Working with Gender in the Learning and Teaching Dynamic: Three Case Studies

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This paper sets out to explore the ways in which issues of gender enter into the teaching/learning process in ways that may be potentially obstructive or constructive. We are interested, in particular, in the ways in which the symbolic aspects of ‘teacher’ as embodied female enters into responses to learning. We take learning to involve a mutual process of intellectual and emotional engagement, entailing both conscious and unconscious knowledge and pedagogic strategies. The unconscious aspects of any group work may impede the group task (Bion l961, Stokes l994) in this case learning. Unconscious processes and defences are also gendered. For example projections onto the female teacher are associated not only with defences against anxiety but also with the scripted nature of the feminine (Lacan 2000, Segal l997, Rose 2000) or become the site of psychically split-off projections, the good and bad breast (Klein l959). Such gendered projections are mediated also by class and ethnicity. Femininity and masculinity are seen as complex, varied and dynamic – neither one being in the unproblematic possession of men or women. Yet, gender as both a defence and a potential site of unconscious projections is of interest because of its presence in the often sensitive, unspoken, aspects of the learning experience. The question is how to make constructive use of gender, without colluding in cultural stereotypes, in the learning and teaching context. The paper is a culmination of shared thoughts, feelings, experiences and teaching strategies pursued to enhance learning and to defuse the more negatively gendered defensive strategies that may be deployed by the student group and teachers alike.


Keywords: Gender, Feminitity, Learning, Teaching, Unconscious, Dynamics
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr. Stella Maile

Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Humanities, Languages and Social Science
Bristol, UK

Stella's research spans the areas of organisational sociology, work, identity, discourse analysis and globalisation. She has recently published on the subjects of stakeholding, governance, and the politics of best value, and has delivered international and national conference papers on work and identity and the governance of refugees. She sat for three years on the editorial board of the BSA journal Sociology and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Stella is currently working on a co-authored book which provides a critical analysis of the British Honours System.

Natalia Hanley

Senior Lecturer, Sociology and Criminology
Bristol, UK


Dr. Michal Nahman

Affiliation not supplied
Bristol, UK


Ref: L08P0279