pressures our
students feel and the learning they are doing. Students in women's
studies' as in other ethnic and black studies courses, are part of
an effort to forge a new kind of learning and contestation over
critical ideas. As historian Joan Wallach Scott has argued,
"Contests about knowledge are now understood to be political, not
only because they are contests, but because they are explicitly
about the interests of groups." How we consider this and help
women's studies students forge a sense of self that is both
connected and open to difference remains our greatest challenge. 


1 . We gratefully acknowledge the participation of Wellesley
College faculty members in the surveys and discussions that made
this report possible. We also thank Holly Benton, Lisa Bergin,
Laura Kossoff, Jennifer Schoenstadt, and Margaret Potter for their
assistance in the data collection and coding. We thank Laurel
Furumoto of the Psychology Department for her helpful suggestions
on sampling technique. Tim Sieber and Caryn McTighe Musil made
invaluable editorial suggestions. Both Suzanne Hyers and Margaret
Centamore provided technical assistance, including "translating"
from MAC to IEM and back. 

2. Wellesley College Bulletin 81 (September 1991): 42, 48. 

3. Susan Reverby. "Women's Studies at Wellesley Over the Decade,"
presentation given at A Celebration of Nan Keohane's Decade as
Wellesley's President, October 18, 1991, Wellesley College.

4. It is interesting to note that this is the only academic unit in
the college where all faculty members have initially been hired on
a half-time basis. Even though the program has tenure-track
positions, it has never been given a full-time, tenure-track line
to begin with. This is unusual at Wellesley. Although the college
does have a history of providing "regular part-time" work with
benefits and the possibility of tenure. This slow building of the
program also reflects the cap on faculty increases in the 1980s. 

5. When enrollment goes above eighty students in a semester, a
faculty member can request a grader. This is rare and few faculty
members teach this many students in a semester on what is now a
two-courses-a-semester load. 

6. The 'renting' idea is Arthur Stinchcombe's; see Arthur
Stinchcombe, Information and Organizations (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1990), chapter nine, "University Administration
of Research Space and Teaching Loads: Managers Who Do Not Know What
Their Workers Are Doing." 

7. "Wellesley College Student Evaluation Questionnaires." The forms
in fact leave room for the students to write comments, but these
are only seen by the faculty member and are not used for
evaluation. Therefore, the qualitative information on these forms
is not being used to illuminate the quantitative scores. We will
return to this point in our discussion of findings. 

8. As a by product of these questions, we learned a lot about the
content of the courses without actually examining the syllabi or
asking students about it directly. We had no hidden agenda in
finding out what was taught in classes. Content was not conceived
of as central to our research design. 

9. We focused on social science courses because there are very few
humanities and no science courses that are cross-listed in women's
studies. At Wellesley, philosophy and history are considered part
of the social sciences division. 

10. Commitment to women's studies was measured by courses that were
either part of the women's studies core curriculum or cross-listed.
The reason for this is that cross-listed courses are at the option
of the individual faculty member who chooses to see his or her
courses as part of the women's studies curriculum. A screen by
women's studies is done very informally, and faculty members are
not required to submit syllabi for acceptance. 

11. What we do not know, and would be interested to know in future
surveys, is how many students even know that the courses they
select are cross-listed with women's studies. This additional
information would tell us whether or not students are conscious of
a feminist style of teaching is of presumed feminist content to the
courses when they select their courses. Our hunch is that students
are not aware of this and choose courses simply on the reputation
of the faculty member. We suspect that even if students do not know
about the bureaucratic cross-listing, they are aware often of the
faculty member's approach and can tell from the course title and
description something about its content. At a small residential
college, a good deal of informal information is known and shared
about faculty members. In retrospect, it might have helped if in
our survey we had asked students why they chose this course and if
they knew it was cross-listed in women's studies. 

12. This kind of instrumental view of education is, of course,
fairly common; see Michael Moffatt, Coming of Age in New Jersey
(New Brunswick, N.J. Rutgers University Press, 1989). 

13. If we had the time, it would be fascinating to do longitudinal
studies and see what actually happens to these students in ten
years' time. 

14. These issues have been discussed for a number of years and are
central to much women's studies thinking. For more recent
discussion in other fields, see for examples James Clifford and
George E. Marcus, eds.,Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of
Ethnography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986) and
Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the
American Historical Profession (New York Cambridge University
Press, 1988). 

15. Barbara Hillyer Davis, "Teaching the Feminist Minority." in
Margo Culley and Catherine Portuges, eds., Gendered Subjects: The
Dynamics of Feminist Teaching (New York: Routledge, 1985), 250. 

16. We should note that this question was framed before the media
circus around "political correctness" came to town. 

17. These statistics are skewed by one course in the women's
studies group where nineteen out of twenty-five students replied
yes. However, if we throw out this course from the data, almost a
fourth of the women's studies students still say yes. 

18. David Pillemer, et al., "Memories of Life Transitions: The
First Year in College," Human Learning 5 (1986): 109-23; Lynn
Goldsmith and David Pillemer, "Memories of Statements Spoken in
Everyday Contexts," Applied Cognitive Psychology 2 ( 1988): 273-86;
David Pillemer, et al., "Very Long-Term Memories of the First Year
in College."Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory
and Cognition 14 ( 1988): 709-15. 

19. It is, of course, very easy to debate history. This was a large
course taught by a visiting professor who may not have felt
comfortable opening up the debate on a regular basis. 

20. The debate around the selection of Barbara Bush and the
Wellesley students' petition questioning her appropriateness will
be the subject of a larger study, not related to this FIPSE report,
that Hertz and Reverby are now completing. Two years later as we
complete this report, this issue has clearly not gone away.
Tellingly, this time the media concern is focused on a possible
presidential wife, Hillary Clinton, Wellesley Class of 1969. Jerry
Brown's jibe at Bill Clinton for sending state business to his
wife's law firm led her to query if Brown expected her to be home
with the kids serving milk and cookies. The subsequent media
response to this was reminiscent of the Bush debate. Thus, the
pressure students feel at Wellesley to achieve in the work world,
and their sense of being silenced around traditionally "female"
activities, are certainly not limited to the women's studies

21. We acknowledge that most classes at Wellesley also have
returning women students who are older than "traditional-aged"
students. But they do not shape the classroom culture as a whole.
How much they can influence more traditional-aged students when
they are still outnumbered in the classes remains to be studied.
For a parallel analysis on tokenism, see Rosabeth Kanter, Men and
Women in the Corporation (New York: Basic Books, 1977). 

22. Reading of student entries to journals for "Introduction to
Women's Studies" and comments in "Politics of Caring" course. 

23. A number of researchers have written on this topic: Janet
Lever, Carol Gilligan, Nancy Chodorow, etc. The idea of the "self
in relations" is most theoretically developed by the Stone Center
group at Wellesley College, see Judith Jordan, et al., eds..
Women's Growth in Connection (New York: Guilford Press, 1991). 

24. Jonathan Cheek, "Faculty 'Shop-talk': Teaching the Shy
Student," Wellesley College, February 18, 1992; Personal
communication, Maud Chaplin to Susan Reverby, March 24, 1992; see
also Jonathan Cheek and L. A. Melchior, "Shyness, Self-esteem and
Self-consciousness," in H. Leitenberg, ed., Handbook of Social and
Evaluation Anxiety (New York: Plenum, 1990), 47-82. 

25. As one of the authors of this report has observed, students'
journals in the introductory courses demonstrate, for example, much
more questioning and complex thinking than is usually articulated
in the classroom. 

26. The silences also may reflect student reaction to materials
outside their own experiences or their life stage. For instance,
abortion elicits a hotly contested debate, while infertility or
reproductive technology is less likely to provoke such passionate

27. Joan Wallach Scott, "The Campaign Against Political
Correctness," Change (November- December 1 99 1 ), 3 7. 11,


This questionnaire is part of a study being done by Wellesley's
Women's Studies Program as part of a national survey. To do the
study, we are asking students in selected women's studies and
non-women's studies courses to answer this brief questionnaire.
Your answers should reflect your experience in the class where you
received this survey. Your name is not requested and your professor
will not see the survey. S/he will merely collect them and return
them immediately to the women's studies office. We deeply
appreciate your taking the time to do this.


If a question does not apply, please write "not applicable." If you
do not have an answer or don't know, please write "don't know."

Course number and name:

Background Information 

1. What year do you expect to graduate?

2. What is your age?

3. What is your race/ethnicity?

4. What is your major? What is your minor?

5. After graduation are you presently planning to attend graduate
or professional school ? 
Yes      No     Don't know    [circle one] 
In what fields? [specify, degrees and fields]

Questions About This Course 

1. How has this course changed or affected your personal life?

2. How has this course affected your intellectual life?

3. Did it change your political beliefs? If so, how? 

4. How was the learning environment structured in the classroom?
(e.g., lecture only, lecture and discussion, student led, sat in a
circle, etc.)

5. How does the learning environment in this class compare to any
courses you have taken in women's studies? (Women's studies courses
and courses cross-listed in women's studies can be used as

6. Is there much discussion in this class?

7. Do students debate or argue among one another? [provide

8. How often did you discuss course readings and lectures outside
the classroom? 

Constantly           Occasionally          Rarely    [circle one] 
Only when studying for an exam        Never 
If so, with whom? [specify relationship: roommates, female friends,
male friends, family]

9. Do you feel there is pressure to give "politically correct"
Yes      No     [circle one] If yes, please explain your answer.

10. Were different points of view encouraged by the professor? Yes 
No     Sometimes    [circle one]

11. In terms of course content, did you learn how to think about an
issue or social problem from different political or theoretical
points of view? [give examples]

12. Do you feel that you will apply what you learned in this class
to your work and/or further education?
Yes      No     Don't know    [circle one] If yes, how?
                           CHAPTER SIX
                       CUNY-HUNTER COLLEGE 
                       FEMINIST EDUCATION


     Hunter College of the City University of New York,
     reflecting both the political commitment of its women's
     studies program and the richly diverse student
     population, assesses their goals and accomplishments in
     three areas: multiculturalism, critical thinking, and
     integration of knowledge. Particular attention is paid to
     the relationship of women's studies to the community and
     to the program's advocacy component.

Founded by Thomas Hunter as a normal school to educate women whose
career goals included teaching children and adolescents, City
University of New York-Hunter College has sustained its
century-and-a-quarter commitment to educating women. As one of the
oldest branches of City University of New York, Hunter College is
now coeducational but 73 percent of its nineteen thousand students
are women, a percentage that has not varied since 1985. Even among
undergraduate non-degree students--the majority of whom are
participants in a Senior Citizen Program--two-thirds are women.

In graduate training programs at Hunter, women represent a larger
percentage of students than is found in the student population as
a whole. In 1990, for example, 76.6 percent of the graduate
students were women. And there are more women matriculating in
graduate programs (78.7 percent) than among non-matriculating
students (71.1 percent).

Approximately 53 percent of Hunter's student population are
minorities. The largest minority representation is in the African
American, non- Hispanic category, with Hispanic Other and Asian or
Pacific Islander second and third. The ethnic classifications of
Hunter's student body have remained relatively stable over the past
three years. Within the graduate programs, black, non-Hispanic
constitutes the largest minority group (14.9 percent in 1990); 67.3
percent are white, non-Hispanic.

The Women's Studies Program at Hunter College, officially begun in
the mid-1970s, has been central in women's studies since the
inception o~ this field of study. In 1983, the Hunter College
Women's Studies Collective published Women's Realities, Women's
Choices, the first comprehensive textbook for introductory women's
studies. Since then. Hunter's Women's Studies Pro- gram has
continued to grow and evolve, adding new faculty members and
striving to offer a curriculum that reflects the diversity of women
on a global basis while remaining at the forefront of women's
studies scholarship.

The Women's Studies Program at Hunter College has been one of three
departments/programs (with Anthropology and Urban Affairs) that
have shown the largest growth since 1985. Women's studies has gone
from thirty-two FTEs in 1985 to fifty-eight in 1990. representing
an 81 percent increase. An interdisciplinary academic program that
seeks to preserve. expand, and share knowledge about women and
gender, women's studies reexamines women's heritage and the role of
women in contemporary society and in all cultures. It aims, through
a focus on women's experiences, to open fresh perspectives
throughout the entire curriculum. Women's studies at Hunter relies
upon a broad community of affiliated faculty, staff, and students
and is ad- ministered by a coordinator and a policy committee of
elected student and faculty representatives.

Women's studies at Hunter College includes three components:
curriculum, scholarship, and advocacy. Through participation in the
FIPSE project, our program has sought to assess our goals and
accomplishments in three areas multiculturalism, critical thinking,
and integration of knowledge. Throughout this project, we have
tried to be as inclusive of our women's studies community as
possible in the formulation of goals and in their assessment. As a
result, we believe our assessment demonstrates that what we have
hoped to develop as the strengths of our program are, in fact,
strengths of our program. While work remains to be done, we believe
that this assessment has helped us to recognize the crucial ways in
which women's studies provides the students of Hunter College with
"the courage to question."


     I remember in my "Women in the Third World" class, one of
     the first things my professor talked about was embracing
     similarity in the heart of difference. And it took me so
     long to understand what she meant, and maybe l...just
     took lit] own way, but I was about...
     getting yourself out of your context somehow, or
     recognizing that you are m your context, and everything
     that you see, and everything that you believe has so much
     to do with...where you come from. 
                  WOMEN'S STUDIES STUDENT, 1991

The goal of multicultural learning involves a complex set of
intellectual and personal traits. In order to learn about other
cultures, students need to be able to draw connecting links between
their own experiences and the experiences of others; to comprehend
cultural differences; to deal with "culture shock"; to clear away
subjective obstacles to multicultural learning such as racism and

New York City is a world city; the students at Hunter College
reflect the extraordinary ethnic diversity of the globe.
Nonetheless, a number of aspects of life in New York City and at
Hunter College make the emergence of cosmopolitan citizens of the
world problematic. First, though New York consists of people from
all over the world, large parts of New York City are rigidly
segregated by ethnic group and by class. Many New Yorkers live in
extremely insulated communities. These structural problems are
compounded by difficulties in establishing sufficient trust for
multicultural understanding. As levels of incivility increase in
the city as a whole, no single individual's or group's efforts for
multicultural understanding will be automatically rewarded by the
recognition, appreciation, or acknowledgment of others.
Consequently, the high psychic costs of trying to understand others
may seem too high a price to pay for uncertain results.

