A matter of race and gender: an examination of an undergraduate music program through the lens of feminist pedagogy and black feminist pedagogy
Grissom-Broughton, Paula A.
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Theoretical perspectives of feminist pedagogy provide an alternative lens to examine the teaching and learning process within music education programs in higher education. Music programs have traditionally emphasized formal constructions and static content, which typically are associated with Western European, patriarchal ideologies. Feminist pedagogy, originating in social constructivism and critical theory, offers an instructional approach for a more democratic and diverse curriculum and pedagogy. Extending from feminist pedagogy is Black feminist pedagogy, which offers a more specialized instructional approach for underrepresented populations in education. Both feminist pedagogy and Black feminist pedagogy foster a unique intersection for institutions of higher education whose historic mission integrates race and gender as part of its targeted efforts. When examining the music education literature, particularly as it relates to diverse groups, a feminist instructional approach addresses the interconnections of race and gender as social and cultural constructions, which are almost absent from higher education research altogether. Using the intrinsic case study model and qualitative data, I examine ways feminist pedagogy and Black feminist pedagogy, are integrated into the undergraduate music program at Spelman College, a historically Black college for women. I also investigate how course curricula are inclusive of both traditional feminist and Black feminist pedagogical principles. I explore how discourses of gender, as well as race, play a role in the pedagogical practices of teachers within a single-sex institution committed to the education and empowerment of women of color. Furthermore, I describe ways in which students are influenced by both traditional feminist and Black feminist pedagogical approaches, and how music educators are fulfilling the need to teach music outside their own experiences, which are in some cases, a Western European patriarchal approach. Using Barbara Coeyman’s (1996) four principles of traditional feminist pedagogy for women’s studies in music and the general music major curriculum (i.e., diversity, opportunities for all voices, shared responsibility, and orientation to action), as a theoretical framework the following three components were examined in this study: context (structural influences of gender and race), content (curriculum and course design), and pedagogy (classroom instruction and goals). Data was ascertained through triangulated measures of interviews with faculty and students, observations of class time and performances, and document collection of relevant data sources (e.g., course syllabi, music department handbook, and performance programs). I used findings from the research to demonstrate how discourses of gender and race permeate the institutional environment at Spelman College, and have direct links to curricula structure, as well as the institutional mission of the teaching and learning process of its students. I also used findings to further enhance the knowledge base of music education literature and implications for African-American females in higher education. Finally, suggestions were given as to how music educators can design and teach within a music environment that is socially and culturally inclusive for all students.