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Mid-semester course evaluation: what's working? what needs working on?

Anne Dalke's picture

By 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20 (the day we return from fall break), please post AS A COMMENT HERE your mid-semester course evaluation of what's working and what needs working on in this class: what have you seen?  what have you done? what's your interaction been (with texts, with your classmates and prof)? what are you (still) hoping for?...then we'll spend some classtime, in the week when we return, discussing needed adjustments.


Ann Lemieux's picture

mid semester evaluation

This class has been far more difficult, but also much more engaging and interesting, than I had expected when I signed up for it. I agree with other students who said that they expected the course to be much more straightforward. I thought there would be more lectures and less discussion, and that the texts would be mostly non-fictional and focusing on feminist theory. I wan't expecting us to learn more from ourselves than the teacher, and to use some fictional texts as a way of looking at gender. However, I've really enjoyed the focus on class discussion and I feel like we do learn a lot more when we learn from eachother, versus learning straight from a book or lecture. I like hearing other people's thoughts and opinions, and reading the discussions that happen on serendip each week. Sometimes it's hard to articulate my thoughts in class, but that's a positive challenge for me.

One thing that I've found really difficult in class is writing weekly serendip posts or our paper, because the prompts for these writing assignments are often very vague or nonexistent. I feel like I need more guidance on what to actually post or write about; it's a struggle for me to come up with a thoughtful paragraph or few pages without a topic or a question that I need to answer. I feel like I always end up waiting until the last minute to post, so that I can read the posts that are already up and get inspiration for a topic from them, or find something to respond to. 

As far as texts go, I've gained insight from and enjoyed almost every reading that we've used in class... The Doll's House is an exception because I just couldn't understand it. I don't know if it was the format of the book, the complexity of the plot or the way that the story is told, but it was really hard for me to follow what was happening in that book and find meaning in the details. The other texts, such as Persepolis and My New Gender Workbook, I found really interesting and also enjoyable to read.

Overall, I'm glad I signed up for this course and I've gained a lot from taking it, but I wish that the assignments were more straightfoward.

ari_hall's picture

*sorry i posted mine in the wrong place* evaluation

Thus far this course has taught me so much in terms of gender identity, feminism, defying binaries and hierarchies and exploring self-representation, including my own. In terms of the course material solely, I have been fascinated, scared and amazed by the texts we have read. I like the variety of the texts and the forms in which they are presented, they stem away from the usual formats I read in school and this has made it easier and more exciting to read them. They are engaging and eye-opening for me. Our discussions around the texts are eye-opening as well.

I really appreciate the discussion based format of this class; it allows me to gain multiple perspectives and opinions. I value the vulnerability that the class has shared with each other and the mutual respect among the classroom, it has allowed for us, I think, to have such deep and introspective conversations. The classroom set up also helps this, I like that we sit in a circle and are able to see everyone in a more intimate and personal way. I also like that when we speak, we are addressing the whole class and not just the professor, breaking down the power dynamic that often makes speaking intimidating for me. Also, because I am often a quiet person, not speaking for days often without realizing it, working in smaller groups is very helpful. Often I do not speak in class because before I can fully gather my thoughts for articulating, we as a class have moved on to another topic, so working in small groups helps me gather my thoughts and articulate them in a more private space, so that when we go back into a larger group, I know what I want to say and am more willing to share.

This class is one in which we do a lot of questioning. Questioning is a good way of opening us up to more opinions and allows us to do more critical thinking, however I often feel more confused when I leave the class and I never feel as if we come to any resolutions or conclusions about anything. Maybe not coming to a conclusion is a purposeful exercise to illustrate that not everything can be solved and understood so easily, however it seems that we just kind of leave the topic we were questioning the previous day and don’t fully flesh it out. If for some of the topics we talk about, we can come up with a solidified mutual understanding, if possible, I think I would feel less confused and unorganized about what we are learning.

I like the idea someone had in class of meeting in small groups before our papers are due to conference and bounce ideas off each other, and still meeting afterward to discuss them.  It would be really interesting to analyze feminist film or plays. I am hoping that we take a little closer look into to the different types of feminism and the intersectionality between different aspects of the feminist discipline.  

Celeste's picture

mid semester thoughts

Every time I go into this class, I get a nervous excitement in my stomach. That often continues throughout the class into a restless, frustrated energy, and when I get back to my room, fist meets bed pillows. Sometimes, tears. Is this education? The more I stew over here in Rock 125, the more I think so. And that's good.