To assess how effectively the Women's Studies Program accomplished
its complex goal of reflecting multiculturalism, we examined data
in three different areas: curriculum, scholarship, and collective
conversations with students.


An examination of Hunter's women's studies curriculum reveals a
concerted effort to offer multicultural courses, hire faculty
members from diverse backgrounds, and prepare existing faculty
members to weave multicultural issues throughout their courses. The
data suggest that the program's goal to infuse a multicultural
perspective in the women's studies program is being met.

The proportion of the curriculum that focuses on explicitly
multicultural themes is significant. During fall 1990, for example,
the Women's Studies Program offered six out of twelve multicultural
courses: "Women in the Third World"; "Women and Music in World
Cultures"; "Autobiographies of Black Women Literary Artists";
"Working Class Women in the United States, 1865-1960"; "Changing
Roles of Women in China/Japan"; and "The Politics of AIDS: Seminar
in Political Behavior." During spring 1991, the Women's Studies
Program offered seven out of sixteen courses on explicitly
multicultural themes: "Women and Development"; "Race, Gender, and
the Movies"; "Black Women Literary Artists"; "Lesbian Voices in the
Twentieth Century"; "Women in the Middle East"; "Women, Art, and
Culture"; and "Decolonizing Desire: Fiction By Third World Women."

Students also can choose from among several additional women's
studies courses regularly offered in the program that have
explicitly multicultural subjects: "Black Women in the Americas,"
"Puerto Rican and Latina Women," and "Immigrant Women in New York
City." Two other cross-listed courses regularly offered are
"Gender. Ethnicity, and Disease" and "Black Women Writers: Cross
Cultural Connections."

To expand such course offerings, the Women's Studies Program has
hired new faculty members and worked with existing faculty. Over
the past several years, the program has hired additional faculty
members who bring an international and multicultural perspective to
women's studies and has hired adjuncts to offer additional courses
in subjects such as "Black Women in the Americas," "Immigrant Women
in New York City," and "Lesbian Voices."

In order to prepare faculty members in multicultural women's
studies scholarship, the college has continued to support faculty
development seminars on a university-wide basis. During summer
1990, a Ford Foundation- sponsored project to integrate materia] on
women of color into the curriculum received support from Hunter
College and included faculty members from women's studies. The
college supported for the third year the City University- wide
Faculty Development Seminar on Balancing the Curriculum for Gender,
Race, Class, and Ethnicity, in which women's studies faculty
members played a central role. The newly renovated Women's Studies
Library/Resource Center also contains books, articles, and
audio/visual materials rich in multicultural resources to assist
faculty with their curriculum integration projects.

Additionally, faculty members teaching "Women's Studies 100" and
other cross-listed courses made concerted efforts to balance their
class materials for ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, race, and
class. Almost every section, for instance, in the "Women's Studies
100" course included either Audre Lorde's Sister/Outsider or
Johnnetta Cole's All American Women. A review of the syllabi in
general revealed that numerous articles on the experiences of
lesbians, older women, African American women, Afro-Caribbean
women, Puerto Rican women, Latinas, Asian American women, Native
American women, and others also were typical.

Funds from the Hunter College Pluralism and Diversity Grant were
used for integrating global materials into the introductory course
in women's studies. Funds from this grant also are being used to
help faculty members work on race and gender balancing curricula in
a variety of disciplines. The Women's Studies Program in
conjunction with the Psychology Department, for example, has
designed a program that will encourage students and faculty members
to consider culture, ethnicity, sex, gender, class, and race as
important psychological variables and to note the bias in
traditional psychological theories and research paradigms. Designed
by the current women's studies coordinator, Michele Paludi, the
course includes four components: (1) acquisition of educational
materials dealing with curriculum integration, (2) development of
a resource manual on curriculum integration, (3) faculty
development seminars to address curricular and pedagogical issues,
and (4) development of a new course in the Department of Psychology
called "Psychology of Gender, Ethnicity, and Race," which was
taught in spring 1992.

Like several other institutions nationally, Hunter College has
begun to explore adding a pluralism and diversity requirement to
its distribution requirements. Not surprisingly, faculty members in
women's studies have been actively involved in the discussion.
Among the tenets of the proposal is the requirement that all
students take a course focusing on women and women's contributions
to the disciplines.

Expanding the multicultural emphasis in the curriculum beyond the
classroom walls, Hunter also received grants from the Ford
Foundation and the Aaron Diamond Foundation to support women's
studies student internships in women's reproductive health care in
New York City and to sponsor a three-day conference on balancing
the curriculum for reproductive rights issues in a global
perspective. Currently the project is focusing on developing a
training program to enhance the reproductive health awareness of
Latinas in New York City.

The success of such efforts in attracting diverse students to
women's studies can be seen in the number of women of color,
lesbians, and older women who are women's studies majors. In 1991,
twelve women graduated with majors in women's studies. Among them,
one older lesbian is attending Harvard Law School, one older
African American woman is attending graduate school in creative
writing at Michigan State University, and an African American woman
is studying genetics at MIT. Suggesting both their training in
multiculturalism through women's studies and the encouragement to
do multicultural research, recipients of the 1991 Women's Studies
Prizes wrote papers and poems reflecting multicultural issues such
as "Race and the Press: Newspaper Coverage of the Central Park
Jogger Case." Likewise, the Community Service Awards, presented to
the Returning Women Magazine collective and to Satoko Yagiura and
Adelaide Sakeflyo, demonstrate a similar affirmation of
multicultural work.


Further evidence of the multicultural focus of our Women's Studies
Program is illustrated by our monthly colloquium series. For fall
1991, the program de- voted one month to the following themes, all
of which included material about diverse women: "Women's Studies in
the Academy: Scholarship, Pedagogy, and Advocacy," "Current Issues
in Women's Health: Research and Social Policy Applications," and
"Women's Mental Health and Well Being." For spring 1992, the
following themes were featured: "Literary and Media Images of
Women," "Violence Against Women," and "Women and Disabilities." The
1991 Bella Abzug Lectureship was given by Loretta Ross and Adetoun
Ilumoka and devoted to "Reproductive Rights: An
African/African-American Dialogue." In 1992, the lectureship will
be devoted to sex and race discrimination in the academy and
workplace and will be presented by Catharine Stimpson.

In addition, Hunter is one of twenty-six Rockefeller Foundation
Humanist-in-Residence sites in the country. This grant-funded
program has offered two fellowships each year, beginning in
1990-91, enabling feminist scholars to work on a research project
related to gender and feminism in Third World contexts and to
participate with women's studies students and faculty in a monthly
seminar on this topic. Annual themes for the humanist- in-residence
program have been Social Constructions and Representations of
Gender in Third World Societies, Women's Cultures of Resistance and
Organized Feminist Movements, and 'Third World' Women/'Western'
Women: Differences, Commonalities, and Cross-Currents of
Experience. To date, Hunter has hosted four scholars: Vivien Ng (a
historian at the University of Oklahoma), Sylvia Marcos (a
psychotherapist in Mexico), Jacqueline Alexander (a sociologist at
Brandeis University), and Sitralega Maunaguru (a poet, peace
activist, and lecturer in literature at the University of Jaffna in
Sri Lanka).

Faculty members also collaborate with students on a variety of
research projects, publish papers, and present work at conferences.
Examples of research currently being conducted at Hunter that have
a multicultural theme include: the interface of racism and sexism
in academic and workplace sexual harassment; Greek-American women;
immigrant women in the United States, 1840-2000; Italian women
authors, Medieval-Renaissance; minority women in academia; women
and international migration; women in Central America; women in
Latin America; and cross-race mentoring in the academy.


Donna Murdock, a women's studies student, organized a series of
collective conversations with students to evaluate whether, in
their experience, the Women's Studies Program fostered
multicultural awareness. In a series of small-group discussions
with alumnae and current students, most of whom were women's
studies majors, students recognized that progress has been made in
recentering the Women's Studies Program to reflect the wide
diversity that typifies women's lives. As one student put it:

     ...the Women's Studies Program has really evolved,
     evolved into something that's really helpful to women....
     [T]hey've put in more courses and they're always bringing's not only about white women. And for
     me, that's important, being a black woman.... I couldn't
     identify with something where I never see myself!

Confirming the sense that women's studies courses had made serious
progress toward being multiracial in content, another student
revealed how different women's studies classes were than she had
imagined: mother's always told me, "there's certain things
     you don't say around white people!" me coming with
     this kind of prejudice, I really felt that they had to
     prove themselves to me. You know, it was..."So what is
     this women's studies about, if it's all about white
     women?" But I found that it really wasn't like that.

Echoing this student's sentiments, a white student commented on the
transformative effect of her classes on her own consciousness:

     I have learned a lot other women
     black women feel in society...with...racism and sexism.
     I wasn't aware of how they felt until they spoke up and
     told me. How Indian women feel and...Asian women feel,
     and I think I have less now of an ethnocentric
     view...where I think our culture is the best. I no longer
     feel that way at all. 

Overall, students also felt women's studies addressed multicultural
issues far more directly and productively than other departments

Other students commented on how the atmosphere established in the
classroom helped students as they negotiated their multicultural
differences. One student commented, "The class was made up of very
diverse ethnic groups, and the respect and interaction and sharing
that went on was emotionally and intellectually supportive."
Another expressed it this way:

     I think that women's studies has...helped me learn not to
     stomp on other people s opinions and other people's
     feelings, and how to get across "this is why I don't
     agree with you and this is what I believe in and this is
     why." And...that has helped me in my political science
     courses and my political life and in my life.

In addition to the overall praise of the program, students offered
suggestions for meeting their need for more dialogue in courses
about racism and other "isms." "I would also like to see some more
stuff implemented on racism in our...classes and dealing with white
people's racism," suggested one student. A few women felt that
inclusion of women of color sometimes only came in special sections
or at the end of courses. The insistence on continuing to improve
the multicultural aspects of the Women's Studies Program is
represented by a student who praises the program highly even as she
demands it strive to do more: "I think we have a very good
multicultural, multiracial program, and I's just
admirable...seeing...the program [change] to where it's more
multicultural, multiracial. And I...still think we have a ways to
go with it, you know, I...really do." Overall, students also felt
women's studies addressed multicultural issues far more directly
and productively than other departments. As one student put it, the
"women's studies community is more sensitive than other communities
in Hunter College. And I have many friends who...are really
sensitive to my differences, and I can talk about that. And that's
really great."

                        CRITICAL THINKING

     ...women's studies opens up with questions, and so...that
     clicked for me.... That's really the biggest difference
     in women's studies and any other courses I've taken....
     [you question all the time, all the time. 
                 WOMEN'S STUDIES STUDENT, 1991 

Perhaps no single goal is more often repeated as a central tenet of
liberal arts education than the goal of helping students learn to
think critically. Although the goal of critical thinking may seem
to be an issue of "learning skills" rather than a broader goal, we
conceive of critical thinking as a more complex activity. In order
to engage in critical thinking, a learner must be able to see
herself as capable of critical analysis, to use tools of analysis,
to possess sufficient knowledge and perspective to engage in
fruitful and substantive critical analysis. Thus, the goal of
critical thinking involves several components: it requires
"empowerment," in both a structural and a subjective sense; it
requires knowledge of tools of analysis; and it requires a
reservoir of situated, comprehended knowledge.

Hunter College as an urban public institution primarily consists of
working-class and first-generation college students. Students at
Hunter frequently come from backgrounds that either are
educationally deficient (where low demands have been placed on them
to write or to comprehend large bodies of material, theoretical
perspectives, abstract ideas and thinking), or they perceive
themselves to come from deficient backgrounds. Sixty percent of
students entering Hunter require remedial work in reading, writing,
or mathematics in order to do college-level work. In addition, many
students are older and returning women who are unsure of their
skills even when they are adequate. Consequently, it is important
that we not take for granted the students' temperamental
preparation for critical thinking. Thus, in order to speak of the
goal of critical thinking at Hunter College we must speak about the
development of a base of knowledge, tools of analysis, and a way to
instill in our students the confidence and sense of self that are
necessary for critical thinking.

Three assessment instruments were used in analyzing our progress in
helping students in critical thinking skills: course syllabi, exams
and paper assignments, and informal classroom writings. Evidence
derived from this assessment supports the conclusion that students
in women's studies courses are encouraged to think critically in
their classes but that we might be more self-conscious about the
importance of this goal.

                         COURSE SYLLABI 

Syllabi of women's studies courses stress the need for students to
develop skills of critical thinking. Although not all of the ten
introductory women's studies syllabi reviewed used the language of
"critical thinking," at least one did, defining it as "an ability
to direct informed questions at everything you read, see, and
hear." Another syllabus included, as a course goal, "to develop our
intellectual ability of analysis."

One instructor, for example, teaches the introductory course in
women's studies in a way that helps students learn foundations for
a feminist restructuring of the academic disciplines. She focuses
on methodologies and theories in a variety of disciplines,
including psychology, economics, political science, and history,
and offers feminist correctives to the portrayal of women in these
disciplines. Her goal is to have students question the treatment of
women in subsequent courses they take. Other faculty members
teaching the introductory course revolve their
lectures/presentations and discussions around themes, such as
gender as socially constructed, the distinction between sex and
gender, women's health concerns, and women's career development.


Course assignments can be a vehicle through which students can
develop skills in critical thinking. To foster critical thinking,
women's studies courses at Hunter stress paper writing and essay
exams--unlike many other courses in the college, especially at the
introductory level.

Often, assignments require students to engage in research, assess
the adequacy of that material, and reflect on the importance of the
research. For example, the first assignment in one introductory
women's studies course required students to browse through
professional journals in women's studies and think about the
importance of one essay in contemporary scholarship. Rosalind
Petchesky's "work" assignment required students to interview two
women whose work experiences were likely to have been different and
to compare them. Joan Tronto's "caring" assignment required
students to track the kinds of caring work done in their households
and reflect upon these results to investigate gender roles in their

Exam essay questions frequently require integration of material
from several sources that necessitates a critical reflection of
ideas. Marnia Lazreg's "Women in the Middle East" course, for
example, required students to compare Edward Said's "orientalist"
practice with an essay on Arab Women in the Field. Joan Tronto
asked students in the introductory course to discuss some
implications of claims such as, "Patriarchy oppresses all women."
This provided an opportunity for students to reflect a broad range
of knowledge and the need to define, to qualify, and to dispute
commonly heard over generalizations.

