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Wednesday, June 22 • 13:30 - 14:20
CON02.12 - Motivating Learning in an Introductory Women's Studies Course: Flexibility, Reflection, Experience

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Introductory Women’s Studies (WS 101) at a mid-sized, STEM-oriented, comprehensive university can be a challenge. Potential resistance to new information and ideas can be compounded in a large class, of which a significant number of learners are not there by choice (WS 101 is required for some). Although several come in having already been introduced to social justice principles, many of the 150 learners are uncertain about feminism’s relevance. Resistance, however, is both necessary and welcome in the formation of critical thinking (Lather, P. 1991. Getting Smart). Our workshop puts participants in direct contact with course processes that motivated learners to go beyond their own expectations and succeed in experiential learning, flexible authentic assessment, and critical reflection.

Redesigning the course in 2015 to involve experiential opportunities, the Instructor and a Librarian brought students into our Special Collections & Archives to transcribe and digitize century-old notes by a suffragist. Students also visited community organizations, critically reflecting through Intellectual Response Papers. Take-home examination questions brought weekly mini-journals back into view for students to reflect post-course on their learning through evolving theoretical lenses (Schön, D.A., 1983. The Reflective Practitioner).

Learners initially expressed uncertainty about their ability to accomplish tasks such as transcribing cursive script, or applying concepts to local sexual health organizations possibly unaligned with their own moral stances. By the end of the course, they had taken up alternate format assignments based on local field experiences of direct personal relevance (Svinicki, M. 2004. Learning and Motivation in the Postsecondary Classroom; Kuh, G. 2008. High Impact Educational Practices).

By the end of the session, participants will have attempted their own transcription, responded to at least one journal prompt, and engaged with students and the course team, in order to consider how similar techniques might transfer to their own contexts.


Brianna Bennett

Brianna Bennett is a student at the University of Waterloo.

Jessica Blackwell

Jessica Blackwell is Special Collections and Archives Librarian at the University of Waterloo.

Tatianna Brierley

Tatianna Brierley is a student at the University of Waterloo.
avatar for Trevor Holmes

Trevor Holmes

Senior Instructional Developer, University of Waterloo
Trevor Holmes is an educational developer with a background in cultural studies and English literature. He teaches in the Women's Studies program at the University of Waterloo where he is also a Senior Instructional Developer at the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

Emily Lorentz

Emily Lorentz is a student at the University of Waterloo.

Meghan Voll

Meghan Voll is a student at the University of Waterloo.

Additional Authors

Katrina Ackerman

Katrina Ackerman recently defended her Doctoral dissertation at Waterloo and has taken up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Regina.

Wednesday June 22, 2016 13:30 - 14:20 EDT
UCC 146