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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Toward transformative learning and a transnational feminist pedagogy : experiences of activist-facilitators working in development Hanson, Cynthia Louise


The purpose of this study was:1) to explore how critical reflection (as part of praxis) is understood and experienced by activists facilitating participatory workshops; and 2) to understand how these activist-facilitators identify and position paradoxes and possibilities in their development work, including the experiences of power and transformation therein. By examining how activists, like myself, understand and practice critical reflection in relation to the facilitation of participatory workshops and how that reflection informs praxis – a key component of transformational learning – this study deconstructs participatory methodological practices within the context of development work. The study is positioned at the interface of transformative learning, activism, and participatory development and framed by transnational feminist pedagogy. The study used qualitative methods informed by feminist perspectives. The study participants were a diverse group of fourteen Canadian women, including myself, who have varied experiences as facilitators of women’s rights and gender equality workshops in transnational locations. Through unstructured interviews and focus groups, the participants were questioned about pedagogical and political aspects of their work as Minority World activists. Four key themes in activist-facilitation experience were identified. They are: understandings and misunderstandings of critical reflection as a pedagogical practice; the often paradoxical ways that activist play out positions of power; how activists identify possibilities and paradoxes in working in dominant and participatory development paradigms; and opportunities for personal or social transformation. Working in teams and with allies, nurturing connections with others, dismantling hierarchies and encouraging collaborative models of learning were all recognized as important ways to build upon a key learning in the study – facilitation as a sustained practice. A lack of conceptual clarity around critical reflection as a pedagogical practice however, demonstrated the need for additional efforts toward achieving a co-intentional practice between learners and facilitators. The political/transformative components of this research are noteworthy because they seek to validate the work of activists, to share strategies that resist hegemonic practices, and to enhance the development of transnational feminist pedagogies. In this way critical reflection was envisioned as part of praxis and transforming life-long learning.

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