Additional evidence that students do learn analytical skills are
apparent from the Women's Studies Prizes. While several awards went
to collections of poems, others have been awarded to students who
have written analytical essays, such as "Fetal Protection Policies:
A Discriminatory Policy or a Business Necessity?" "Race and the
Press: Newspaper Coverage of the Central Park Jogger Case," and
"Dangerous Appetites: Eating as Metaphor in Christine Rosetti's
'Goblin Market'."


Students in the introductory women's studies classes were asked to
informally provide information about whether the course fits with
their educational goals. As one woman stated:

     This women's studies course has helped me to see things
     in a different light. I've realized that I've believed
     many things that are not true, so in general, my overall
     awareness has expanded. I am more critical of what I hear
     [and] read.

In the course survey conducted of introductory women's studies
classes during fall 1990 and spring 1991 (see pages 154-55~, many
students commented on aspects of critical thinking as an outcome of
the course. A typical range of remarks included statements such as:
"an empowering experience"; "This course definitely made me think
for myself'; and "It introduced me to a whole new world of ideas
and concepts." Another woman wrote:

     This class was much more in-depth and required much more
     work on the part of the student. Most intro courses
     consist of at least 100 students, 2 multiple choice tests
     and a text that is opened twice.

In the collective conversations, Donna Murdock noted that students
felt the program had become more self-conscious over the years in
its goal of fostering critical thinking. The consensus among
students was that it was important to make critical thinking an
expressed goal. In comment after comment, the students felt
challenged to think in their women's studies courses.

For some it was overwhelming, but they suggest that the kind of
thinking demanded of them was distinctive and worth the extra work:

     ...a lot of people take women's studies courses because
     they think they're going to be easy, and then they flip
     when they get in there and they find out these are
     probably the hardest courses! Because, first of all, you
     have to think.... It's not like math, it's not like just
     about any Some students experience a new tension between
     exercising their critical faculties in women's studies
     and repressing them elsewhere other discipline in the
     school where you don't have to think.

Another student found she could transfer to other courses what she
learned in women's studies about critical thinking: terms of looking at more of an analytic
     type way...and using critical skills,...I really owe that
     to women's studies and it also helped me in my other
     courses...because it's not as much what you see, it's how
     you see it....I've always thought the more ways you can
     see something, the more of it you'll see.

Another woman stated:

     Women's studies is a very participatory kind of
     education.... [I]t offers us a way to empower ourselves
     and to obtain a voice, and when you have that voice,
     you're going to start using it.... You turn around and
     you say, "now wait a minute!"

Students in the collective conversations valued learning to speak
their minds:

     ...part of the difference about being in women's studies
     is you have...input into the course and you say..."I
     didn't see such and such included in this...[or] this
     experience is limited." And that's one of the things you
     can do in a women's studies course that you can't do when
     you're taking [another] course.

The quotations underscore the importance of how students conceive
of critical learning. It requires an opportunity to talk in the
first instance. Second, it requires a willingness by the instructor
to surrender the role of sole expert. Third, it requires a
willingness by the instructor to show how scholars ask and
formulate questions or do their work. Fourth, it requires practice
at these skills. And, fifth, it requires support and patience on
the part of faculty members who ask students to critically analyze
academic disciplines. For some students, their newly acquired
critical thinking skills are not always invited in other courses.
As represented by the following quotation, some students experience
a new tension between exercising their critical faculties in
women's studies courses and repressing them elsewhere:

     ...taking women's studies courses has a good effect and
     a bad effect for me, ...[the good effect is] bringing
     this awareness of diversity to you.... [T]he bad effect
     [is] the resultant critique that you bring to your other
     classes.... [Y]ou're almost forced to put these blinders
     on, you know, when you start looking at other
     materials...where you're expected to look at it in a
     traditional way, so...I find myself having two
     personalities here you know, the kind of analysis and
     freedom I have in a women's studies course and then the
     more narrow view I'm expected to take and I'm graded on
     in other courses.

                    INTEGRATION OF KNOWLEDGE

     When I got into...women's studies...the professor
     encouraged [me to] "Speak up, talk louder" and I was like
     "wow, this is different the world is. "
     And...I felt good being in a place where I could express
     myself the way...of my choosing....I didn't have to
     stifle my voice....
                  WOMEN'S STUDIES STUDENT, 1991

Although Hunter College is a liberal arts college and does not view
the task of education in narrowly vocational terms, we do expect
that the kinds of critical learning in a multicultural environment
that we offer will deeply affect our students' lives. We expect
that students will change their perspectives; we also expect that
students will act to integrate their new perspectives into their
lives. They may change their course of study, for example, to avoid
courses that do not consider women's studies perspectives as valid.
They may change their majors. They may change their career plans or
how they think about key issues that affect their lives. We expect
that the decisions students make during and after their women's
studies courses will reflect their new learning and knowledge.
Additionally, women's studies students are likely to experience
dissonance and conflict as they juxtapose new material and
perspectives from their women's studies classes with their values
and lives in a predominantly sexist, racist, ethnocentric society.
The integration of the women's studies perspective into their lives
is likely to prove difficult; these difficulties will be reflected
in our classes. We need somehow to convey to students, though, that
it is possible (to use Elizabeth Minnich's phrase) to be
"tough-minded and tender-hearted." Such a goal is of special
importance at Hunter College because many students view education
in terms that are too narrowly vocational or instrumental.
Furthermore, a criticism often heard of American higher education
is that it lacks integration. In assessing the integration of
knowledge gained in women's studies courses into students' academic
plans and lives, we also can assess the contribution that women's
studies makes to the broader goal of liberal arts education.

In women's studies classes, students are given opportunities to
analyze their experiences outside the classroom for underlying
sexist and feminist principles. The juxtaposition of theoretical
and personal, experiential knowledge contributes to students' anger
and guilt at the same time it fosters their awareness of feminist

In order to assess students' integration of knowledge, the Women's
Studies Curriculum Committee devised a survey for participants in
the introductory women's studies courses during the fall 1990 and
spring 1991 semesters. Students were asked to comment on the
following issues: the value of the course to them as a whole,
whether a sense of community was built in the class, whether the
course met their expectations, and comparisons be- tween this
course and other introductory courses. Responses from these
open-ended questions include: 

* On the overall value of the class:

     I feel that it has had a large impact on how I view the world.
     I find more and more that I notice behaviors, situations, and
     find them disturbing for reasons that had never occurred to me

     I hit apathy and despair a few times because the anger just
     got to be too much to bear. I think that there needs to be
     some kind of weekly discussion group or something to vent
     feelings of frustration.

     This course had a big impact on my way of thinking. It enabled
     me to view my way of life and the world around me.

     It forced me to become aware of a lot of realities that
     perhaps I didn't want to face . I'm much more aware of the
     discriminatory attitudes against women that are around me

* On community:

     The class was made up of very diverse ethnic groups and the
     respect and interaction and sharing that went on was
     emotionally and intellectually supportive.

     I feel that our class has become a community. When I had to
     speak in front of the class, I never felt nervous. All of my
     classmates gave me encouragement and a feeling of belonging.

In the discussion from the collective conversations, women
generally noted that they made connections between their women's
studies courses and their daily lives. However, these connections
often were problematic. Students suggested the need for support
groups, ongoing contacts, and more dialogue among students to
foster further connections between their cognitive and emotional
learning. Sample responses include:

     ...the women's studies courses that I take go beyond this
     classroom, this paper that I'm writing, it goes out and
     just...touches everything else that 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.

     Women's studies has for me merged my education with my
     own life process, my own personal development and brought
     them together so it's much more enriching and much more
     real, other classes you memorize, you read put it away in compartments.

That Hunter's Women's Studies Program does not want students to put
away their new knowledge into compartments is emphasized overtly by
one of the women's studies awards established, by its internship
programs, and by its Women's Studies Club. Through these vehicles,
students are encouraged, rewarded, and given college credit for
integrating knowledge in such a way that it affects one's behavior.

Significantly, it was an alumna, Sylvia Faulkner, who established
a fund in her name that is used each year to award a $500 prize to
a women's studies major who has written an essay that integrates
her experiences in the Women's Studies Program at Hunter College.
To date, five Sylvia Faulkner Awards have been presented.

Through internships, women's studies students are challenged to
move knowledge out of compartments and into the world. Transforming
their own thinking and actions, integrated knowledge becomes for
many students a way of applying that knowledge to transform society
itself. During 1990-91, student interns participated in a variety
of projects, especially those sponsored by a Reproductive Rights
Grant. Students were placed at Students Organizing Students; the
Reproductive Rights Task Force, Policy Development Unit, Manhattan
Borough President's Office; Childbearing Center, Morris Heights,
the Bronx; HELP/AYUDA (an AIDS education organization in East
Harlem); STD Education Project, New York City Health Department;
New York Community Trust;. Latina Roundtable on Health and
Reproductive Rights; Boehm Foundation; ASTRAEA Foundation; NOW-NYC,
National Congress of Neighborhood Women's You Can Community School;
Returning Women Magazine; Women's Health Education Project; and the
American Civil Liberties Union-Reproductive Freedom Project.

Many interns expressed in their reports that they were able to
connect the theory and scholarship from women's studies courses
into their work. Many students also were offered jobs as a result
of their internships; others discovered new career goals and

Similarly, students who are members of the Women's Studies Club
have transferred what they have learned about integrated knowledge
into the activities they organize. During the 1990-91 academic year
the Women's Studies Club facilitated several workshops and
discussion groups to deal with the integration of scholarship and
action. Sample topics included academic and workplace sexual
harassment, relationships, and racism.


Participating in the FIPSE assessment project definitely has
affected our program. Most importantly, our participation has
created a tone and an opportunity for self-conscious thought and
action about what we are doing as a program. It has confirmed in
many cases our intuitive judgments about how well we are succeeding
with our program goals, but it also has given us areas to focus on
for improvement as well as entirely new areas to investigate as we
continue to incorporate assessment into our regular routine of
evaluating what we are doing educationally. The FIPSE project has
provided us with a focus around which we have organized our annual
retreats for the past three years. One of our serendipitous
findings, then, is how valuable it is for the program--majors, new
students, regular faculty members, adjuncts, staff--to set aside a
day for discussion and consideration of our goals, pedagogy, and

For example, since our program has been striving for some years to
increase the amount and kind of multicultural offerings in women's
studies and on the campus at large, it has been extremely important
for us to assess both our accomplishments and our needs for the
future. One of the most difficult aspects of making education more
multicultural is creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual
respect. The assessment techniques we have used this year show that
we are moving toward accomplishing this end, even though no one yet
believes that we have dealt entirely satisfactorily with this

Faculty retreats that focused on the assessment project have helped
us sort out where we want to do additional work. One concern, for
instance, raised repeatedly in retreat discussions, has been the
way new knowledge, especially new knowledge that causes one to
reevaluate old ways of seeing the world and other people, often
results in emotionally charged class sessions. Many of the students
who participate in the introductory course in women's studies never
have encountered feminist philosophies in prior courses. They may
have no one at home with whom to discuss the class content, they
may be seen as "rocking the boat," questioning their family's
religion and values, and/or called derogatory names because of
their association with feminism and women's studies. At Hunter, we
believe that the classroom needs to become a place where women can
feel good about themselves and others without the fear of being
laughed at or considered "unfeminine." Pedagogical techniques
including journal writing, experiential exercises, introspective
autobiographies, and cooperative learning structures have had the
power to replace self-doubt with certainty, low self-esteem with
respect and caring.

Expressions of anger in the classroom sometimes stem from students
realizing they may not be living their lives according to feminist
principles; they also may feel that their voices as women of color
are not being heard. Students may, as a result, fail to attend
class regularly, play devil's advocate in each session, and/or
attempt to take leadership in the classroom. Very commonly,
manifestations of anger in the classroom become fixed on the
instructor because of her expressions of feminism and
multiculturalism as she interprets them. One way that some of our
faculty members deal with this anger is to acknowledge it, claim
its transformative powers, and direct it toward individual and
social change. In order to meet this goal, for example, Michele
Paludi devotes class time to interpersonal communication skills,
especially the use of "I" statements--for example, "I
feel_______when you_______because of_________." This technique has
helped participants give constructive feedback in a supportive
atmosphere, producing a more honest classroom. Occasionally,
students' anger becomes fixed on other students. This has
manifested itself in directing homophobic and racist remarks toward
other women in the classroom. Some faculty members have translated
these comments into a discussion about a "continuum of
feminism"--that there is not one kind of feminist. In addition,
devoting class time to how to argue with ideas rather than people
has been helpful.

Faculty members have discovered from such conversations how helpful
and reassuring it is to discuss pedagogy with committed colleagues.
We discovered that we need to hold more discussion of women's
studies pedagogy within the women's studies faculty and with
faculty members in the disciplines. The FIPSE project also has
provided additional opportunities to pull together and share
ongoing work on pedagogy, especially research in that area done by
our own women's studies faculty.

Given how beneficial the faculty members felt their participation
was in the project, it is no surprise that students felt similarly.
The students and alumnae were quick to point out to the program
coordinators how much they valued being consulted in the assessment
project. It became a concrete way of enacting the empowerment and
critical thinking that the project it- self hoped to investigate.
Several students hoped that the program would continue such
collective discussions and figure out a way to build them into the
program's regular activities, both for the eager students and for
those who were more reluctant to participate initially.

For a group of faculty members, assessment has lost its negative
overtones of coercion from outside forces. Especially for faculty
members most involved in this project, learning about assessment as
a tool for curriculum improvement, and not as a means of
disciplining the faculty and student workforce, has been extremely
valuable. At Hunter College, women's studies faculty members are
important constituents of the college community, often serving on
major committees elsewhere. Another consequence of this grant,
then, is that we have created a core advocacy group for assessment.
Such a core has an impact university-wide in terms of Freshman Year
Initiative, work done on the Undergraduate Course of Study
Committee, the Committee on Remediation, the Provost's Advisory
Committee on Remedial and Developmental Programs, and within the
Faculty Delegate Assembly and University Faculty Senate.

Materials collected for the FIPSE project also are useful in
explaining the nature and extent of gender harassment and will be
used by members of the Sexual Harassment Panel to train the
President's Hunter College Cabinet. Certain assessment instruments
developed for the FIPSE project, such as the surveys in "Women's
Studies 100," are going to become an ongoing source of assessment
in the future. The surveys turned out to be an invaluable way to
monitor from one semester to the next how a particular course
fared. The curriculum committee in women's studies plans to
continue its use and perhaps extend it to other women's studies
classes as well. Similarly, we discovered how useful our newsletter
and annual report are as assessment documents because they reveal
much about the program, its history, concerns, and areas of focus.

