Feminist Online Writing Courses
Civic Rhetoric, Community Action, and Student Success

Letizia Guglielmo


Feminist Classrooms

In defining feminist teaching and feminist learning spaces, I draw here from a number of sources and scholars, including

Cynthia L. Selfe (1990), who claims, “Such classrooms would value personal and group discovery through open discussions, collaboration, and process-based writing and reading activities” and are “broadly inclusive and embracing, non-hierarchical, student-centered communities” (p. 121, 122)

Mary E. Hocks (1990), who explains that “[f]eminine perspectives can offer alternate, more holistic ways of knowing, including collaborative social processes for constructing facts and new relationships to objects of study” (p. 108)

Lisa Gerrard (1999), who defines feminist pedagogy as one “that connects personal experience with political knowledge, reduces hierarchical relationships in the classroom, promotes collaboration, validates women’s experiences, and offers a forum for women’s voices” (p. 377-378)

Although I do not focus on women’s experiences exclusively in this discussion, believing that this approach has the potential to benefit all students enrolled in the course, carefully constructed course activities can invite continued participation from female students and help to address what Hawisher and Selfe, among others, describe as inequitable opportunities that may create the deliberate exclusion of women from technologically mediated activities (p. 129).

Again, because of the virtual environment and lack of f2f contact, much of the communication in the online writing course takes written form and is facilitated by synchronous and asynchronous communication technologies. Since students typically enroll in online courses as a result of their non-traditional schedules and need for flexibility (Berge, 2000), synchronous or real-time communication may not be a realistic expectation for all students. Synchronous communication can, however, offer useful opportunities for one-on-one or small group conferences between the instructor and students that we know have served our students well in the traditional classroom.

The discussion board, on the other hand, an asynchronous communication technology, can become central to an instructor’s goal to foster civic action and participation.