When I showed up for my 'critical feminist studies' class at Bryn Mawr College, it seemed like something that would be a lot of lecture and note taking. Something...well, stereotypical. Virginia Woolf or Plath, something based in how feminism is manifested in fictional literature--it became clear that my expecting such things basically proved not only my bias but my limited ideas of what the word 'feminism' even meant. I'm glad that we work with more discussion, and I'm glad that I have been showed that feminism is much, much, much more than what society stereotypes it to be or mean. I'm having a really wonderful time thinking outside of the box. Yet, although discussion is feuling a more personal and direct approach to discovering feminism, I do sometimes wish that we could spend some time with more theoretical texts. But it isn't a burning fire in my stomach. I'm learning a lot and thinking a lot, and although it's often painful and frustrating, it's a good sting and a good place/group of people to feel that sting with. The class feels very explorative and thought-provoking, but not as rigidly "academic" as I presumed. Then again, perhaps it is inefficient to explore such a concept through the lecture-lense.

That brings me to discussion. Because we don't rely on lecture and more traditional class room propriety, our class is able to explore and grapple with topics on a stage of sorts. We bring ourselves to the curriculum, we read the material, and we are asked to be honest and open with each other and our perceptions of the texts in discussion. Obviously, we need to accept our ignorance. For me, it's critically (ha!) important to understand that I cannot understand the experiences of others and help them LEARN unless they speak up. A fair amount of the time, I feel a charge in the room. Nobody wants to be offensive, nobody wants to cross a line. Even though we've all agreed to be in this class that focuses on sensitive issues, and have acknowledged that we would like to put away these social pressures to "know better" in hopes of really understanding these ideas and how they affect identity, I have at times felt that I couldn't ask a question or voice an opinion without being judged or seen as politically incorrect. It has happened. A very recent example was my asking the class why a transman would be interested in attending a women's college. It was really bothering me. But when the floor was opened up for questions on Monday for our classmate, I censored myself out of fear that I would be scoffed at or seen as transphobic. I left that class feeling like a hadn't done my job as a student, and vowed to bring it up the next class, which I did. It occurred to me right before asking that this was *my* education, and frankly, I don't care if I come off as "offensive" in a situation where I am willingly putting my prejudices and societal wiring out there for critique and tweaking. Maybe *I* am the one who falsely believed that I would receive such judgement, but I do believe there is sometimes a specific pressure to be careful and sound correct all the time, which leads to this self censoring. I have been in the room when a comment has not been well received, and there have been rude behaviors shown by classmates to disagreed with their peers, but no verbal rebuttal or conversation, which does nothing for us as a group. Sometimes, it does feel as though we have lost the initial nakedness of thought that we worked with at the start of the semester. WE CAN DO BETTER. This doesn't happen all the time, but it does enough to make me get this issue out there.

vhiggins's picture

Midsemester Evaluation

I am enjoying our class so far, and I love that I am able to question myself and what I feel it is that makes me who I am. I would definitely enjoy it if we had more articles to read that place the topics that we are discussing in class into a more cultural and societal context, in an effort to apply the knowledge that we have been acquiring to our every day lives. I also agree with Sam that it would be nice to have a better understanding of how we are going to be graded, just so that we can be aware of it during the semester. But like I said, I am very happy with our class so far. I feel like my motivations for joining the course are all manifesting themselves in the topics we discuss, and I have been exploring a lot of the concepts that I have been hoping to learn more about. 

Taylor11's picture

I have really enjoyed the

I have really enjoyed the class thus far.  It defiantly took me awhile to get use to the format of the class because it is very different structure then my other classes.  I think the structure has work well and works well for discussions.  Even though I found it difficult I enjoyed having to take the name quiz.  It forced me to really get to know the names of my classmates and for someone who is really bad at remebering names I found this helpful.  

I also really enjoy the serendip site.  For someone who struggles to speak up in class the site is a very nice tool for me to use.  Also it extends the discussions that we have in class and can be used to clarify somethings that we discussed in class.  I find it a very useful tool.

This class has defiantly taken me at my comfort zone and force me to think about things I never truly thought about before.  This class is very different then my other classes and I thinks that is why I enjoy going to class so much.

yj13's picture

I came into this class

I came into this class expecting something a bit more rigid in structure, talking about feminist theory more directly and encorporating texts in the usual style. The structure of class from the first day left me feeling bewildered and on-edge, but I'm slowly growing more used to the community style learning. Not raising hands and having the discussin moderated by the teacher was uncomfortable for me, and the first few meetings I was very hesitant to speak up in class due to this style. I am more comfortable having discussions and the like now but I still hold myself back for fear of being wrong because all of the vocal voices in class are very aware and knowledgeable on the issues at hand (from my perspective). I feel the structure is helpful for the more commanding voices but if you have any hesitation on a fast-moving topic you'll be washd away so to speak.

