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From Persistence to Resistance: Pedagogies of Liberation for Inclusive Science and Engineering

Donna Riley, Lionel Claris


This paper describes liberative pedagogies and their implementation in a women's college engineering classroom. A variety of assessment techniques employed in the first three years of a five-year study on liberative pedagogies in engineering reveal a clear dynamic of resistance. Assessment data are interpreted drawing on Foucault's theory of resistance, developmental theories of critical thinking and reflective judgment, and the literature on liberative pedagogies itself, in order to better understand the causes and focal elements of resistance, and in order to evaluate the role of resistance in the learning process. How can we apply ideas from feminist and critical pedagogies in science and engineering classrooms? How do these pedagogies of liberation challenge students' epistemological assumptions, that is how they know what they know, and epistemologies of science? How do we make sense of student resistance in the classroom, and how can we tap this resistance as a positive learning tool? If the role of women (and men) in engineering changes from persister to resister, even a group small in number may have a large and long-lasting impact on engineering education and practice.


liberative pedagogies; critical thinking; reflective judgment; power relations; thermodynamics; critical pedagogy; feminist pedagogy

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