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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"All this talk!" : stories of women learning Chapman, Valerie-Lee


My own experience as a mature woman student led me to question how women learn. A review of literature on adult learning theory, feminist scholarship, postmodern thought and educational program planning was undertaken and a research question synthesised. I asked five mature women program planners who had returned to formal graduate education, either as part time or full time students: How has your experience of learning as a woman affected your program planning practice? The organizing methodology for the study was narrative or storying, infused with the principles of feminist research practice. There were three individual interviews, and then a group meeting. An initial life story analysis was given to the five women and we discussed interpretations. The study was then written up to include my own learning experiences, and the whole text analyzed to see what our personal narratives revealed about the larger educational discourse. The women's stories of learning fell into three categories of experience: In the first, the metaphor is talk, in the second, the metaphor is opposition—from the "old, male model", in the third, the metaphor is power. Some conclusions: The women's stories validated much of the feminist literature on women's ways of learning; women struggle to learn under the "old, male model"; learning at school was more challenging than learning at work; good teaching is as important as how learning is designed; power-knowledge structures in higher education are well hidden, but still regulate and discipline women learning; that these women resisted regulation; that while men and women are often alienated, seeing their opposite sex as the Other, there is "another way", and, finally, that the (male) use of planning as a metaphor for negotiating power and responsibility is not sufficient to describe how the women plan. Rather, their metaphor might be that planning is creative modelling, an embodying of good learning experiences in planning practice. Their suggested model for planning focuses on intention, modelling, courage and creativity. Implications for practice include making gender visible, making power visible and honouring feminist work.

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