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A primary goal of feminist pedagogy is to empower students for the purpose of improving people's lives and achieving social justice in systems and institutions. Instructors design courses to be transformative for students, meaning, in particular, that they tend to help students find direction and purpose. Courses taught using the theory of feminist pedagogy have historically tended to emphasize not just analysis of inequalities, but also analysis of social justice movements and the methods and skills, including research, for working toward social justice. Feminist theorists note that we cannot hope to empower students by teaching only victimization.

Because -- like other theories of inclusive education -- it is rooted in research on how people know what they know (epistemology), some researchers and practitioners think of feminist pedagogy as plural: feminist pedagogies.

Course content tends to center the voices, perspectives, and experiences of historically marginalized groups (e.g., women, people of color, people with disabilities). Feminist pedagogy typically aima to develop students' understanding of the multiple aspects of identity (e.g, gender as well as race as well as social class), and to explore how systems and institutions not only replicate inequalities but also intersect with other systems (e.g, that educational systems intertwine with economic systems and cultural systems such that women of color or low-income women will typically have a different experience with education than do white women or middle-class women).

Summary of Research

Research on feminist pedagogy notes its effectiveness at creating a motivational learning environment and success in empowering a broad range of students. "Empowerment" is still sometimes measured through self-report, but more often today through direct assessment of communication, analytical, problem-solving, and collaboration skills. Feminist pedagogy also tenda to develop cross-cultural competence and interdisciplinary analytical skills. As is true of all inclusive pedagogies, practices tend to fit a wide range of good teaching practices (see CATL's Teaching Improvement Guide and the Equity Strategies section of this Guide for more on this).

The theory of feminist pedagogy is well developed. In the theoretical literature, empowerment includes developing students' skills as much as their knowledge and typically includes developing students' sense of the responsibilities of world citizens. Feminist pedagogy therefore tend to organize around clear learning goals and active learning methods. To promote active learning and student empowerment, course designs and teaching practices tend to decenter the instructor; discussion, projects, community-based learning, and case studies are more common teaching methods than lecture. A common goal in the theoretical literature is to embue students with shared responsibility for the course and their own learning; thus courses often provide at least some degree of student autonomy (depending on the developmental level of the course) for the shaping of the course and choice in the means of demonstrating their learning.

Because the goal is to empower students, feminist pedagogy pioneered community-based learning. The emphasis on active learning means that courses designed and taught with feminist pedagogies naturally incorporate at least one if not several high-impact practices.


Vanderbilt University's Vanderbilt Center for Teaching website hosts this comprehnsive A Guide to Feminist Pedagogy. It is well worth your time.


Light, T., Nicholas, Jane, & Bondy, ReneĢe. (2015). Feminist pedagogy in higher education: Critical theory and practice. Waterloo, Ontario : Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Valle-Ruiz, L., Navarro, K., Mendoza, K., McGrath, A., Galina, B., Chick, N., Brewer, S., Bostow, R.  A Guide to Feminist Pedagogy. (2015). Vanderbilt Center for Teaching. Retrieved December 7, 2017, from