“Feminist Perspectives on Current Events” is a 100-level course geared towards students who have never taken a Women, Gender, and Sexuality class before and most likely will not become WGSS majors. Our goal is to develop political and media literacies by encouraging students to consider the “why, where, what and how” of local, national, and global current events. The course looks broadly at current events associated with climate, health, politics, family, religion, education, sports, etc. and explores the social and global contexts shaping such events. We anticipate an enrollment of about 50-75 students and are meeting once a week for an hour and twenty minutes.
Course learning outcomes are relatively low level on the Bloom taxonomy and include the importance of recognising social institutions and their implication in current events as well as explaining how cultural and historical contexts impact the social meaning and significance attached to these events (Bloom: Understanding). The course also requires students to apply feminist lenses to critically analyse contemporary issues (Bloom: Applying). This latter objective does not expect all students to embrace feminist ideals, but understand and apply them. Students may or may not “agree” with aspects of course readings or a perspective presented, but do need to recall basic concepts, explain or identify them, and draw connections or conclusions among them by applying feminist approaches. Finally, a course learning objective is the appraisal of social and cultural contexts and their role in knowledge production (Bloom: Evaluating). This latter is important in helping students understand the origins and consequences of certain kinds of knowledges and their relationship to social justice.
Learning activities and student assessment are bundled and looped through online assignments and classroom mini-lecture and large and small group discussions. Key assignments include a weekly current issues analysis assignment that requires students to select an issue (short article, blog post, art, graphic, video or movie clip, poem, song lyrics, advertisement, short story, etc.) from online media content that relates to the theme of the week and use course readings as well as lecture and class discussion to interpret/analyse this issue. We also have a political analysis assignment that requires students to investigate organisations/businesses, etc. with an online presence that address and/or transform issues associated with a weekly theme of their choice. The question they apply is how that group/business/organisation shapes the news (knowledge broadly defined) about that topic. In the physical classroom, students share these assignments in small groups and each group selects one to showcase the large group. Another assignment is the community event paper, which is “outside” both the classroom and online activities. Students participate in a community “event,” broadly defined, and write a short paper discussing how the event participates in knowledge construction about a contemporary issue. Finally, students will be engaged in small groups on a knowledge collage assignment. We had anticipated using the graphic design software, canva.com, but are reconsidering that given some of its drawbacks. The objective of this assignment is the assemblage of diverse “takes” on a single issue so that students can learn to critically engage with the ways in which multiple narratives and perspectives constitute public knowledge on current events (the “politics of knowledge” approach utilised throughout the term). This group project includes online collaboration in the production of the product as well as an in-class group presentation of the group’s objectives and process, challenges and surprises.