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Women’s Ways of Knowing – Introduction (1 of 3)

Catchy title. Especially for a blog post written by a man. Except, I didn’t come up with the title and I have a hunch that what I’m about to discuss applies similarly to men. The title derives from  Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind by Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger and Jill Mattock Tarule.

You may be wondering why on earth I would read a book by this title and I confess that I (regrettably) wouldn’t have if it had not been required for a course that I took on pedagogy back in January 2014. My (female) professor of Instructional Theory and Development (thankfully) had the gall to require this book.

My reluctant start into it was rapidly transformed into eager searching. This was not simply due to its value in understanding women but also because I resonated with the findings both personally and because I have observed similar phenomena occurring in men. That said, exactly how their findings might apply to men would probably not be identical.

The following series of posts relates to my interaction with the book which is concerned with how we learn and appropriate knowledge. This first post presents an overview of the book.

About their Research & Methodology

The findings are based on extensive interviews and research with numerous women (thus, if my hunch is correct that their findings apply similarly to men, there is not yet research to back it up). They focused on educational institutions and the family since these are two influential environments that foster and hinder women’s development. Incorporating the workplace would, of course,  provide further insight.

As of the date of publication of this book, psychology has largely ignored women for a variety of reasons and this book is a valuable remedy. Since the majority of psychology studies have been written by men it represents a limited perspective. In addition, they suggest that the suppression of the differences between males and females has contributed to a lack of interest in women. This is somewhat ironic in light of the current popular trend to suppress these differences even further (to the point of eradicating gender entirely). Finally, women’s “intuitive knowledge” is considered non-objective and untrustworthy.

The authors continue to explain their assumptions and the foundations upon which they built their interviews. Since this is not my area of specialty and not critical to what follows, I’m going to move on. This does not mean that it is not important, however.

Categories of Knowledge

Most of the book is oriented around explaining the following 5 categories of “knowing” into which all women fit:

  1. Silence: mindless and voiceless
  2. Received knowledge: able to receive but not create knowledge
  3. Subjective knowledge: knowledge is personal private, intuitive
  4. Procedural knowledge: able to apply objective procedures to obtain and communicate knowledge
  5. Constructed knowledge: since knowledge is contextual, they can create knowledge as well as value both subjective and objective strategies for knowing

The next post will offer a brief discussion of each category. The final post will then conclude with how this research should impact how we understand the ways we learn and appropriate knowledge, as well as how it should affect the way we teach.

Published in Personal Growth


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