Book Review: Feminist Pedagogy in Higher Education

Reinert Center typeset_icon_2014_solid_082214by James Fortney, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

What is feminist pedagogy and how can it advance our commitment to social and gender justice? Feminist Pedagogy in Higher Education (Light et al., 2015) invites scholars from a variety of disciplines to explore this question from both theoretical and practical perspectives. The editors of the volume synthesize the collection of fifteen essays as follows:

“Building on critical advances in feminist theory, feminist scholars have developed innovative ways of teaching and learning that place issues of social inequality and difference at the center of the curriculum. . . . Feminist pedagogy typically critiques traditional received wisdom, recognizes the existing knowledge of students, challenges the hierarchy of ways of knowing (e.g., book versus experiential learning), renegotiates and re-forms the relationship between teacher and student, and respects and values the diversity of the personal experiences of all students while relating the learning in academic classrooms to the real world” (p. 4).

Each author reflects on both the successes and challenges of employing feminist pedagogy in their teaching. What emerges from these reflections are conceptually rich accounts that offer practical classroom tools to incorporate into any course, including assignments, teaching strategies, and assessment and evaluation techniques to support the goals of feminist pedagogy listed above. They also represent different critical approaches for writing about the process of teaching – a technique that may be useful for anyone working to develop a philosophy of teaching statement or various teaching narratives for job materials, tenure and promotion documents, grant or fellowship applications, and so on.

If you only have time to read one essay, I recommend prioritizing “Classroom to Community: Reflections on Experiential Learning and Socially Just Citizenship” by Carm De Santis and Toni Serafini. The authors teach at a small, liberal arts, Catholic, undergraduate university in Canada and many of their examples align with our institutional teaching commitments to social justice and community engagement. Their reflections also provide a useful situation in which to consider the intersection of feminist pedagogy and the values of the Jesuit educational tradition (Boryczka et al., 2012).

Please reach out to the Reinert Center if you would like to discuss your reading of the essays in this book or to learn more about any of the teaching-related topics mentioned in this review.



Boryczka, J. M., Petrino, E. A., von Arx, J.P., & Currie, C. L. (Eds.), Jesuit and feminist education: Intersections in teaching and learning for the twenty-first century. New York: Fordham University Press.

De Santis, C., & Serafini, T. (2015). Classroom to community: Reflections on experiential learning and socially just citizenship. In T. P. Light, J. Nicholas, & R. Bondy (Eds.), Feminist pedagogy in higher education: Critical theory and practice (pp. 87-112). Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Light, T. P., Nicholas, J., & Bondy, R. (Eds.) (2015). Feminist pedagogy in higher education: Critical theory and practice. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Thompson, L. (1992). Feminist methodology for family studies. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 3-18.