The FIPSE project also has caused us to consider some new areas of
investigation and collaboration. The project, for example, has
focused our attention in a new way on the relationship between
women's studies and the liberal arts curriculum. This focus is
particularly valuable at Hunter College at the moment since there
is an ongoing debate about whether to include a pluralism and
diversity requirement in the basic distribution requirement.

Another area we hope to explore further, both in more precise focus
groups and with more help from Hunter's Office of Institutional
Research, is the question of the relationship of women's studies to
retention. We might hypothesize that, since retention seems to be
strongly linked with a sense of attachment, the kind of community
formed in women's studies classes (which was clearly demonstrated
by our work on the FIPSE project) might prove useful in retaining

The Women's Studies Program also is thinking in new ways about its
relationship to remedial and developmental programs. Thinking about
basic pedagogical questions such as reading and writing skills in
"Women's Studies 100" has raised within the curriculum committee in
women's studies the question of whether women's studies courses
might not be linked effectively with sections of remedial and
developmental courses at Hunter. One of the most serious problems
for students in developmental courses here is their lack of access
to regular courses in Hunter's curriculum so that they may begin to
do college-level work. "Women's Studies 100" seems a most
appropriate bridge course. The program has contacted members of the
developmental programs to discuss this future collaboration.

Finally, the FIPSE assessment has influenced directly the
activities and programs in women's studies. As a result of the
project, the program has created for itself for the first time a
list of alumnae and majors. Now that these lists have been
prepared, it will be much easier to keep them up-to-date and
accurate. As such, they will become a rich source of new data for
questions we will continue to raise about what happens to students
who take women's studies courses.

The project's focus on fostering multicultural awareness has
contributed to two of the faculty development workshops for the
1991-92 academic year. One concerned applying for funding for
research on women and ethnic minority women in particular, and one
concerned publishing textbooks in the areas of race and gender. We
also have prepared a list of faculty research interests in the
interface of race, class, and gender, making such copies avail-
able at a variety of places on campus.

The project's work on integrating knowledge into our lives has been
partly responsible for several other program activities this year.
The first was a "Women's Fair," something the program hopes to
offer each semester, at which organizations from Hunter College as
well as throughout New York City display materials and discuss
their work in a variety of areas students requested. Among those
subjects are AIDS, cancer, gynecological care, and mental health

That same semester, a resource manual was prepared and distributed
with referrals and resources for women's studies students that
contains information about physical and psychological care in New
York City. A second manual dealing with multicultural issues was
prepared in spring 1992.

Hunter's Women's Studies Program also is in the process of
establishing a mentoring program for women's studies students.
Mentors will be Hunter alumnae who are doing feminist advocacy in
New York City, providing students with concrete examples of how to
implement knowledge to transform people's lives.

Emphasizing the importance of applying new knowledge to the society
in which we live, the Women's Studies Program also plans to
collaborate more closely with the National Council for Research on
Women, a ten-year-old coalition of sixty-nine research and policy
centers around the country. NCRW's centers have a special mission
to create opportunities for connecting research to policy issues
and practitioners' needs. Hunter's Women's Studies Program already
has helped the council prepare a resource manual on academic sexual
harassment. The FIPSE project, then, has been effective in helping
us assess where we have been, what we have done well, and what
directions we need to go in as the program moves into a new phase
of development with the recent appointment of a new coordinator.
Hunter women's studies faculty members share a continuing
commitment to create a climate where a variety of students'
cultural experiences are valued, where students are taught to think
critically, and where students are encouraged to integrate
knowledge with life. The FIPSE project has extended the
collaborative model of working together with students and faculty
members, all of us learning cooperatively in the process. This, we
believe, is the major goal of feminist education.

1. We wish to extend our appreciation to Donna Murdock and Ruth
Weisgal for providing us with demographic information and
summarizing the material from Hunter College's participation in the
NWSA grant on "The Courage to Question." Donna Murdock deserves
special recognition for her role in conducting interviews with
women's studies students and alumnae. We also wish to thank Provost
Laura Strumingher and Associate Provost Shirely Hune for their
support of this project. Our colleagues Marnia Lazreg, Rosalind
Petchesky, and Barbara Winslow deserve recognition for
administering surveys to students in their classes during the
1990-91 academic year. And we thank the women's studies students
and alumnae who were gracious in participating in our projects.
Finally, we would like to recognize the coordinators of Hunter's
Women's Studies Program since its inception in the mid-1970s: Sarah
Pomeroy, Dorothy Helly, Rosalind Petchesky, and Michele Paludi.

                     SURVEY OF PARTICIPANTS 
                       CUNY-HUNTER COLLEGE

1. Your year at Hunter: 
first-year student 

2. Your sex:
Female      Male

3. How do you identify yourself in terms of your ethnic identity?

4. Your age: 
71 +

5. Your major:
Your Co-Major or minor:

6. Why did you take "Introduction to Women's Studies"? (check all
that apply) 
A friend recommended it 
It was one of the few open at the time I wanted 
I wanted to take a/another women's studies course 
I am a women's studies collateral major 
I am thinking about becoming a women's studies collateral major 
The subject matter intrigued me 
I wanted to take a course with this professor 
Other (please list)

7. Additional information about yourself you would like to share
with us: 

We would like to know the ways the introductory course has had an
impact on you. ne following questions deal with this issue.

1. Comment on the value of this course to you as a whole.

2. If you had to describe this course to a friend, what three
adjectives would you use? Why ?

3. Did this course meet your expectations? Why or why not?

4. If the instructor of this course could have done something
differently, what would that have been '

5. If you could have done something differently in this course,
what would that have been ?

6. Please suggest three topics you believe need to be discussed in
the introductory course ?

7. Compared to other introductory courses you have taken (e.g.,
introductory sociology, introductory psychology), how has
"Introduction to Women's Studies" been similar?

8. Was there a balance between the survey-scope of the course and
some more in-depth investigation? Please explain.

9. Please identify three major themes from the introductory course
in women's studies.

10. Do you think that a sense of community was built in your
introductory course? Why or why not?

11. What readings did you find particularly useful in this course?

12. This is your space! We welcome your comments about any of the
items in the survey and additional information about the
introductory course you would like to share with us. Thank you
                           CHAPTER 7

                        OBERLIN COLLEGE 

                      BY LINDA R. SILVER -1

Oberlin College examines some of the distinctions and tensions, as
well as the commonalities, among students and faculty members of
diverse identities, rather than embracing a single, singular
conception of women's studies teaching and learning. Focusing their
assessment on both students and faculty, then, Oberlin College
examines student learning and self-empowerment; collaborative
learning; and relational understandings of race, ethnicity, class,
gender, and sexuality.

Oberlin College, founded in 1835, is an independent, coeducational
institution located thirty-five miles southwest of Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1841, it was the first American college to grant undergraduate
degrees to women. Oberlin also was a leader in the education of
people of color; by 1900, one-third of all black graduates of
predominantly white institutions in America had graduated from
Oberlin. In keeping with its own origins in nineteenth-century
social change movements, the college today has a national
reputation as an institution that encourages intense engagement
with intellectual and social issues and challenges students to
combine scholarship with activism and social responsibility.
Currently, Oberlin's student enrollment is 2,750, with 2,250
students in the College of Arts and Sciences and 500 in the
Conservatory of Music (Oberlin course catalogue, 1991-92).

Efforts to initiate a women's studies program at the college began
in the early 1970s and culminated in 1982, when a formal program
officially was established. It is run by a committee of faculty
members and students, directed by a faculty member, and
administered by a part-time coordinator.

With one full-time faculty member, the program offers five core
courses, including an introduction to women's studies and a senior
seminar. In addition, the program offers core courses focusing
primarily on women or gender cross-listed with fifteen departments
and programs including Anthropology, Black Studies, Philosophy,
Russian, and Theatre and Dance. Students also may choose additional
work from among almost one hundred related courses offered by
sixteen departments or programs, all of which treat a topic or In
a survey of majors and minors...three quarters named [their women's
studies courses] as the most intellectually stimulating courses
they had taken at Oberlin theme involving gender as part of the
course material. By the midpoint in the 1991-92 academic year.
there were sixty women's studies majors and fifteen minors. The
Women's Studies Program is one of Oberlin College's fastest growing
academic areas.

Student demand for women's studies courses far exceeds the ability
of the program to meet that demand. With only one full-time
professor responsible for the introductory course, the practicum,
and the senior seminar as well as several other offerings,
wait-lists for courses sometimes run as high as two hundred
students. Requests to the administration from students and from the
Women's Studies Program Committee have met with very limited
success, running up against not only competing requests from other
units of the college but also against a period of economic
uncertainty and financial retrenchment. Recognized needs of the
program, such as an intermediate-level feminist methodology course
and modifications to strengthen the practicum, will remain unmet
until at least one additional full-time faculty member is hired.

The steady growth of the program and the ever-increasing popularity
of its courses can be explained in part by the students' awareness
of the interrelationships between race, gender, class, and
sexuality. The program prides itself on its attempts to take these
issues seriously and to provide a conceptual framework that
integrates the multiple categories. As one student puts it:

     Women's studies is not just about gender at Oberlin....
     What's so important to me about women's studies here--and
     if it hadn't been this way I don't think I would have
     continued with the major--is that it's about a lot of
     different systemic oppressions, and central to these are
     race and class and gender. Nor is it just about women....
     I'm not saying...that WOST students are always concerned
     with race, class, nationality, and sexuality issues. But
     we have a base we can build on....

In a survey of majors and minors conducted several years ago as
part of a class project, all of the respondents said they found
their women's studies courses to be intellectually challenging, and
three quarters named them as the most intellectually stimulating
courses they had taken at Oberlin. The students conducting the
survey assert that "such an exceptionally high number of
academically satisfied students within a single department is quite
unusual. While there were complaints about the program, there was
no disagreement that these students felt very challenged." Even
students who arrive at Oberlin as self-proclaimed feminists praise
the program for its power to transform and challenge. As a 1982
women's studies graduate explained:

     The college (or specific teachers and groups there) took
     that feminism seriously--educated, expanded, challenged,
     layered, enriched that stance, truly enlarging my
     knowledge and experience.

                         PROGRAM GOALS 

During the first year of participation in NWSA's FIPSE national
assessment project, the Women's Studies Program Committee devoted
substantial time to discussing its goals, its future, its faculty
and curricular needs, and its student audience. The basis for our
discussion of the goals of our Women's Studies Program was the
catalogue copy that currently describes us as:

     a multidisciplinary program exploring topics concerning
     women, gender, and difference, in the humanities, social
     sciences, and natural sciences. Course work includes
     scholarship by and/or about women of varying racial,
     ethnic and class backgrounds and sexual identities in
     literature, the arts, history and theory; it also
     analyzes the experiences of men and women with respect to
     social, psychological, cultural and biological factors
     influencing the construction and representation of
     gender. Women's studies courses often involve the
     investigation of materials previously neglected by
     scholars and new methodological and critical approaches
     to materials customarily treated in other ways. Such
     courses may as a result propose revisions in the content,
     methods, and assumptions of particular disciplines in
     light of recent feminist scholarship.

Going beyond the catalogue description, we stressed that our aims
are multicultural and interdisciplinary; we see the program
striving on the one hand to achieve analytic clarity and rigor and,
on the other, to facilitate, personal growth and student voice. We
see important interconnections between what appear as separate
categories in the NWSA/FIPSE proposal: knowledge base and learning
skills. We see ourselves as trying to foster tolerant, critical
habits of mind in which students learn to question their own
assumptions, in order to explore the ideological underpinnings of
knowledge to see the connections between structures of knowledge
and structures of society. We want We want to communicate how
differential access to power and authority--with respect to gender,
race, class, and sexuality--shapes our understandings to foster a
self-reflexive criticism that identifies and, beyond that, locates
epistemological formulations within social structures. We want to
communicate how differential access to power and authority--with
respect to gender, race, class, and sexuality--shapes our
understandings. Our discussion stressed that the knowledge we seek
to communicate in women's studies is not a simple body of
information but rather a question of approach and
conceptualization. In this way, we see logical connections between
women's studies and other programs dealing with ethnic and minority
peoples and people of color.

We are currently trying to make our women's studies program more
truly interdisciplinary, and we believe our own core program
courses have contributed to making connections between disciplines.
At the same time, we think it is important to encourage the growth
of more courses in a variety of disciplines across the curriculum.
At present, our disciplinary strengths are centered in the
humanities, with some representation in the social sciences and
real weaknesses in the area of the natural sciences. Unfortunately,
such curricular lopsidedness hinders our programmatic goals.

We also are consciously working to continue our progress toward a
program where multicultural issues inform every aspect of our
program, including our curriculum, our faculty, and our student
audience. We seek to involve people of different ethnic and racial
backgrounds and sexual orientations at all levels. In other ways,
too, we are continuing our efforts to reach out to a variety of
student constituencies, including women and men, and students from
a variety of fields from the natural sciences, social sciences, and
humanities, irrespective of majors.

For many, the issue of learning skills includes assisting students
in developing a personal voice and expression, as well as basic
confidence in learning. We are concerned that our students learn to
"authorize" their own ideas and identities; this issue is
especially important for traditionally marginalized groups such as
women in general and especially women of color and lesbian and
bisexual women. For faculty, our goals for ourselves include
learning to encourage different modes of expression and
reevaluating why certain skills are deemed important.

In terms of feminist pedagogy, we seek to foster critical,
tolerant, investigative thinking, and we encourage students not to
reproduce knowledge but actually to produce it as well. To do this,
we think feminist pedagogy must demonstrate a sensitivity to
questions of social differentiation in the classroom and in the
learning process. Again, feminist pedagogy must strive to give
voice. In working on the NWSA/FIPSE project, we on the faculty
articulated once more our goal of experimenting further in methods
of presentation and evaluation, of undertaking cooperative learning
projects, and new orientations in our off-campus practicum

Finally, we all concurred that personal growth has a special place
in women's studies and that encouraging creative, critical thinking
and fostering voice would empower students and heighten their
awareness. We like to think that what we do in women's studies
classrooms will have a positive impact on how our students see
themselves and what they are doing in the "outside world" beyond
our academic context. We hope that students are learning how to
create new knowledge and new group relations.

