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Feminist perspectives on learning in community


Although I am aware that most of the parents I know in the various ASD networks I am part of are women, I haven’t really given any attention to the potential significance of this. Having read a report of a study of learning in social action organisations in Canada (English, 2005). English interviewed 16 women who were either directors or board members of women’s organisations and analysed their narratives using Focault’s analysis of power grid.

One of her observations was that the work of the organisations studied was often underfunded. Subjects reported that in general the funding deficit was made up for with voluntary work by members – people tended to be made to feel guilty if they didn’t participate, but at the same time were angry at having to pick up the tab. English suggests that there is an underlying assumption by government organisations that women will fill the gaps. One of the threads that runs through many ASD mail groups is the failure of the public services to respond to the needs of children and young people and their families in a timely manner. Although there are no doubt many different reasons for this, I do wonder of one of them is the assumption that women will somehow continue to provide whatever is needed however difficult it is to do so. Very often men appear to absent themselves from discussions about the care of their children with ASDs, yet it seems that when they are actively involved, sometimes things move more quickly.

I don’t think this is something I want to make a big thing of, but it may be that I need to keep in mind a possible feminist dimension when I come to look at data analysis.

English also makes the same observation that I have come across with many authors now of formal education being privileged over learning outside the institution, with an emphasis on accredited learning. She suggests that educators need to “attend to societal and cultural factors influencing learning” and points out that actual learning is “often non-formal and not infrequently spurred on by a disorienting dilemma or difficult situation.”  This supports my intention to use critical incident vignettes in my research.

English, L. (2005). Narrative Research and Feminist Knowing: A poststructural reading of women’s learning in community organizations. McGill Journal of Education, 40(1), 143-155.


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