Radical Education and Social Change: An Experiment in Student-Driven Democratic Feminist Education

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Radical Education and Social Change: An Experiment in Student-Driven Democratic Feminist Education

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Title: Radical Education and Social Change: An Experiment in Student-Driven Democratic Feminist Education
Author: Hatzenbeler, Sam
Abstract: An undergraduate class, "Radical Education and Social Change," was offered at the University of Washington in Winter 2006. The course was designed and taught by students. The class was an intentional departure from the mainstream classroom environment and embraced feminist and anti-authoritarian methods.
Description: The author reflects on her role in designing and teaching a University of Washington undergraduate course, "Radical Education and Social Change," (Comparative History of Ideas, Winter Quarter 2006). The following excerpt summarizes some of the findings. "[S]tudents are not accustomed to having a sense of responsibility to their teachers or to their classmates, especially if there aren't grades or other official methods of accountability. While some people did stop coming, most others regularly attended class and did the readings. Because ours was a radically different approach to learning, it was difficult for some to adjust to new methods in an educational culture that rewards rapid consumption of knowledge and so-called objective evaluation of production by instructors. ... [O]ur class began to shift the learning climate of the university. Once students do have power over their own learning and teachers do not have unfair power over them in assigning grades, other motivations for learning become the primary reasons for student participation. ... [W]e found that a commitment to learning for its own sake as well as a dedication to the community were alternative sources of motivation. In traditional classrooms, community building between students is not generally made a priority. This stems from, among other things, a lack of value in student knowledge and experience. Also, many students feel powerless to change a classroom format, content or dynamic in traditional classes because they have no voice in the syllabus development process or teaching methods. For students in our class, Radical Education was an anomaly among their other educational experiences. We replaced external pressures and forces, such as compulsory attendance, homework, and teacher-assigned grades, to other motivations, such as students' internal drive to further their own learning and feeling accountable to a larger community."
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/15909

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