Progressive Education and Feminist Pedagogies: Issues in Gender, Power and Authority
by Frances A. Maher — 1999
This essay explores the relationship between feminist pedagogical theory and the student-centered legacy of progressive education around the specific issues of classroom gender relations and the construction of the female teacher’s authority. Are feminist pedagogies basically just “good teaching”? And if so, why is a specifically feminist pedagogy necessary? The essay is in four parts. It first discusses contemporary applications of progressive educational theory to issues of gender, as well as to other forms of inequality. Then, beginning with a discussion of the legacy of Dewey himself in relation to his writing on women, it focuses on an issue that holds specific problems for women teachers, namely that of the teacher’s authority in the classroom. Finally, through a few classroom examples, it suggests how thinking about gender and other aspects of difference as forms of unequal power relations can help reframe the grounds for the teacher’s authority, giving her (or him) grounds for active intervention in the power dynamics of the classroom in the name of a reformulation of democratic teaching.
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