Utilizing Feminist Pedagogy to Foster Preservice Teachers' Critical Consciousness

Utilizing Feminist Pedagogy to Foster Preservice Teachers' Critical Consciousness

Manya C. Whitaker
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5098-4.ch004
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This chapter describes a longitudinal case study investigating the use of feminist pedagogy to foster preservice teachers' critical consciousness in a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. Courses in the program were revised to intentionally employ the feminist pedagogical elements of personal experience, power awareness, community-building, identity awareness, and intentional reflection. Coursework, focus groups, and interviews from three cohorts of teacher candidates were analyzed for dimensions of critical consciousness according to Freirean principles. Across cohorts, students demonstrated a deep awareness of racialized systems of power that affect educational processes. Most students were able to decode educational rhetoric and challenge the assumptions and biases embedded within. While all students expressed a deep commitment to inclusive teaching and could articulate multicultural teaching methods, most admitted to not yet having the depth of knowledge necessary and/or the emotional fortitude to combat systems of inequity beyond their classrooms.
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James Banks (1994) suggested that multicultural education can take four forms: contributions, additive, transformative, and social action. Contributions is what is often referred to as ‘feasts and fiestas’ where one or two people from a minoritized group are celebrated for their contributions to society. This approach can reinforce stereotypes and foster misconceptions about minoritized peoples’ histories, thus strengthening the dominant white narrative. These negative outcomes can be exacerbated by the additive approach that appends a single text—often a biography about the same celebrated minority in the contributions approach—to the curriculum. This is done with minimal effort to integrate an alternative viewpoint into the larger curricular framework. Students in these classes have little context for understanding the complexities of diversity issues nationally or globally.

Conversely, transformation and social action are the preferred multicultural education approaches because in the former, students are asked to interrogate how different groups’ experiences, knowledge construction processes, and cultural functioning (mis)align with the Eurocentric representations most often found in standard curriculum. Social action takes this a step further by engaging students in ‘think projects’ where they devise hypotheses for why different people often have conflicting views of the world. The goal of social action is ultimately for students to be able to identify injustices and to want and be able to take action to address them.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Critical Action: The third component of praxis that requires people to engage in collective work to dismantle oppressive social systems.

Critical Consciousness: A level of sociopolitical awareness through which a person understands their positionality in the world.

Feminist Pedagogy: A pedagogical framework grounded in feminist theory that positions students’ lived experiences as the starting point for learning.

Desocialization: The process by which a person interrogates and challenges cultural artifacts such as values, language, and behaviors.

Critical Literacy: Analytical thinking habits used to discover deeper meaning in social phenomenon.

Freire: A Brazilian educator and philosopher most known for his scholarship on liberating oppressed people through critical pedagogy.

Praxis: A cyclical process of reflection and action.

Critical Motivation: The second component of praxis that requires people to de-identify from oppressive social systems.

Critical Reflection: The first component of praxis that requires people to examine how their identity characteristics shape their lived experiences because of societal norms and social systems.

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