                        ASSESSMENT PLAN 

Our Women's Studies Program is grounded in the recognition of
differences: differences between courses, in the courses of study
followed by our diverse majors and minors, among our students, and
among our faculty. Rather than embrace a single, singular
conception of women's studies teaching and learning, then, our
objectives in conducting our self-assessment entail getting at some
of the distinctions and tensions, as well as the commonalities,
among students and faculty members of diverse racial, ethnic,
class, gender and sexual identities. Thus, we recognize and hope to
highlight the positionalities from which learning and teaching
occur in our program. To this end, more- over, we focused our
assessment on both students and faculty members. The questions we
posed were: 

* Does student learning entail self-empowerment? We understand
self-empowerment as a matter of agency and social responsibility
and self-understanding as inseparable from an articulated sense of
social responsibility. Thus the self- empowerment we hope to teach
involves students' coming to an understanding of the identity and
history of their own group(s) within the context of understanding
the identities and histories of members of other groups, all such
understanding being situated within substantive knowledge of
sociocultural structures. Self-empowerment also entails gaining an
understanding of the tools of disciplinary and social analysis and
of modes for effecting social change. 

* To what extent does collaborative learning occur, and how
effective is it? We defined pedagogy as a matter of shared
responsibility and shared work and recognize that the weight of
responsibility differs from class to class. We do not want to
prescribe what the collective nature of learning is for the entire
program; rather, we want to assess whether the pedagogical
structures of a given class are appropriate to the objectives--and
the composition--of the class. Moreover, given our understanding
that knowledge is produced and not simply acquired, we want to
learn the extent to which our students are engaging in genuinely
collective work and how that work is being done. Since
collaborative learning means working with and learning from people
who are different from oneself, we specifically want to learn
whether/how our students are negotiating and mediating differences,
how they are putting themselves on the line, and what the outcomes

* Does a particular course foster a relational understanding of
race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality? Specifically, does
it help students understand the significance of these categories?
Does it identify how they operate individually? Does it identify
how they operate in conjunction?

                     METHODS OF ASSESSMENT 

Students in women's studies courses, senior women's studies majors,
alumnae, and faculty members were the four groups upon whom the
assessment focused. Written self-statements (see page 176) were
administered three times during a semester to students in seventeen
courses. These students were not necessarily women's studies majors
or minors, and their degree of engagement with women's studies
varied from fairly intensive to virtually none at all. Senior
majors taking the women's studies senior seminar interviewed one
another as part of a class project. A questionnaire was mailed to
college faculty members and another was inserted into an issue of
the program's newsletter, WomaNews, and mailed to alumnae.
Supplementing these methods of gathering data was a set of student
interviews conducted by a senior major who served for one semester
as the project's research assistant.

The shape of the assessment plan as it developed tends to reflect
the growing national debate about multiculturalism and the
questions asked about women's studies programs in terms of this
debate: What fosters student learning and self-empowerment? How can
courses encourage a relational understanding of gender, race,
class, and sexuality? Does feminist pedagogy differ from other
types? How do women's studies courses affect students' lives and
life choices?


Self-empowerment stands out as the program goal most important to
students. The results of the assessment suggest that students'
understanding of the meaning of the concept develops over the
course of their college experience and is Influenced by the
intensity of their engagement with women's studies. By senior year,
a women's studies student, for instance, revealed in an interview
that her agenda in women's studies started with issues she could
apply specifically to herself and her position and spread out into
"looking at systems of domination:'s about power and how
society is structured."

In the self-statements, no question directly relating to or
mentioning the term "self-empowerment" was asked. However, answers
to questions about "the most significant thing you have learned" in
terms of either process or content elicited responses that connote
self-empowerment: "I've learned how to think.... I have a whole
bunch of alternatives open to me that I want to take. I am engaged"
(junior, art major). In student responses, self-empowerment
occurred almost twice as often as the next cited
category--collaborative learning.

     The most important thing...was not just getting my hands
     on information but also on a method...of knowing what to
     look out for and what to do when I see it. 

     I have gained a sense of feminist literary criticism with
     which I may not only approach all other literature but
     also which I may apply to my personal life. 
                      SENIOR, ENGLISH MAJOR

     I have learned something about coalitions and the
     difficulties of trying. I have learned to distinguish
     between guilt and power. I learned about silence and what
     it means. I have learned to encompass a global con- text
     into my thinking and, hopefully, acting. 
                     SENIOR, SOCIOLOGY MAJOR

Self-empowerment was also central to the comments of the senior
students who were interviewed. As one senior put it,
"Self-empowerment is of the utmost importance because without it,
you are immobilized." In the interviews, however, the link with
social responsibility was more apparent. When asked to describe the
changes in their expectations of their women's studies education
between their first and last college years, the majority commented
on how their interest had shifted from personal to social issues.
One student told the interviewer that she had experienced a "growth
that is a natural progression in women's studies," that her "first
exposure to feminist coursework centered around issues of self" and
that as she developed better and more numerous skills she "desired
to politicize and problematize the personal." When included in a
list of Oberlin's Women's Studies Program goals self-empowerment
and the linking of personal with social responsibility were rated
together as most important.

     What's important to me is having a language not only to
     represent myself but to talk about political change....
     It's more about feminist thinking and method as opposed
     to "feminine" or "women's issues." It's about learning
     how to address marginalization and difference.

Another student stated that women's studies helped her see where
she has "work to do in this world" and how to do that work; she did
not see women's studies as a "personal tool for me to learn how to
feel good about myself as a woman."

While students commented on the primacy of empowerment as both an
educational goal and as an outcome of the feminist education they
receive at Oberlin, neither alumnae nor faculty members ranked it
first among the stated program goals of student self-empowerment,
recognition of differences, collaborative learning, and
understanding the relationships among race, class, gender, and
sexuality. Alumnae were reluctant to give a ranking. Comments like
"All are important" or "It's impossible to rank hierarchically
things that are so interrelated" were common. However, when asked
if and how the women's studies courses they had taken at Oberlin
had influenced their lives, many alumnae singled out the
self-empowering nature of the critical thinking in which they had
been encouraged to engage. Classroom teaching practices and
relationships with peers and faculty were characterized as
providing the freedom and courage to question, a means toward
empowerment, a catalyst toward political action, and a model for
sorting through social issues.

We were interested in finding out if women's studies alumnae
continue to be involved in feminist activities after they graduate.
In other words, were they empowered toward social action? The broad
categories of feminist activities identified by Linton were used as
a basis for this inquiry. -2 Conceptualizations of feminism
represented by these activities included reproductive rights
clinics, battered women's shelters, marches, networks, political
action, women's crafts, filmmaking, voter education, and research. 

All of the alumnae who responded had participated in most of the
sixteen activities specified. The involvement of many had, in fact,
begun at Oberlin and had been carried on after graduation, often in
the professions they now practice, such as teaching or law. This
seems fitting for graduates of a college whose motto is "Learning
and Labor" and whose women's studies program currently is
considering how to strengthen students' ability to relate theory to
practice. One graduate articulated the importance of developing in
students "the ability to see how theory shapes practice and how
practice-- the real, changing world--keeps pressing at the
boundaries of theory."

The most critical comments about the Women's Studies Program at
Oberlin came not from students but from faculty members who were
not teaching in the Women's Studies Program. The survey sent to
Oberlin's general faculty revealed that there was striking
variation in how the program is perceived and accepted (see pages
174-75). In contrast to the evaluations by students who had taken
women's studies courses, a minority of faculty respondents, both
female and male, construed the program's goals as being
ideological, political, or indicative of "one big counseling
session." In reply to a question about the impact of the program on
the college, one female humanities professor, who is not part of
the Women's Studies Program, wrote:

     [It has had a] terrible impact--the program has
     politicized and ideologized students instead of promoting
     objectivity in education....I must withdraw my support
     for this program until it becomes less ideological and
     more in line with the spirit of true academic excellence
     at Oberlin....

A long-time professor of mathematics, who also is not part of the
program, stated that the goals of the program "make [it] sound more
like a political party than an academic department. I have been
supportive of women's studies in the past, but I am not willing to
support a political party in disguise."

Notwithstanding these views, the vast majority of faculty members
support the program and its stated goals. As one faculty member
argued, "Its continued existence is of core importance to the
mission of the institution," and another echoed these sentiments:
"...the role of the program as an institutional basis for dissent
is absolutely vital to the educational mission of the college."
Still others praised women's studies because it "
legitimacy to the college's progressive and tolerant reputation."
Recognizing that some faculty members "see in women's studies
radical lunacy writ large," a respondent nonetheless valued the
program because it "promotes attention to multiculturalism and
politics." Finally, another faculty member explained why students
were so attracted to the Women's Studies Program: "[It] has the
most interesting faculty and the most interesting ideas." When
asked what goals, if any, they would add to those stated, the goal
of critical thinking was added most often. This coincides with the
alumnae's recognition that they had, in fact, been taught to think
critically, which they valued even more after graduation. According
to one faculty comment, critical thinking was cultivated in women's
studies courses:

     In the past couple of years, I've noticed that students
     who have taken at least the introductory course in
     women's studies are better trained in critical thinking
     than many other students. So I gather that critical
     thinking is more consistently encouraged by women's
     studies pedagogy than can be assumed across the

                     COLLABORATIVE LEARNING 

In the self-statements, collaborative learning was ranked by
students as second in importance only after self-empowerment. In
commenting on collaborative learning, one student, for example,
explained, "I've not learned as much in any other class at Oberlin
in the past three and one half years" (senior, art major). Another
commented: "I think collaborative learning is effective in any
class....I appreciate this method in my sociology and psychology
class and wish it were more common in my economics classes"
(junior, economics major). That students come to realize through
collaborative learning that their peers can be sources of new
knowledge is apparent in the following self-statement: "I am
constantly learning from classmates....In this class, with the
issues we discuss because they're personal, and public/political,
cooperative learning is really effective and eye-opening"
(sophomore, women's studies major).

As a pedagogical method, collaborative learning more readily
challenges students to mediate differences which emerge as students
work closely with one another. The process is not an easy one,
according to one senior:

     We are in the process of negotiation [of difference];
     ...we are (supposedly) committing ourselves to frank
     discourse with faith in one another's central worth, but
     it's hard. We are so untrusting and quick to judge or
     reluctant to judge at all. 

Most students, nonetheless, have developed strategies for
negotiating differences that include "recognizing and dealing with
them," "respectful listening," and "allowing for conflict." While
the strategies do not always work students felt that the challenge
to interact across differences was educationally productive:

     I've tried (and occasionally failed) not to assume things
     about people from different backgrounds...and I've been
     curious about what they think. It's worked pretty
     well...a lot of communication is going on. 
                      SENIOR, HISTORY MAJOR

An alumna concurred with students about the value of collaborative
learning, especially in terms of its application after graduation:

     Collaborative learning is particularly important because
     it requires a recognition of one's own strengths and also
     a recognition of difference. It's an important life skill
     to be able to work with others, engaged in our
     differences. Politically, this is significant. 
                  1991 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE

Senior seminar interviews reiterated what other students had said
about both the importance and the challenge of collaborative
learning. As one senior described it, "collaborative learning was
valuable was certainly attempted but at times was
difficult." Another captured the dynamic classroom interaction that
can flow from collaborative learning: "The classroom becomes a
setting for exchange and question and a form of activism. And I
haven't had it in every classroom in Oberlin...maybe two or three."

Some seniors, however, were more skeptical about how uniformly
collaborative learning actually was integrated into every women's
studies course. While one senior felt it "is one area that...has
been very successfully met at times," she also felt it "has simply
been given lip service at other times." Another senior, who had
taken only women's studies courses for two consecutive semesters,
stated she was weary of the collaborative learning approach,
adding, "I wish there was more lecturing."


While students ranked self-empowerment and collaborative learning
as the two program goals that they considered most important, both
women's studies alumnae and faculty members placed greatest
importance on teaching students to understand the relationships
among race, class, gender, and sexuality. Comments from graduates
and faculty members, moreover, suggested that this understanding
was integrally related to the recognition and analysis of
difference. For example, one alumna wrote:

     Although I was aware of sexual and racial oppression and
     my opposition to them when I arrived, Oberlin opened my
     eyes to a multitude of issues in which...difference-based
     oppressions play a part and in the ways that they all
     interact. It added to my ability to analyze power.... 
                  1985 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE

For many graduates, Oberlin was their first opportunity to be
reflective about the relationships among class, gender, and
sexuality. It often was other students within women's studies and
beyond it who triggered intellectual and personal growth:

     Before I came to Oberlin I had had neither the freedom
     nor the opportunity to question or even develop any ideas
     about these issues. The students I met were the main way
     this questioning and development took place. 
                  1985 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE

Another alumna had a similar experience: "At Oberlin,
I...discovered I was a feminist. It was also the first place I ever
met openly gay and lesbian people" (1982 graduate). What women's
studies seemed to provide for many students was the conceptual
framework for understanding complex relationships between systems
of oppressions. As one women's studies graduate explained:

     I was exposed to critical thought on these issues and
     provided with the means to make links between them.
     [Oberlin] taught me to ask questions--not just attempt to
     give answers. I became more equipped to examine my own
     racism and classism at Oberlin. 
                 1988 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE 

Alumnae surveyed--all of whom had taken women's studies
courses--strongly believed that Oberlin had influenced them
regarding these issues; through Oberlin's tradition of tolerance,
its respect for diversity and difference, its strong feminist and
humanist tradition, and its inclusiveness of a variety of
life-styles, values, ideas, and backgrounds. Blending the
experience as a women's studies graduate with that of the
institutional culture of Oberlin College itself, one student

     Oberlin provided an inclusive environment in which I was
     free to test and expand my creative and intellectual
     potential without feeling limited. I learned the meaning
     of egalitarianism and have applied that approach to life
     after Oberlin. 
                  1984 OBERLIN COLLEGE GRADUATE

Oberlin's faculty has given questions of difference and issues of
multiculturalism primacy among its concerns for several years.
After much debate college-wide, a multicultural diversity
requirement was added last year to the general college requirements
as well as to the requirements for the women's studies major. Two
women's studies faculty members, Chandra Mohanty and Gloria
Watkins, organized and convened a year-long faculty working
colloquium entitled "Pedagogies of Gender, Race, and Empire," which
included a panel discussion of cultural diversity at Oberlin and
several speakers on "oppositional" and non-Eurocentric pedagogy.

