Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

The Evaluation of University Teaching: Exploring the Question of Resistance

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

The Evaluation of University Teaching: Exploring the Question of Resistance

Article excerpt

The evaluation of university teaching has many political and ideological dimensions that have not been sufficiently explored in the literature dealing with evaluation practice. The problem I raise in this paper concerns how students can use the evaluation process as an expression of resistance to curricula that challenges them. I focus primarily on the question of student resistance within the context of evaluation. However, this resistance is only one small aspect of a larger question of institutional resistance that is manifest in multifarious ways within academic culture.

L'evaluation de l'enseignement universitaire porte de nombreux aspects politiques et idiologiques qui demandent a etre examines davantage dans la documentation portee sur la pratique de l'evaluation. Le probleme que je souleve dans cet article est le suivant, a savoir comment les etudiant(e)s peuvent utiliser le processus d'evaluation comme expression de resistence aux curricula qui les provoquent. Je porte surtout attention a la question de la resistance estudiantine dans le contexte de l'evaluation. Cette resistance ne constitue, cependant, qu'un infime aspect de la question beaucoup plus eten-due de la resistance institutionnelle qui s'exprime de facon multiple au sein de la culture universitaire.

The evaluation of university teaching has many political and ideological dimensions that have not been sufficiently explored in the literature dealing with evaluation practice. The problem I raise in this paper concerns how students can use the evaluation process as an expression of resistance to curricula that challenges them. In my faculty development practice, I found instances of this type of resistance in courses that challenged dominant paradigms and ideologies: courses dealing with feminist issues, anti-racist issues, and issues of sexuality, for example. Although the student evaluation of teaching literature does not deal with this topic, the question of student resistance has been explored quite extensively in the critical pedagogy literature (e.g., Hoodfar, 1992; Manicom, 1992; Ng, 1993; Simon, 1992).

This literature attests to the frequency with which university professors who "teach against the grain" (to appropriate Simon's (1992) term) have to endure stressful circumstances in their academic environment as a result of hostile reactions toward the course material. Various writers point out that in addition to the professor, other students may become the object of hostility. Moreover, this type of resistance may be implicitly or even explicitly supported within departmental power structures and departmental culture. The following quotes from articles published in peer-reviewed journals illustrate how resistance is enacted in the classroom.

"Although anger aroused by curriculum in women's studies is a response familiar to me as a feminist, my most difficult and worrisome moments as a feminist teacher concern the anger that comes from the classroom -- including teacher/student and student/student dynamics -- rather than from the course content. In the extreme, this anger lead to an encounter during which unbridled emotion on the part of a handful of students threatened to create divisions within the class difficult to remedy through appeals to 'reason'. As we shall see, I do not view this anger as a problem to be resolved simply through 'proper' technique or teaching method. Rather, I view it as arising from contradictions inherent in the endeavor to bring feminism into the classroom." (Currie, 1992, pp. 342)

In discussing male resistance to feminist material Orr (1993) writes:

"Many male students drop out in the early weeks of the course, and among those who remain there is a contingent clearly hostile to the course for sexist reasons. This hostility manifested in a variety of ways, ranging from sulky silence in class and/or poor attendance; to a superficial 'going along with it,' 'saying what the prof wants to hear', to overt anger exhibited in sexist comments, put-downs of women students, and attempts, all too often successful, to silence them. …

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