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Lessons from the Classroom: Renegotiating Critical and Feminist Pedagogy in the Middle East

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Abstract:

What teaching strategies can be effectively employed to promote critical consciousness about diversity and inclusiveness within the larger framework of inequality and social injustices in general and gender inequity in particular? This paper answers this question by providing a comparative study of strategies for the gendering of higher education curricula, and the adoption of feminist and critical pedagogies in the classrooms across all disciplines within academic institutions in the Middle East and North Africa. My literature review has led me to conclude that such a study on the Middle East has neither been conducted nor documented.

There is a dire need for sharing and discussions of best practices for integrating gender analyses and feminist and critical pedagogies into research and learning within academic institutions in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf. Given the dearth of local gender studies scholarship in the Persian Gulf, researchers, teachers and academic institutions on a whole find themselves having to navigate uncharted territory as they use culturally resonant symbols to reframe gender issues within a local context.

Alternative strategies to raise consciousness on women’s issues, mobilize women, and induce social and legal reform toward social justice, inclusiveness, diversity, and gender equity are especially relevant in countries where there is an absence of social activism and formal civil societies, and where overt demands for women’s citizenship rights are met with suspicion and resistance. One strategy that has demonstrated effectiveness is to use legitimate, state-sanctioned institutions as vehicles for change. Due to the Persian Gulf’s states’ purported commitment to and increasing investment in women’s education, it would seem that integrating gender studies into research and pedagogy within academic institutions in the Gulf would be an obvious avenue for women’s empowerment.

Education has long been seen as a vehicle for social change and personal empowerment, a premise often attributed to Plato and Socrates. More recently, the liberatory potential of education has been popularized through the contributions of Paulo Freire, whose theories on dialog as consciousness raising, and Jurgen Habermas, whose analysis of the relationship between dialogue, power and distortion, have generated a paradigmatic shift in pedagogy.

Drawing on theories of the transformative potential of education for social change, weaving gender issues into popular education may offer an effective conduit for consciousness-raising among today’s youth. Whether taught as separate, stand alone programs or integrated into various (more traditional) disciplines, gendering curricula fosters liberatory pedagogy that empowers learners through active and responsive learning methodologies.

Consequently, this paper draws on theoretical writings on feminist and critical pedagogy while addressing practical issues related to teaching subject matter related to social justice — including issues of inclusion, diversity and equality— as well as the overall gendering of curricula in universities in Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt. My data is drawn from student and faculty surveys, and more importantly interviews with educators who have interpreted their own educational experiences within the context of feminist reflections on education, formulated their own philosophies of education and developed and tested pedagogical strategies for developing critical consciousness about social inequalities.

In effect, the paper seeks to (1) to explore alternatives to the lecture based pedagogy; (2) to presents practical examples of innovative classroom work based on Freire's concept of “consciousness building”, (3) challenge the mainstream approach of learning as an exclusive process of receiving knowledge, or what is described as “banking” by Freire, (4) consider a revised model of education for social justice founded on a pedagogical approach that draws on the various schools of difference (feminist pedagogy, critical pedagogy and postcolonial pedagogy), and tailored to the cultural, religious and historical context of the Middle East.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

social (72), feminist (60), women (59), gender (56), student (45), educ (41), critic (39), pedagogi (36), studi (35), justic (26), cultur (26), issu (25), classroom (22), research (22), univers (22), teach (21), experi (20), learn (20), within (20), program (19), institut (19),

Author's Keywords:

feminist and critical pedagogies, Middle East, social justice, activism
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Name: APSA Teaching and Learning Conference
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http://www.apsanet.org


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MLA Citation:

DeVriese, Leila. "Lessons from the Classroom: Renegotiating Critical and Feminist Pedagogy in the Middle East" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose Marriott, San Jose, California, Feb 22, 2008 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p245599_index.html>

APA Citation:

DeVriese, L. , 2008-02-22 "Lessons from the Classroom: Renegotiating Critical and Feminist Pedagogy in the Middle East" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference, San Jose Marriott, San Jose, California Online <PDF>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p245599_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: What teaching strategies can be effectively employed to promote critical consciousness about diversity and inclusiveness within the larger framework of inequality and social injustices in general and gender inequity in particular? This paper answers this question by providing a comparative study of strategies for the gendering of higher education curricula, and the adoption of feminist and critical pedagogies in the classrooms across all disciplines within academic institutions in the Middle East and North Africa. My literature review has led me to conclude that such a study on the Middle East has neither been conducted nor documented.

There is a dire need for sharing and discussions of best practices for integrating gender analyses and feminist and critical pedagogies into research and learning within academic institutions in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf. Given the dearth of local gender studies scholarship in the Persian Gulf, researchers, teachers and academic institutions on a whole find themselves having to navigate uncharted territory as they use culturally resonant symbols to reframe gender issues within a local context.

Alternative strategies to raise consciousness on women’s issues, mobilize women, and induce social and legal reform toward social justice, inclusiveness, diversity, and gender equity are especially relevant in countries where there is an absence of social activism and formal civil societies, and where overt demands for women’s citizenship rights are met with suspicion and resistance. One strategy that has demonstrated effectiveness is to use legitimate, state-sanctioned institutions as vehicles for change. Due to the Persian Gulf’s states’ purported commitment to and increasing investment in women’s education, it would seem that integrating gender studies into research and pedagogy within academic institutions in the Gulf would be an obvious avenue for women’s empowerment.

Education has long been seen as a vehicle for social change and personal empowerment, a premise often attributed to Plato and Socrates. More recently, the liberatory potential of education has been popularized through the contributions of Paulo Freire, whose theories on dialog as consciousness raising, and Jurgen Habermas, whose analysis of the relationship between dialogue, power and distortion, have generated a paradigmatic shift in pedagogy.

Drawing on theories of the transformative potential of education for social change, weaving gender issues into popular education may offer an effective conduit for consciousness-raising among today’s youth. Whether taught as separate, stand alone programs or integrated into various (more traditional) disciplines, gendering curricula fosters liberatory pedagogy that empowers learners through active and responsive learning methodologies.

Consequently, this paper draws on theoretical writings on feminist and critical pedagogy while addressing practical issues related to teaching subject matter related to social justice — including issues of inclusion, diversity and equality— as well as the overall gendering of curricula in universities in Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt. My data is drawn from student and faculty surveys, and more importantly interviews with educators who have interpreted their own educational experiences within the context of feminist reflections on education, formulated their own philosophies of education and developed and tested pedagogical strategies for developing critical consciousness about social inequalities.

In effect, the paper seeks to (1) to explore alternatives to the lecture based pedagogy; (2) to presents practical examples of innovative classroom work based on Freire's concept of “consciousness building”, (3) challenge the mainstream approach of learning as an exclusive process of receiving knowledge, or what is described as “banking” by Freire, (4) consider a revised model of education for social justice founded on a pedagogical approach that draws on the various schools of difference (feminist pedagogy, critical pedagogy and postcolonial pedagogy), and tailored to the cultural, religious and historical context of the Middle East.

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