Even among critics of the Women's Studies Program, its leadership
in these areas is acknowledged. One professor noted the impact of
the program on the college as "profound" and remarked that "the
program has [had] important spillover impact on many disciplines
and majors." Another commented that the "rigorous analysis" of
these issues in women's studies courses raises students' awareness
of the linkage between the local and the global. Still another
praised women's studies for the way its multicultural feminist
theory enlightened and empowered students:

     Students learn more about the interrelations of gender,
     race, class, and sexuality in the social and ideological
     construction of power and knowledge than in any other
     program.... They gain empowerment by being taught to
     query and challenge the status quo of accepted knowledge

Student responses on the self-statements indicate that this kind of
understanding is considered integral to women's studies. All of the
students answering questions at the beginning of the semester about
race, gender, sexuality, and class said they expected these issues
to be covered in class. Most of them expected all four categories
to be covered, while the rest specified which they thought would
not be. Although this varied by course, class and sexuality were
the two categories most students assumed would be excluded.

At mid-semester, students were asked if gender, race, class, and
sexuality were, in fact, being addressed. Over half of the students
stated that all four were woven into the course. A smaller
proportion of students stated that not all categories had been
incorporated into the course. Although this varied by course,
students cited race, rather than class or sexuality, as the
category most frequently excluded.

Self-statement number three asked how questions of gender, race,
class, and sexuality were being addressed. Comments included:
"Through readings, discussions, theorizing..."; "In terms of how
[race] shapes people's identities and how much it is tied to other
factors like gender.... How to re-analyze and re-address these
conceptions"; "[The class] tried to address all of these together.
It's difficult to assess how well it ultimately managed to do so";
"This class addresses [these issues] as integral and inseparable
from WOST"; and "Before taking this class I had no idea how much
race, class, gender, and sexuality were involved in forming
feminist thinking...."

Senior seminar students recognized the multiple layers of meaning
involved in issues of differences. In every interview, students
commented about difference which was often cited as one of the most
valuable learning experiences. As one student explained, "There's
such a consciousness with [women's studies] of the importance of
interdisciplinary study, of discussing difference and of having a
language for discussing difference." For another senior, the most
valuable part of her learning in women's studies was her newfound
ability to see the "layeredness and interconnectedness of the
different systems that center around gender, race, class, and
sexuality." In explaining to those who ask her what women's studies
is, a senior answers by saying:

     ...we study how gender, race, class, and sexuality fit
     into systems of government and knowledge.... So it's not
     necessarily "woman." It's how men and women interact. .
     .and what affects their behavior or their position or
     their experience. 

Perhaps the clearest statement of how successfully women's studies
courses provided students with the intellectual framework for
understanding relationships of power is captured by the senior who

     The first,...most important lesson I learned was the
     notion of center and...who is placed at the center....
     That this system creates a situation where people of
     color, and women, and working class people are
     marginalized and targeted [has] sort of become central to
     how I think about the world.

                           WHAT NOW? 

Since Oberlin's participation in the national assessment project
began almost three years ago, much in our program has changed, yet
much has stayed the same. High turnover among women's studies
faculty and among those who run the program has meant that
relatively few people who helped to develop the original assessment
plan are still around to witness its completion. Only two of the
current members of Oberlin's Assessment Task Force have been
on it for more than the current year, none since its beginning.
That the final assessment resembles fairly closely the one
envisioned three years ago attests to the strength of the initial
planning. That it mirrors some of the perennial problems of the
program--namely, shortages in the time and human energy needed to
provide continuity and planning for the future--suggests that the
program has arrived at a critical moment in its history.

The FIPSE/NWSA assessment at Oberlin has become part of an
intensive internal examination of the program organized in the fall
of 1991 to develop a five-year plan that will provide for increased
coherence, stability, and growth. So far, the examination has
focused on staffing, curriculum, and pedagogy. Our assessment
dovetails with each of these concerns.

It did not require a formal program assessment to tell us that
women's studies courses, particularly those few that are offered as
the core program, are in great demand. For several years, that
story has been told by the number of names on computer-generated
wait lists and, far more compellingly, by the disappointment and
frustration voiced by students who sometimes cannot get into the
introductory course until their senior year--and then only if they
have a major or minor in the program. The assessment does show
quite clearly, however, that current students, graduates, and
faculty members find the core courses in particular to differ
qualitatively from other courses in the college. Far from being
"rap sessions," as one of the few negative comments described them,
they offer not merely a sense of empowerment, as might be concluded
from data on students, but actual empowerment, expressed as social
action, and shown by alumnae data. Moreover, the way that students
experience and conceptualize "empowerment" appears quite clearly to
develop from the personal to the social at least in part in
relation to the intensity of the engagement with women's studies.

The assessment also shows that women's studies classrooms--again,
particularly in the core program courses--involve students as
active collaborators in a multidimensional, interdisciplinary
learning experience that is rarely found to the same extent in more
traditional non-women's studies courses. Some do not always find
this comfortable but still choose to grapple with the discomfort
rather than to reject it. They find, by and large, "the courage to
question," or to develop what many among the alumnae and faculty
members called "critical thinking."

We also have learned from the assessment that women's studies
courses seem to offer a space--although not necessarily a "safe
space"--for many different social, racial, and sexual identities.
The terms "multicultural diversity" and "recognition of difference"
are pallid in light of the intense encounters, confrontations,
discoveries, and revelations--individual and collective, emotional
and intellectual--that occur within that space. The very creation
of that space by instructors and students often is searing.

The nature of Oberlin's women's studies program, as indicated by
the assessment, requires close attention to methodological and
critical approaches and to continuous conversation among students,
faculty members who teach core courses, and those who teach
cross-listed courses. It also requires a degree of mediation within
the college community that is not required of those disciplines
whose scholarly norms are customarily considered to be unconcerned
with ideology or politics. We recognize the fact that program
development and faculty development are intertwined and that the
future of women's studies at Oberlin depends on both.

The need for greater curricular coherence is an outgrowth of the
evolving disciplinary uniqueness of women's studies. The
development of feminist theory has been concomitant with cross- or
supra-disciplinary work in such areas as the international division
of female labor, the "first world's" construction of racialized
sexualities during and after colonialism, and reconstitutions of
gender in new and re-emerging nations. Growth in the field of
women's studies may well account for the increase in the number of
majors in Oberlin's program; students now are choosing to go beyond
supplementing their college education with a few women's studies
courses and are turning instead to a fully realized major.

As we continue our discussions regarding long-range planning and
the future of the Women's Studies Program at Oberlin, we will build
our future based on insights generated by NWSA's FIPSE grant. In
our original assessment design, we claimed that we intended to
investigate "some of the distinctions and tensions, as well as the
commonalities, among students and faculty members of diverse
racial, ethnic, class, gender and sexual identities." Three years
later, this statement continues to challenge and engage.

1. Thanks go to the members of the Women's Studies Program
Committee over the last several years for their participation in
and support of the assessment project and to the authors and
compilers of the various documents upon which the report draws:
Carol Lasser. Gloria White, Chandra Mohanty, Sandy Zagarell and
Claudia MacDonald. Thanks to Mary Andes, student assistant on the
assessment project; and special thanks to women's studies minor and
computing center consultant Sue Patterson, for recovering what
seemed for a while to be permanently lost text. 

2. A. Jaggar and S. Bordo, eds., Gender/Body/Knowledge (New
Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989). 174


1. Some of the goals of Oberlin's Women's Studies Program are: 
O student self-empowerment 
O recognition of differences 
O collaborative learning 
O understanding the relationship between race, class, gender, and

Which of these goals do you consider most important? Are there
others you would add?

2. Which of the following activities in your opinion are the most
important to the future of the Women's Studies Program? Please rank
from 1=least important to 7=most important. 

___ change program status to department 
___ raise funds from alumni to create an endowed chair in women's
___ lobby administration and trustees for more support, financial
and otherwise, for the program 
___ improve the representation of women of color on the faculty and
staff and among students 
___ increase the visibility of the program address questions of
difference and diversity within the women's studies curriculum 
___ increase number of full-time faculty (currently one person)

3. What impact do you think the Women's Studies Program has on
Oberlin College?

4. What significant learning experiences do you think women's
studies courses offer students?

5. Do you believe that women's studies courses differ in pedagogy
--in how students learn--from non-women's studies courses? 
    Yes   No   If yes, how?

6. Have you ever taught a course that was cross-listed with women's
studies?   Yes   No

7. Have you ever taught a women's studies-related course?  Yes   No

8. Do you include any of the following perspectives in the courses
you teach, whether or not they are women's studies courses?
Perspectives on: 
O Gender 
O Class 
O Race 
O Sexuality 
(most of the time, some of the time, rarely, never)

9. Do you ever approach your subject with an integrative analysis
of gender, race, class, and sexuality?   Yes   No   (Please

10. Which of the following teaching techniques do you use? 
O lectures by teacher 
O presentations by individual students 
O discussions led by teacher 
O discussions led by individual students 
O discussions led by groups of students 
O other:

11. Are you faculty or administration?

12. How many years have you taught at Oberlin?

13. Do you teach in the conservatory or the college?

14. In what division of the college do you teach?

15. Are you female or male?

16. What is your race/ethnicity?

17. We welcome your comments about the Women's Studies Program as
we plan for the future. 

                     STUDENT SELF-STATEMENTS

                   Student Self-Statement #1. 

1. Do you expect this class to address questions of race?
Do you expect this class to address questions of gender?
Do you expect this class to address questions of sexuality?
Do you expect this class to address questions of social class?

2. Do you expect this class to take a feminist approach? What does
this mean for you? For example, does it mean: 
a. inclusion of women authors, artists, scientists, etc., in the
b. discussions of systems of race, gender, and class 
c. an analysis of power relations in terms of hierarchy,
oppression, and exploitation 
d. other:

3. What kind of learning environment do you expect? For example,
only lecture, only discussion, both lectures and discussion,
student-led discussion, faculty-led discussion? other?

4. What kind of learning environment do you prefer or learn best

5. If you expect discussion, do you expect to be actively engaged
in discussion or do you expect the teacher to lead most of the

6. What do you hope to learn in this class?

                   Student Self-Statement #2 

1. Does this class address questions of race? How?
Does this class address questions of gender? How?
Does this class address questions of sexuality? How?
Does this class address questions of social class? How?

2. Is this class taking a feminist approach? Please explain.

3. Collaborative learning is defined as a pedagogical style that
emphasizes cooperative efforts among students and faculty members.
It is rooted in the belief that learning is social in nature and
stresses common inquiry as a basic learning process. Do you think
collaborative learning has taken place in your classroom? In what
specific ways?

4. Since true collaborative learning means working with and
learning from people who are different from oneself, how have you
negotiated and mediated those differences?

5. What are some of the significant things you are learning in this

                   Student Self-Statement #3 

1. Has this class addressed questions of race? How?
Has this class addressed questions of gender? How?
Has this class addressed questions of sexuality? How?
Has this class addressed questions of social class? How?

2. How would you characterize the most important things you have
learned in this class (in terms of content and process)?

                            CHAPTER 8

                        FOR WOMEN'S SAKE 


     The University of Missouri-Columbia investigates three
     areas: personal transformation, pedagogy, and difference.
     The three principal questions of their assessment plan
     are: What kinds of personal transformations occur in
     students who take women's studies courses? Do students
     think women's studies courses are taught differently than
     other courses? And, do students in women's studies gain
     a new understanding about the connections among gender,
     race, class, and sexual preference?

The University of Missouri was established in Columbia in 1839 as
the first public university in the Louisiana Purchase territory. In
1870, the university was approved as a land-grant university under
the Morrill Act of 1862. It is the largest of the four campuses in
the University of Missouri system, with a residential campus and
statewide extension program. The University of Missouri-Columbia is
located in the middle of the state, halfway between St. Louis and
Kansas City. More than 85 percent of the undergraduates are
Missouri residents. The majority of out-of-state students come from
adjacent Illinois and Kansas. Each year, about 25 percent of the
undergraduates are new students, freshmen, or transfers. The
student body numbers twenty- three thousand and includes seventeen
thousand undergraduates.

Data gathered in the Missouri Undergraduate Panel Study (MUPS)
provides information about the student body and an important
context for interpreting the responses of the women's studies
graduates to our questionnaire. The MUPS study drew a
representative sample constituting 30 percent of the students
entering as freshmen in 1982 and 1985. The students are
overwhelmingly white and midwestern: In 1982, 92 percent identified
them- selves as white/Caucasian, 5 percent as black, and one
percent as Asian American.

Less than 10 percent of the 1985 sample came from a distance of
more than five hundred miles. In the 1985 sample, about 20 percent
of the fresh- men had pledged a sorority or fraternity, and a
quarter of the first-year students had full- or part-time
employment (this percentage increases to more than half for juniors
and seniors). When asked about their political views, 57 percent of
the students identified themselves as "middle of the road." Twenty-
one percent identified themselves as conservatives compared to 15
percent liberals, and 1 percent identified themselves as being on
either the "far left" or the "far right."

For such students, women's studies is a challenge. As one women's
studies graduate said:

     I had never been so challenged. I have never worked so
     hard on anything in my life. Women's studies was an
     opening to myself. For the male-identified part of
     myself, this was the greatest challenge of my life. I am
     so pleased because women's studies provided me with the
     strength to never settle for anything that deprives me of
     all that I am worth.

Each of our graduates said that they would encourage other students
to become involved in the Women's Studies Program, but one
cautioned: "I'd tell them to do it. [But] it is not easy, and if
you are not ready to deal [with issues], don't do it."

                  THE WOMEN'S STUDIES PROGRAM 

The initial impetus for women's studies at UMC came from students.
In 1969-70, the Academics Committee of the Association for Women
Students contacted faculty members from a variety of departments
requesting an interdisciplinary course on women. That course was
taught in 1971. Six years later, the university appointed a woman
who was a graduate student in English to be the half-time
coordinator. In 1980, women's studies achieved formal program
status, and in 1981, the first student graduated with a women's
studies degree. After a national search that same year, the first
full-time director with teaching responsibilities in women's
studies was hired.

With the full-time director, the program moved from the "cafeteria"
approach of its early years to a more coherent program informed by
feminist theory. The Women's Studies Committee developed a set of
interdisciplinary core courses taught through women's studies and
also established stringent cross-listing procedures that
distinguished between women's studies courses (guided by feminist
principles) and women-related courses (with significant content
centered on women and gender). The attempt to build an integrated
curriculum occurred in the face of opposition to feminism and
disbelief in women's studies as a scholarly endeavor. -2 In 1983,
a course on the connections among gender, race, and class, which
became central to the program, was added to the core curriculum and
taught by the director. In 1988, when authorized to recruit a
full-time faculty member in women's studies, the program hired a
woman of color with expertise in this area to teach the course and
develop other offerings on race and gender.

