Loughborough University
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Reconceptualising feminist pedagogies in higher education: theoretical narratives, political frameworks and institutional dynamics

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posted on 2022-04-20, 08:00 authored by Sophia Kier-Byfield

This study seeks to destabilise and thus expand understandings and applications of feminist pedagogy through the close reading of texts in the literature and reflecting on pedagogical experience. Since the inception of Women’s Studies in the 1970s, the study and application of feminist teaching and learning theories has grown into an established field of academic enquiry. This thesis discovers and examines the underlying politics of feminist pedagogy’s supporting literatures, and it takes a set of specific trends and discursive trajectories in this literature as its primary object of study. Through critical interrogation of central theories in the field and self-reflection on practice, the thesis analyses claims and assumptions about feminist pedagogy and questions the ways in which it is theorised, portrayed, historicised and practised. It therefore addresses a gap in feminist pedagogical scholarship by turning a critical perspective on the field itself and questioning its rhetoric. It investigates the ways in which positive and hopeful investments in feminist pedagogy operate and considers what might be overlooked when the attributes and potential of particular concepts are taken for granted. 

The thesis analyses how notions of origin, resistance, collective, and alternative are employed in the field and suggests how their uses might be problematised. These four terms recur throughout a variety of texts, and it is argued that together they form a strong yet subtle backdrop to the theorisation of feminist pedagogy. By tracking these words through various textual locations and examples, the thesis shows how they are employed and relied upon to grant positive political affect and legitimacy to feminist pedagogy whilst remaining entwined in limiting binaries. Their repetition in feminist pedagogical thinking and narratives has rendered them tropes rather than useful tools for working through the difficulties, paradoxes and intricacies of teaching and learning life. 

In addition to the analysis of published texts, the thesis reflects on pedagogical practice. Analysis of experience enables a questioning of the author’s own assumptions about feminist pedagogy, extending and enriching the logic of close reading critique. The centrality of reflection and practice in the thesis enacts its application of feminist epistemology and located research. The primary sites of the investigation are the classroom and research contexts of the university in the United Kingdom, United States and Europe and the research produced in English about these institutional systems and practices. The thesis also considers how the relationship between institutions and their alternatives functions by positioning and interrogating the art institution as a more capable site for political teaching and learning.


Loughborough University and the Centre for Doctoral Training: Feminism, Sexual Politics and Visual Culture



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • English


Loughborough University

Rights holder

© Sophia Kier-Byfield

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en


Barbara Cooke ; Kathryn Brown

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

This submission includes a signed certificate in addition to the thesis file(s)

  • I have submitted a signed certificate