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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Walking a careful line : bridging feminist theory to pedagogical practice in secondary schools Short, Pamela Susanne


The purpose of this qualitative study is to understand and describe the work of five feminist teachers and to determine the extent to which feminist pedagogical theory is addressing the realities of secondary school teaching. I endeavour, in this study, to answer the following questions: Where are the gaps in the theoretical literature? How do the teachers define a feminist practice? What opportunities do they create in which to introduce a critical, feminist perspective to their classes? What elements of feminist theory can be reframed to work within the secondary school? How does the current structure of schools impose limits on the possibilities? What obstacles, constraints and contradictions are encountered in this work? In essence, to what extent have the goals of gender equity been achieved in the secondary school context? I conducted sequential interviews with the teachers and observed their classes. I discovered through this process that two levels of feminist teachers' work have not been adequately discussed in the literature: their efforts to revise content and their activism within the school environment. I devote much of this thesis to the description and analysis of this work. I also examine the themes that have evoked ongoing discussion and critique in the feminist pedagogical literature. I explore how the teachers make sense of the most problematic elements of this theory and identify which of those elements are most germane to the secondary school site. In this study, I focus on' the perspectives and experiences of teachers, but as I strive to illustrate, their work is profoundly influenced by the attitudes and responses of many people within and outside the school culture. Students (and sometimes parents), administrators and fellow educators, those involved in the development of the official curriculum and the selection of resources, all play a role in determining what the teachers can accomplish within their particular circumstances. Throughout the study I pay close attention to context, and in doing so, hope to contribute to an understanding of the material, social and structural conditions that shape and define the work of feminist teachers in secondary schools.

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