Currently the program offers twenty-six courses taught by nineteen
affiliated faculty members. Although faculty concentration is
highest in arts and sciences, cross-listed courses also are located
in nursing, education, and journalism. In part because of this
intercollege teaching program, women's studies has been located
fiscally in the provost's office rather than in any one col- lege
of the university.

More than eight hundred students take women's studies courses each
year. The number of majors, however, always has been small, ranging
from one or two to ten graduating in a year. The majors pursue a
dual degree combining women's studies with another discipline of
their choice. At a university where most students consider
themselves "middle of the road" politically, and only 15 percent
see themselves as "liberal" (and 1 percent as radical), becoming a
women's studies major is a deviant act. Yet because of their small
numbers, the majors form a group supportive of each other within
this relatively hostile environment. They also work closely with
the office staff and faculty members, and most have served on the
Women's Studies Committee. These majors are a central focus of our


In the first year of the FIPSE project, each program was asked to
produce a statement of the goals of the program and to think about
ways of assessing whether or not our goals for student learning
were being met. This task proved to be difficult for us for a
number of reasons.

In the first place, faculty members had negative feelings about
assessment. Our governor had been involved early in the push for
state-mandated assessment and, unfortunately, brought that to
Missouri in a way that pitted state-funded institutions of higher
education against one another. The governor's model--one that has
been endorsed by the board of curators--is a rigid, quantitative,
"value-added" approach. At this institution, then, assessment was
politicized in such a way that many faculty members saw assessment
primarily as a weapon to be used against them.

Second, the project came during a transitional period within the
program: We were discovering that goals and processes clearly
articulated in the early 1980s no longer had consensus backing from
members of the committee. The second half of the 1980s had been a
period of consolidation and institutionalization for the program.
Departments began hiring faculty members with expertise in women's
studies, greatly expanding the course offerings as well as
participation in the program. Yet these women had not been involved
in the development of the program and did not necessarily share the
perspectives of those who had. This became more apparent when the
director, who had provided much of the vision for the program
throughout the 1980s, took a leave of absence in 1988-89 and
resigned from the program the following year.

Finally, even without the particularities of our institutional
context, there are inherent difficulties in the process of
formulating goals. The instrumental approach to assessment often
fostered by institutional exigencies was rejected: No one wanted to
repeat the "assessment process," wherein departments had tried to
figure out what kind of information the administration wanted from
them, and the most efficient way to get it, in order to place the
department in the most favorable light. Yet consensus processing
requires shared interests and a long time frame; it was not clear
that we had either. -3 What we did have was a real passion for
teaching and a long-term commitment to exploring feminist pedagogy.
-4 Pedagogy became, then, the basis for two faculty development
workshops held in the fall of 1990 and 1991, which ultimately gave
focus to our campus assessment design.

In the fall of 1989, we also held a series of potluck dinners
attended by faculty, staff, and student members of the Women's
Studies Committee, to discuss key concerns we had about student
learning. We reviewed some of our documents, including our mission
statement and our cross-listing guidelines, and began to formulate
program goals. Our discussions ultimately led us to how we could do
the following: 

*  support our students as ambassadors of feminism 
*  continue to address the campus wide problems of sexism, racism,
and other injustices 
*  create with our students a setting in which all voices may be
     *  create a safe place for personal growth and for nurturing
     *  create discomfort and introduce risk by shaking core
     unexamined assumptions 

*  transform the self and challenge ideologies as a critical
function, encouraging personal and intellectual transformation and
moving from understanding one's own personal experiences to
understanding others' 
*  maintain self-consciousness about methods, including the ways in
which research strategies presume certain kinds of gender
*  place our studies at the intersection of race, class, gender,
sexual preference, and other categories of analysis, fostering the
understanding that truth is partial 
*  incorporate multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary perspectives in
the course 
*  realize the possibility of the course as a laboratory, open to
risk for students and instructors alike 
*  facilitate the development of self-esteem through the successful
engagement of difficult tasks
*  increase the pool of literature known in our subject areas.

We did not translate these concerns directly into a set of
"assessment questions" formulated in terms of "how can we measure
to what extent are we doing these things," yet they informed
faculty discussions, classroom assessment, and the questionnaire we
eventually administered to graduates.

Rather than developing an assessment plan that would be imposed on
the faculty members teaching in the program, we worked toward a
model of assessment grounded in the activities faculty members
already were carrying out in their classes. We talked in terms of
"faculty development" instead of "assessment," believing that a
good assessment project would, in fact, contribute to better
teaching. Since many women's studies faculty members used Journals,
peer review, and papers as assignments in their classes, the first
faculty development workshop examined how such assignments already
embedded in courses could become a rich source of systematic
feedback about what students learn. Pat Hutchings, from the FIPSE
Project National Assessment Team, led the workshop session on
portfolio assessment. As a result of the workshop, five faculty
members undertook projects in their women's studies classes during

For our second faculty development workshops the following year, we
invited another member of the National Assessment Team, Jill
Mattuck Tarule, one of the authors of Women's Ways of Knowing. She
focused our attention on students as knowers. Combining the
insights and methodologies learned in the two faculty development
workshops with a preliminary analysis of the student responses to
the questionnaires, we began to formulate an assessment design for
our campus. Ultimately we investigated three areas personal
transformation, pedagogy, and difference. Undergirding our
assessment plan were three principal questions: 

* What kinds of personal transformations occur in students who take
women's studies courses? 
* Do students think women's studies courses are taught differently
than other courses and, if so, how? 
* Do students in women's studies gain a new understanding about the
connections among gender, race, class, and sexual preference?

In the process of working with outside assessment experts, we
realized that we had a number of data sources about our students
that we had never used fully. For example, our student evaluation
forms, used in all women studies courses, provide a wealth of
information about women's studies students, including demographic
information as well as responses to courses and teaching. We
envisioned using this data to provide a demographic profile of our
students over the last ten years. The course evaluation form in use
from 1983-1992 also asked extensive questions about classroom
atmosphere. We hoped to analyze that data quantitatively,
separating out responses of relevant subgroups of students, such as
women studies majors from non-majors. Unfortunately, time
constraints prevented us from carrying out this part of the
assessment project.

We were able, however, to compile limited demographic information
about our students. In the ten-year period from 1981 to 1990,
thirty students graduated with degrees in women's studies. Of
these, six (or 20 percent) were African American. We also looked at
those students who had taken three or more women's studies classes
over the last five years.S Of these additional eighty-nine
students, 13 percent were African American, with another 3 percent
Hispanic. In a university where only 5 percent of the entering
fresh- man class in 1985 were African American, the
disproportionately higher percentage of minority students in
women's studies is striking.

We also mailed an open-ended questionnaire to all of the women's
studies majors who had graduated as well as to current majors and
minors. The original questionnaire was based upon one that
Wellesley College's Women's Studies Program developed. -6
Fifty-four questionnaires were mailed out to women who had
graduated between 1981 and 1990 and to current majors and minors.
Eighteen responses were returned. Although small in number, the
responses offer notable interpretations of the experience of the
Women's Studies Program from a core group of students over the
first decade of the program's existence.


Looking at the experiences of graduates gives two kinds of
information not easily available in other ways. First, it is a way
of evaluating the program, as opposed to individual classes.
Second, it is one way to begin to assess education in women's
studies over a longer time frame than a single semester. In the
responses--from people who chose both to major in women's studies
and to answer our questionnaire--students describe women's studies
as unique. Yet it is hard to isolate what it is that makes it
unique. Nonetheless, the sense of connected learning and personal
transformation surfaces repeatedly in these women's accounts, as do
references to women's studies pedagogy and course content.

                    PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION 

Through the UMC women's studies experience, women students
discovered self-empowerment and became more critical about how they
think and evaluate the world. This critical mindfulness accompanied
the women in many aspects of their lives. They developed new goals
for learning and redefined what is intellectual as well as what is
political. Most wrote about coming to understand the social
construction of society. All students--from their very diverse
backgrounds--wrote that they felt validated and transformed.
Women's studies seems to have been particularly important for women
who had a minority status--women of color and lesbians, for
example. The women report that they became angry but also that they
learned to articulate their anger. They came to see themselves as
knowers, and they came to value the support of other women.

The change that accompanied this self-empowerment ranges from women
reporting that they would no longer tolerate racist and sexist
jokes to a reevaluation of the definition of self, knowledge, and
politics. A typical comment was the following: "I watch TV, read
magazines, look at advertisements, and assess movies differently
than I did before taking women's studies courses. I am more aware
of messages about women. I am certainly more critical than I used
to be."

For some majors, recognition and acceptance of their lesbianism was
a very large part of the validation and self-discovery found in
women's studies. The women's studies environment often was the only
place on campus where lesbians felt safe. Accompanying this sense
of safety came empowerment as a woman and as a lesbian. One woman
wrote, "I connected to my woman-self, black-self, and lesbian-self
from taking women's studies courses." Those who spoke of their
lesbianism told how the women's studies experience taught them to
question the "givens" and to trust their own perceptions of the
lives they had chosen for themselves. "One teacher showed me there
was some place to go -- that you could be smart, older, a dyke, and
have a place in the world."

Two-thirds of the majors felt a great amount of anger as they
became aware of systemic oppressions. Some learned to articulate
this newly acquired anger and use it productively. One student
explained how her anger gave her what she called "double vision."
This "double vision" provided her with a multiplicity of ideas as
opposed to one single patriarchal definition. For other students,
their anger made them feel an urgency about changing the world.
Still others were shocked to confront the kind of resistance to
equality they encountered as they attended their other classes,
interacted with friends and family, and saw society through new
eyes. All reported that they were more likely to notice sexism in
courses, texts, and in popular culture, but they also reported they
were better able to verbalize their disapproval and anger.

In addition to discovering how to transform anger into insights and
action' women students spoke of new goals for learning. The
following was a typical comment: "Most positively, I learned to
think and appreciate education for learning's sake." Learning
became more than students wanting to receive good grades. Some
students reported with satisfaction that they carried these changed
expectations into their other classes. Some, however, expressed
frustration as their changed selves encountered the status quo in
other disciplines.

One-fourth of the students reported discovering a new sense of
community with other women. One wrote: "I have put much more energy
into the women in my life...." Another said, "I value my time more
with my female friends." Maintaining friendships with women who
share a feminist perspective was important to almost every major.
"I now don't believe I am the only one fighting these battles,"
said one student, echoing another who said that women's studies
gave her a sense of not being alone.

Women's studies courses radicalized what students perceived as
intellectual beliefs and radicalized how they defined what is
political to them. Their definitions of politics changed. Prior to
taking women's studies, one woman described herself as young and
fairly a political. Through women's studies she came to a different
definition: "All is political, i.e., a reflection of social power
relationships, open to political analysis, and changeable by
political/collective action." 

Another stated, "I stopped being a Democrat because that is what my
folks were. I learned the difference between voting a ticket
because people had a party affiliation and voting for ideas you
cared for deeply." Another proclaimed, "Everything I do as a woman
in a patriarchal world challenges the dominant culture. This kind
of life is political. The courage to speak out in political ways
comes and goes; however, the notion to deeply question... would not
exist if it had not been for my women's studies courses."

The students also attributed changes in their conceptualizations of
feminism to women's studies courses. They learned that feminism
includes many different kinds of feminisms. When addressing these
diverse feminisms, students reported that the wide variety of views
were liberating to them. The kind of expansion of views reported by
the following woman was common:

     I guess before I encountered women's studies I thought
     "feminism" was a small movement for "women's rights . "
     Once I went through the door into women's studies, I
     realized "feminism" is shorthand for a transformative,
     broad, varied upheaval of female thought, activity, and
     power across the planet. Quite a change.

Another reported, "I have realized that feminism means a concern
not only with issues relevant to white, middle-class, hetero-women
but also with issues of race, class, nationality, physical
condition, and sexual preference."

These students perceived that women's studies transformed their
lives. They attributed the transformation to differences in how the
courses were taught and what the course content was. Graduates'
responses to both of these demonstrate the extent to which women's
studies is indeed a risk-taking endeavor that generates questions
rather than proclamations.


We asked students if they felt that women's studies classes were
taught in an alterative pedagogical style and, if so, to describe
one course as an example. For many students, sitting in a circle
symbolized the difference. One of the first graduates of the
program said that most of her women's studies courses offered an
alternative teaching style:

     For instance, in a "Women and Science Fiction"
     class-first off we would sit in a circle (vs. the teacher
     at the front and students behind) we read science fiction
     by women authors and discussed it not only for "literary"
     value but the questions it raised (or failed to raise)
     about our lives. At the end of the class we were asked to
     come up with essay questions for our own exam--an
     exercise that honored our ability to spark thoughtful

Another summarized the differences by saying, "The basic sense of
sitting in a circle and including individual women's personal
experiences as part of any theoretical discussions [typified] my
women's studies experience."

The higher level the course, the more students felt comfortable
sitting in these circles sharing their personal experiences. In the
seminar atmosphere, students felt more at ease learning through
exchanging experiences with classmates. Each student said that the
involvement of personal experience in classroom discussion was a
part of their women's studies encounter. "There is always a place
for those who feel at ease to discuss their experience. The
instructors used journals, personal writings, and diaries to
facilitate the process. That's the difference women's studies
makes." For this student and for half of the respondents, sharing
their personal experiences was comfortable, and their women's
studies classes were the only places on campus where they felt able
to do so.

A few, however, felt discomfort sharing their experiences. One
student said that any situation ruled by academia cannot always be
safe for students. Although another woman explained she generally
profited from sharing experiences, she also said she sometimes felt
pressured to share when she did not want to. Self-disclosure also
was referred to in some of the responses as "show- and-tell"
sessions, perhaps implicitly referring both to pressures to perform
and risks of public disclosure. One student offered the following

     People started telling stories and trusting that it was
     the right kind of atmosphere to do this. I thought it was
     good to finally hear people talking about their
     experiences and sharing their ideas about them, but I
     believe that some of the topics that were assigned were
     treated too flippantly by the students...because it was
     obvious that most students took it very seriously and
     what they revealed was very incarnate and private, but
     the way people reacted was more like gawking than

Discussion, rather than lectures, was the main vehicle for learning
in women's studies classes. Sometimes the topics were particularly
conflictual. One graduate said, "Students got into it about correct
classroom participation versus the freedom to say what you wanted
and how you wanted." One student remembered times when no one in
the room knew how to stop one student from silencing another.
Although the instructors were reported as trying to prevent this
kind of behavior, they were not always able to do so.

