Disrupting the gendered dystopia: Inclusive strategies for university teaching, learning and curriculum from an ethnographic study

Year: 2017

Author: Waite, Katrina, Anderson, Theresa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

teaching, learning and curriculum from an ethnographic study
"Dystopia" is a strong word. Yet our ethnographic research shows that "normal" everyday university teaching, learning, and curriculum is infused with practices that perpetuate gender inequality - even in subjects where there are gender-balanced enrolments. Importantly, these practices tend to be invisible to the participants, both teachers and students. Gender inequality then becomes entrenched in pay gaps from the first graduate job, and despite government policy initiatives, including the reporting requirements of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, progress towards gender equality in the workplace is exceedingly slow.

This presentation will share the ethnographic methodologies used to uncover surprising results which, in turn, led to the design of inclusive, and subtlely disruptive, university teaching strategies. Using Bourdieusian reflexive sociology (2002), we will then discuss the rhetorical challenge of representing these somewhat confronting findings to a variety of audiences - students staff, all genders - in a way which engages the various groups in change.

The construction of "normal" practices as "dystopian" is used with rhetorical intent, and we will share case examples where a carefully framed "dystopian / utopian" arc informed by Levitas (2013) has been effective in engaging both staff and students in activities which disrupt entrenched gendered behaviour. This work is also informed by Haliliuc (2016), who considers the audience reception of rhetoric as an important area of study.

We will introduce Bourdieu's "Masculine domination" (2002) as a framing device for working in the field of unconscious gender bias, and discuss the relevance of the Harvard Gender Equity Case Study (2013) to the Australian context.

Strategies to change these gendered practices are subject to both internal politics within the university - the prioritized strategic initiatives - and changing political discourses relating to gender equality. We will show how these politics result in a focus on educational areas where the problem is highly visible, such as STEM, but that unconscious biases in gender-balanced disciplines receive far less focus due to conflicting organizational and political discourses.