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Constructing pedagogies: A feminist study of three college writing teachers

Emily James Isaacs, University of Massachusetts Amherst


With the knowledge that teachers are not formed entirely through training and theoretical study, and the hope that teachers do not compose their pedagogies entirely in isolation and solely from their own experiences, I ask the question: how do practicing teachers successfully construct pedagogies which are personally and experientially valid as well as theoretically informed? To explore this question I conducted a qualitative study of three women writing teachers which describes how these teachers have come to construct their own pedagogies. From feminist educational theorists and most particularly Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger and Tarule (Women's Ways of Knowing), I have developed a theory for understanding pedagogical development as a process of "integrating objective and subjective knowing" (134). It is on this epistemological conception that I base my own thesis on how teachers ideally "construct" their pedagogies: by integrating the knowledge they obtain from theory with their own beliefs, educational experiences, and the knowledge they gain from their pedagogical contexts--the communities of teachers and students with whom they work. My qualitative methodology consists of regular classroom observations, collection of student writing and teachers' written responses, extensive interviews with teachers as well as shorter interviews with students, and a system of working with teachers to identify issues and to share case study drafts with teachers for feedback. The core of the dissertation consists of the three case studies: in each, I first describe the courses observed, with an emphasis on detailing the role each teacher plays; and second, discuss the educational, experiential, theoretical and situational influences which teachers offered and/or I observed as significantly influencing their pedagogical decisions. I examine how these three teachers, within their particular contexts, negotiate and make decisions about their role in the classroom. In my analysis, I illuminate the connections--and mis-connections--between theory and practice, and suggest the implications of these findings for scholars of composition and pedagogical theory.

Subject Area

Higher education|Teacher education|Rhetoric|Composition|Womens studies|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Isaacs, Emily James, "Constructing pedagogies: A feminist study of three college writing teachers" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9709610.