Even though the discussions sometimes appeared to be intense
debates one woman explained:
  didn't really feel conflictual, but more like we
     were trying to figure out the truth together. I think
     that trying to figure out the connections among gender,
     race, and class was difficult in all my women's studies

The presence of conflict in the classroom generated a wide spectrum
of responses from students. One woman wrote, "It sometimes seemed
to be the pretense that there were no conflicts when they clearly
were [there]." By contrast, another was distressed by the lack of
debate in the classroom: "In order to get to the center of what is
going on we need to learn to feel that conflict is okay when
communicating with one another."

When asked explicitly if the instructor encouraged different points
of view, every respondent answered "yes." According to students,
instructors themselves often brought up different points of view,
which encouraged students to model the professor's behavior. Over
half said that different political and theoretical points of view
within feminism were introduced, which proved beneficial in
subsequent classes. Beginning with the introductory course,
"Feminism: The Basic Questions," students reported that they were
introduced to traditional thought as well as to liberal, socialist,
radical, cultural, global, and womanist theories within feminism.
One student remarked, "I think women's studies was an excellent
introduction to the broad spectrum of thought because it taught me
to look for the underlying assumptions of writers on various
issues, and I learned how one's conclusions on issues or social
problems are shaped by the vehicles used to arrive at them. This
has been invaluable." Another said that women's studies provided a
place for her political perspectives whereas political science, her
major, did not.

Women's studies professors also encouraged an exploration of
different points of view in part through the great diversity of the
assigned readings. There was, according to students, such a
spectrum of experiences, values, and perspectives that students
gained a new appreciation of the difference in each women's
individual experience. One said, "We heard voices from other 190
students and read books that were non-patriarchal that helped
encourage us to think about issues from other points of view." Many
of the students even responded in the questionnaire with quotations
from a women's studies text that had changed their perspective on
difference, such as Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow,
Alice Walker's The Color Purple, or Audre Lorde's Sister/Outsider.

Respondents reported that women's studies teachers honored
difference as long as a student's comment did not degrade other
people. While tolerance for difference was high in the women's
studies classroom, at the same time students claimed that
instructors pointed out weaknesses in opposing points of view. One
student said, "If one argued for pinko commie liberalism, it was as
valid as conservatism if the arguments were valid." Another
described what she labeled as a radical approach: "One instructor
definitely wanted to hear from everyone. She genuinely found all of
her students interesting, rather than getting something out of
imparting secret knowledge to the masses." That same student also
thought it was radical at UMC to construct a course in which women
were the subjects of the course, not merely tacked onto the class,
as if women's exclusion from textbooks were the only sexism. If the
instructor chose to teach from what students defined as a radical
feminist perspective, she also was said to introduce more notions
of difference into the classroom. According to a student taking
"Women, Race, and Class," breaking down difference begins with the
kind of individual storytelling that typically takes place in
women's studies courses. At such a juncture, a distinctive women's
studies pedagogy overlaps with its distinctive content.


For the past decade, feminist theorizing has been informed by an
emphasis on difference. Our program has sought to move the
connections among gender, race, class and sexual preference to the
center of the curriculum. When asked about their learning in this
area, not surprisingly, all the students wrote about the course
"Women, Race, and Class." One student remembers it as very

     The first few weeks were used to introduce students to
     the "basics" of a women's studies course...such as
     patriarchy, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia,
     physicalism, ageism, and feminism. The class met twice a
     week. The first meeting was a lecture by one of the two
     instructors. I enjoyed the balance between the
     instructors. One was a woman of color and the other was
     a white woman. The second was a meeting of five or six
     students and a former student of the course (the group
     facilitator)...this is where we discussed the course

Another said, "The experience in 'Women, Race, and Class' was more
intense because the [small discussion] groups met every week. We
answered questions about our reading material and confronted one
another on our feeling of race and class."

There were varied responses when students were asked if race,
class, and sexual preference were talked about in their women's
studies courses. All but one student said that race was addressed
more than any other subject. One student said, "We spoke about it
almost every day in class." Others reported that race was in all
women's studies course material. "We read many different
perspectives from Afro-American, Hispanic, North American,
lower-class women, upper-class women, etc." Another confided, "
'Women, Race, and Class' was the greatest attempt by any
instructor(s) to pull theory into experience. Those two women
[co-teachers] will be in my heart forever."

Many courses include race, class, and sexual preference as they fit
into the discipline being taught. "Racism was addressed more in
some classes than others. This did not necessarily reflect some
bias on the teacher's part. For instance, race was not a topic in
'French Women Writers' but was the central topic in 'Black Women:
Catalysts for Change'." One student said, "In 'Chinese Women's
History,' race was the main topic. We focused on trying to learn
from their perspective rather than our own. Race was a minor issue,
but an issue in other classes."

It is possible that part of what the students sense is a difference
between talking about race and talking about racism. In this area,
we also find some criticism of what students refer to as "liberal
instructors" who are not "really dealing with issues of race." In
the way that many of the students used the phrase, "really dealing
with an issue" means connecting it to one's own experience as
oppressed and oppressor. By this standard, an instructor who
incorporated descriptions of experiences of people of different
races might still be accused of "not dealing with race." The issues
of how learning occurs are thus intertwined with the issues of what
is learned.

A surprising finding was that the students felt that race was an
easier topic to address than class. This is not to say that race
was easy, but race is clearly defined in American culture (perhaps
too clearly, given that race often is conceptualized in terms of
two opposing groups--blacks and whites), whereas class is
conceptually muddled. One student wrote the following reflections:

     Everyone could handle race rather than the question of
     class. Black, white, or otherwise, not too many people
     wanted to question the reasons why they were at the
     university. For all, the university is a ladder upward or
     at least a barrier away from what is perceived to be a
     part of what is the lower class. My realization of this
     grew after reading Praisesong for the Widow written by
     Paule Marshall. The main character was a black woman who
     had lost part of her being as she involved herself in
     what Tracy Chapman calls "black upward mobility. "

The students reported that many of their courses examined various
issues involving the impact of class on women's lives. Some
instructors addressed the subject by listing class in their syllabi
and the impact of "labor" and "women and work." Other courses
addressed classism and how it intersects with other oppressions.
Despite such efforts, students reported that class was not
addressed as frequently as race. One woman summed up her remarks by
saying, "class got short shrift. One classmate of mine with a very
blue-collar background thought it was because at college, it's too
scary to question the class structure because everyone's striving
to move upward. It would threaten our reasons for being there,
particularly for black women."

Just as a gap was reported in the coverage of race and class,
students believed that while sexual preference was included it was
discussed even less than class issues. Most students remembered the
extent to which it was discussed and what happened in the classroom
as a result:

     '85 it was scary and cutting-edge: touched on in larger
     classes, some- times to the disgust of some students, a
     larger issue in smaller classes where students trusted
     each other more. Sexual identity and desire, I remember,
     were difficult to theorize about then. Some effort [was
     made] in French Feminisms class--but [it was]

Students reported that lack of attention to sexual preference was
sometimes a result of the instructor's reluctance and sometimes to
the students' inability to accept the diversity of sexual
preferences that existed among the women in the classroom. Several
students noted that often, in history and English classes, "sexual
preference was tacked on like most women's studies courses are
tacked on to mainstream courses."

The women's studies students who responded to our questionnaire
wanted the program to provide an arena in which students of all
colors and cultural backgrounds could understand issues that were
not raised or discussed in depth in non-women's studies courses. It
also was important to them that women's studies provide an
appreciation of each level of a woman's life, culture, and
tradition. Several mentioned that women's studies should provide a
place of "safety" for students who do not feel accepted in other
departments at the university. As we think about the students'
remarks, it is critical to remember that all of these women are, in
fact, double majors. By majoring in women's studies they do not
avoid whatever is offered/required by other departments. Despite
the fact that one of our program goals is "to support students as
ambassadors of feminism," in reading student responses one is
struck by how difficult that task is and the degree to which they
find the university to be a hostile place.


Engagement in this project reflects and enhances an ongoing concern
with pedagogy in our program. The interviews and development
workshops with faculty members demonstrate this commitment in many
ways. The responses of the majors show the fruits of efforts to
promote collaborative learning in women's studies. Yet these varied
pieces of the assessment project also raise some issues for the

It is clear there is no single way of teaching a women's studies
class and that different students respond differently to various
classroom situations. It also seems clear that, in the words of one
participant in our faculty workshop, "We do not learn about justice
in the same way that we learn about the capitals of the states."
Students and faculty members in the program need to continue to
experiment with how to create optimal learning environments.

Yet the data also show some important differences in the
experiences of the graduates of the program and the faculty members
who teach in the program. One way to frame it is in terms of a
contrast between interdisciplinary women's studies and
multidisciplinary women's studies. The data from the majors and
graduates reveal that the program for them consists of the
interdisciplinary core courses. The data from faculty members
reveal a model that is closer to that of a multidisciplinary women
studies program. Faculty goal statements suggest they are most
concerned about doing feminist work in their own disciplines.

In the student questionnaires, by contrast, the majors and
graduates overwhelmingly defined women's studies as the three
interdisciplinary core courses. They described these courses as
"feminist" and "radical." They also associated a distinctive
pedagogy--more discussion and more collaborative learning--where
they learned that they had voices and felt validated. According to
students, the core courses integrated life experience with theory
and made the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexual
preference a central concern.

Instructors in the cross-listed courses (which go through an
extensive course approval process and are taught from a "feminist
perspective") are as likely to be concerned about "feminist theory"
as they are about "feminism." The teachers' goal statements include
a more central emphasis on teaching/learning discipline-based
knowledge. Many of these faculty members are doing women's studies
within their disciplines.

The faculty members teaching cross-listed courses see themselves as
modifying their teaching styles to incorporate feminist pedagogy.
A number of them said that teaching women's studies classes allows
them to take risks, but these cross-listed courses are not
identified by the majors as having the distinctive style that
characterizes the core courses. This in part may be because some of
the key factors are out of a teacher's control. Instructors in
cross-listed courses complain of the difficulty teaching when the
women's studies students may not be grounded in the discipline, and
the students from the discipline are not grounded in feminism.7
They also may have little control over the size of the class; the
majors noted that the cross-listed classes were often too large for
the instructor to do much more than lecture. It is possible, of
course, that what we are seeing are the positive evaluations of
particular instructors who happened to teach the core courses.

We were not very successful in executing the quantitative part of
our project, and we want to note here the sheer difficulty we had
getting information from "already existing sources." Quantitative
data, such as the kind the registrar has about all students, would
have been very useful, but we found it virtually inaccessible.
Assessment projects like this one, which try to make use of data
already on hand, might do well to think about their own record
keeping. We found, for example, that we did not have addresses for
our graduates or even class lists for the students who took
cross-listed courses under the departmental numbers. There was a
real sense that we did not know who our students were.

We also underestimated the difficulty of analyzing data that could
be obtained. Both qualitative and quantitative data is
time-consuming to analyze. When we tried to hire a graduate
assistant, we found that the ones with methodological skills
already had research associateships (or did not know anything about
women's studies), and the ones with a background in women studies
had no methodologies training.

After the second faculty development workshop, the women's studies
faculty members decided that they would like to begin a regularly
scheduled faculty discussion group about pedagogy. One issue we
plan to work on is greater inclusion of issues of race, class, and
sexual preference across our curriculum. Another issue is the place
of disclosure--for faculty members as well as students--in the
women's studies classroom.

The differences that the majors describe between the core courses
and the cross-listed courses also raise a question about the
perceptions of those who are not majors. We know now that we have
a significant body of students who take three or more courses but
do not end up majoring in women's studies. We do not know--although
we could find out--whether they are any more likely to take
cross-listed courses rather than core courses. Neither do we know
why they are not becoming majors.

The women's studies committee also was struck by the way students
had validation through a "mirroring process" in women's studies. It
underscores for us the importance of having diversity reflected in
the program faculty. In the fall of 1991 we created a development
fund for a speaker's series that will bring in one speaker each
semester to bring us research and creative works in lesbian
studies, named in honor of our former director who showed many
students that they, too, "could find a place in the world."

1. We are grateful for the help of all the participants in the
Women's Studies Program who took time out in one way or another to
participate in the work of this project. Special thanks go to a
number of them: In the first year of the project Carole Myscofski,
as co-chair of the Women's Studies Committee, participated in
planning the project and wrote the first statement of pro- gram
goals. Elaine Lawless helped plan the faculty development workshop
in September of 1990, and Kay Foley tracked down information about
the institutional context. Barbara Bank contributed data from the
Missouri University Panel Study. Magdalena Garcia-Pinto and )an
Colberr read and commented on a draft of the report. We also
appreciate the support of Jeff Chinn, Vice Provost for Instruction,
who helped fund the Women's Studies Assessment Workshop and paid
the salary of Graduate Assistant Michelle Gadbois. Michelle's
analysis of the student questionnaire was the heart of this

2. For example, proposals for core courses were turned back by
university curriculum committees for "more documentation" to prove
that such courses were intellectually respectable. 

3. See Jane Mansbridge, Beyond Adversary Democracy (Chicago
University of Chicago Press, 1983), for an analysis of consensus
decision making. 

4. In the spring of 1990, as acting director I interviewed all the
faculty members teaching in the program during that first year of
the project. The collective passion for teaching is what kept me
involved in this project. 

5. For cross-listed courses we included students as having taken a
women's studies course whether they registered through women's
studies or through the faculty member's home department. This list
was difficult to construct because women's studies only gets
information on those students who register under the women's
studies course number. 

6. We did this with the intention of comparing responses with
Wellesley, but Wellesley's project report analyzed a different
questionnaire distributed to current students rather than to majors
and graduates. 

7. A few faculty members and students expressed dissatisfaction
with a lack of cumulative structures throughout women's studies
courses. The mix of students in all the courses meant that some
time was always spent retracing basic grounding knowledge. One
faculty member suggested that this problem might occur with regard
to pedagogy as well as course content. In her classroom assessment
project using journals in an upper-level course, she found that
students who had not used them before engaged the task with
enthusiasm, but others who had frequently kept journals in their
women's studies courses responded in more perfunctory ways. 
                          CHAPTER NINE


     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. 
                     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
* 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

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

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

                     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

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


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 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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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.


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: the process of waking up to
	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.