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Teaching Transformation: Book Review

This blog post was originally posted on Gender Across Borders as part of the Feminism and Education series. It ran yesterday at http://tinyurl.com/45bozm8.  Today, I am posting it on my blog.

Teaching Transformation: Transcultural Classroom Dialogues (2007) by AnaLouise Keating is a much needed book for educators. The book casts a wide net, as those interested in feminism, transformative teaching, pedagogy, race, and sexuality will get something out of this book. The book continues in a long line of great books about pedagogy like Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks. Keating unpacks issues of dialogue, power, discussion, and pedagogy in her book.

The major strengths of the book lie in the fact that Keating willingly shares her successes and teachable moments with us. I hasten to say failures, since they were moments when she learned something new and this does not constitute a failure. She also reminds us that you cannot teach about race without also discussing Whiteness. By not including Whiteness, we place it in the place of dominance. Thus, unpacking Whiteness in the classroom is needed. She shares how difficult this can be in the classroom, as it requires serious introspection by students and the instructor. Keating reminds us to think about how the learning environment needs to provide students with a framework. And, this is not just the syllabus, but the way that the class will study the topics, treat one another, and go to the material.

In a similar fashion, Keating acknowledges that teaching gender requires an inclusive framework, too. While the term Intersectionality is only used three times in the book and is in the index, her method is clearly offering an Intersectional approach to her pedagogy. Although, from perusing the index, I see that interdependence, interconnectivity, transformational multiculturalism, and relational teaching strategies are used more. In my opinion, these are fruit from the same tree and make her book well-suited for the feminist instructor.

What this book does that most others have not, though, is include 7 separate appendices which the nascent to seasoned instructor will find useful. Appendix 1 “Dialogue: Some of My Presuppositions” provides a framework for the classroom discussions. What are the rules of engagement for the class? She spells this out with six presuppositions. They vary from social justice exists, our educations have been biased to people have a basic goodness (125-26). In Appendix II “Listening with Raw Openness,” she reminds us that listening is a crucial component of teaching and transformative dialogue. Appendices IV and V relate to Whiteness and the importance of also teaching Whiteness when having discussions about race. The Appendix 6 offers several sample syllabi from different courses she has taught.

The book made me think of my agency as an instructor, but also the students who sit in my classes. They have agency as well and I have to remember to nurture this and allow them to explore it both in class and in their assignments. Learning is not static and as educators we need to keep abreast of new teaching strategies. Feminist educators need a copy of Teaching Transformation on their bookshelf—nestled right beside books by bell hooks.

Each term I re-evaluate my courses and think of the hits and misses. Keating’s book caused me to think about how I will reflect about my courses this term. I have already followed some of her suggestions and will continue to do so as I begin intensive grading this next week. This book speaks to educators in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the high school through post-secondary levels.

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