Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: Disrupting a Computing Engineering Class in the Higher Education Context
This study presents the experience of a feminist pedagogical practice of inclusive readings as well as a space for critical thinking stemming from the reflective literary analysis of the reading of 40 stories from the book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls Volume 1 in an English class for the Computer Engineering major at Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC), San Carlos Campus. The aim of the pedagogical practice was based on the use of empowerment pedagogy and feminism as emancipatory mechanisms to empower students to create a space for inclusion, reflection, identity, the construction of knowledge through dialogic interaction, and the development of learning autonomy in the classroom (Freire, 1970; Forrest & Rosenberg, 1997; Hahna, 2013; Louise-Lawrence, 2014; Shrewbury, 1993).
The intention behind reading the stories in the class was promoting a meaningful learning experience with the critical internalization of processes of inequality in a classroom regarding masculinized majors at TEC. The practice sought to raise awareness about the social power struggles society faces and it aimed at exposing students to real stories to make them conscious of gender justice.
This study was carried out in an advanced English class of eleven students, ten males and one female, ranging from 18-22 years old during the second semester of 2017 (fifteen weeks of classes). The class took place once a week for a total of 3 hours. Forty stories were read in class during the semester.
Data were collected through weekly reflective written journals and analyzed using domain analysis (Hatch, 2002; Spradley, 1979). The written reactions were free form and students’ insights emphasized on topics of gender equality and inequality. This descriptive study highlighted the students’ constructivist perceptions from their unique processes of meaning construction and the social realities of their personal, social, and academic environment.
This study highlights the inspiration behind the stories, a sense of determination in the characters, and the acquisition of knowledge through the stories. These results were linked to the denial of gender equality, the acknowledgement of gender inequality, and the celebration of an innovative and differentiating pedagogical practice in higher education.
As part of feminist pedagogy, one of the classroom-based practices resulted in students challenging traditional assumptions regarding knowledge, and creating their own understanding about the role of women in the stories. The classroom environment was conductive to students sharing their opinions, constructing their own understanding, and feeling emancipated from their ingrained beliefs about social and gender issues.
Teachers can make a change to support the belief that critical and reflective pedagogy can be a transformative empowered agent in a world that claims for social justice. This change has to be a constant process of raising awareness for all educators in every educational context. The final objective lies in generating a space of criticism and individual conscience for the construction of a society that is more egalitarian, inclusive, and fair.