what does it mean to engage, part two: even more questions

In part one of this series, I provided one framework for engaging with an author/idea/reading: appreciation, critique and construction. I have found this framework to be very useful for students, particularly because it is concrete and logical and because it requires that students spend time really thinking through what the author is attempting to argue before moving on to critique it (this is what grad students love to do first) and/or discuss why it is/isn’t relevant to their lives (this is what undergrad students love to do first). But, even as I find this framework to be useful, I can’t help but wonder, particularly from the perspective of someone who draws upon queer and feminist pedagogy, about the aspects of engagement that it might be leaving out. The three part framework of appreciating, critiquing and constructing seems too rational; it is based on the goal of knowing an idea/author’s argument and being able to effectively describe, critique and apply it. But, what if knowing isn’t the primary goal? Or if it is only one part of what I am trying to get my students to do when they engage? Or if it can sometimes come at the expense of other, important aspects of engaging (and developing a connection) with ideas?

In posing these questions, I am thinking about the frequent need to emphasize feeling/experiencing over knowing and unlearning (as in, breaking down bad habits, busting binaries, challenging assumptions, reworking master narratives) over learning. And I am thinking about the various passages from feminist and queer pedagogues that I posted in a recent entry. What sort of framework is needed for getting students to feel the effects of ideas (Kumashiro) or to experience the force of the questions posed by/in a reading (Freire) or to process how they are implicated in a theory (Luhmann) or even to commit to bringing their full (personal, intellectual, spiritual, embodied) selves into spaces of engagement (hooks in Teaching to Transgress)? What sort of strategies are necessary for encouraging students to unlearn their assumptions (about ideas, about how to read, and about even how to be/act in spaces of engagement)?

In many ways, these questions have inspired how I am shaping a class that I’m teaching this fall (and that I have taught four times already). In my next post, I want to talk more about how I’m emphasizing troubling/troublemaking–partly in the form of feminist curiosity–in my readings and assignments. For now, check out the course blog (still in progress) for it: feminist debates: fall 2011. I love my design for it, especially the header. It visually reflects how I’m trying to integrate our blog and twitter (via the course hashtag, #femd2011).