Annotated Bibliography of Some Sources on Women's Ways of Knowing

Roger Hiemstra

Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, N. Goldberger, L, & Tarule, J. M. (1986). Women's ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books. This book has perhaps done more than any other to "popularize" and help promote the new understanding that many women learn in ways different than those of men. Based on interviews with both students and women in professional roles, five distinct categories for "knowing" emerged: (a) a position of silence, subject to the whim of authority, (b) received knowledge from others, (c) subjective knowledge often associated with an inner voice, (d) procedural knowledge involving learning how to apply objective means for acquiring and communicating information, and (e) constructed knowledge where women view themselves as knowledge creators. Several ideas for fostering women's development in learning situations are presented.

Collard, S, & Stalker, J. (1991). Women's trouble: Women, gender, and the learning environment. In R. Hiemstra (Ed.), Creating environments for effective adult learning (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 50). San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Institutional settings both create and mirror a learning environment that devalues and disempowers women learners.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Gilligan was one of the first American authors to discuss distinctive developmental characteristics of women. Although focusing primarily on moral development issues, there is much in this book about adult development in general that the interested adult education practitioner should consider.

Hayes, E. R. (1989). Insights from women's experiences for teaching and learning. In E. R. Hayes (Ed), Effective teaching styles (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 43). San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Hayes presents a rationale for a feminist pedagogy and describes what the corresponding process should entail: Collaboration in teaching and learning activities, cooperative communication styles, holistic approaches to learning, strategies for theory building, and action projects. She urges consideration of these strategies in the light of women's needs as learners, and appreciation of women's strengths and experiences.

Kolodny, A. (1991, February 6). Colleges must recognize students' cognitive styles and cultural backgrounds. Chronicle of Higher Education, A44. Kolodny explains why educators must think about not only what they are teaching but also who and how. Although directed primarily at undergraduate teaching, she offers several ideas appropriate for adult education as well. She describes how high attrition rates for women in engineering courses in the U.S. were traced to teaching approaches that failed to account for the way women prefer to learn and discuss subject matter.

Luttrell, W. (1989). Working-class women's ways of knowing: Effects of gender, race, and class. Sociology of Education, 62, 33-46. This article describes and analyzes how black and white working-class women use knowledge. These women's perspectives challenge feminist views of a universal mode of knowing for women. Instead, the author suggests that complex power relations of gender, race, and class exist that shape how women think, learn, and know. For adult educators concerned with creating equitable learning environments, the author suggests that ethnic, class, and race issues specific to women's experiences must be carefully examined.

Tannen, D. (1990). You just don't understand: Women and men in conversation. New York: William Morrow. This book helps us to better understand some of the sociolinguistic differences between men and women that can affect learning environments. Recent research from linguistic and social sciences that indicates how women and men use language differently is included. Men see themselves as autonomous individuals, where conversations are attempts to achieve and maintain an upper hand. Women see themselves as enmeshed in a web of relationships that they want to maintain, and conversations are negotiations for closeness, confirmation, and support.

-- Return to the section on learning and instruction

-- Return to first page