I feel like this class is lacking in the sort of hard knowledge that I came into it expecting, like more detailed discussions on specific thinkers and the waves of feminism, I feel like I'm missing some sort of foundation and that those sort of topics are only really glazed over (the waves of feminism in particular interest me greatly, and I came into the course thinking we'd be getting more of that style of information). A lot of out learning this class has been very personal, relying on interpretation of materials, but without some sort of base I feel at times hopelessly adrift among some classmates who clearly have more fluency in these topics.

samuel.terry's picture

I entered this class with

I entered this class with some reservations because it is a 100-level gender class. While I have never taken a gender class at Bryn Mawr (sans my ESEM) I have read a fair amount of gender theory and not to state the obvious encounter these texts with a certain amount of personal investment. However, I decided to stay in the class because from our first meeting I realized that it would be a rather unique and intentionally collaborative learning environment. I have never been in a class where the professor was so obviously deliberative about the class structure, individual engagement, and power dynamic. I appreciate the democratically made decision to not raise hands and the pressure to not seek affirmation from authority (located in Anne). I also really like the use of Serendip as a forum to continue and elaborate on class discussion. Additionally, Serendip serves not just as a virtual outlet but its public nature adds an interesting dimension in considering our contributions to a larger (universal?) discussion about feminism.  


As far as course texts are concerned, I haven’t been the biggest fan. I don’t feel like there has been anything I could really sink my teeth into. This I think has to do with the length and formatting of readings (graphic novels, workbooks, and brief articles). I respect the variety and the special effort it takes to engage with these works but so far I haven’t connected. However, having read ahead, I look forward to discussing Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation as well as The Book of Salt. As many of you have stated, I have found class discussion at times very frustrating. Open dialogue is impossible if people are tethered to their fear of being wrong or offensive. I am hopeful this is in the process of changing and urge everyone (myself included) to have heart!


Another thing I was contemplating was the lack of grades. I know you (Anne) don’t like them and I respect that. I have struggled throughout college to not allow my learning experience to be encapsulated by a number. However, I think a clearer understanding of class standing can go a long way to reduce anxiety. Maybe there could be mid-semester evaluations for everyone! Overall, I like the class and the ways it has challenged me to analyze learning as a process and I look forward to seeing how it develops. 

Cat's picture

Mid-Semester Course Evaluation

We don't talk enough. I think that much is clear, especially with regards to our last class. As a class, we don't really challenge things as much as we could, especially, I think, if it could result in an "inappropriate" comment that might show that the speaker isn't checking their privilege and having problematic views. I think we can work on the silence by actually talking (and talking about the things we don't tend to).

But, I also think that there is a lot of helpful vocabulary missing from our lexicons--it is, at least, missing from mine. Descriptive, academic vocabulary is sometimes used in class. When it is, usually the same people are using the scholarly language, not by the whole class. Since this is a feminist class, and also because Bryn Mawr wants us to assert ourselves, presentations might be the go-to route to solve this problem. However, though that would help prevent one person or a few people from dominating the conversation, as opposed to all of us, I think that the way to get us speaking and using the language is to actually have us use the language, so if we were going to learn more about academic ideas and language that are used a lot in feminist scolarship, having us use Serendip could be really useful. Making a Sunday post about a researched term and having people post comments might get us actually using the vocabulary. It's really hard to force us to talk a certain way in class, but an assignment on Serendip could be more doable.

Additionally, I would find writing discussions with class members really helpful! Talking to Anne about my topic helped me a lot, but I think that talking about future papers even more, especially when they are in draft form would help me a lot! Talking about papers when they're finished can be helpful, but there's no way to impliment specific suggestions at that point.

pipermartz's picture

Mid-Semester Course Evaluation

Although I often leave each class feeling puzzled, frustrated, conflicted, and/or confused, I've been thoroughly enjoying this course this semester. I've started questioning myself, my peers, and any previously stubborn thoughts I've had on gender, sexuality, and feminism. The more we discuss the more "fuzzy" it all becomes- which has surprised me because I am somehow satisfied with the newfound sense of confusion and wide variety of new information and opinons that conflict my own. It's most definitely a course that challenges the foundation of what you believe in.

So far, i've found some form of satisfaction and interest in each text that we've been assigned to read. Sometimes reviewing the literature doesn't feel like a grueling assingment because I get lost in the story (Persepolis), the history (Alma Mater), the illustrations (DollHouse, or the informality of the medium (the title IV tumblr post). I'm pleased that we have not been strictly limited to theory books and are instead encouraged to seek out feminism and gender in a variety of sources. I love coming to class having Anne supply us with quotes and theories to accompany our discussions.

Another element of the class that has been a fun, unique experience is our general structure of class dialogues. The circular pattern of our chairs feels very open and equal. I also find that our method of discussion, in which we don't raise our hands but instead join conversation's natural flow, creates wonderful opportunity for silence! Never before have I taken a class that accepts and values silence in the same way. I do wish that we had a wider participation of students. Every student in the class carries such a different opinons and experiences that i'd love to hear! The discussion may not linger long enough of certain questions/topics. Sometimes Anne will ask a question and we will only hear two responses before we delve into the next part of conversation. Sometimes, I worry that we're not hearing ALL perspectives. The large circle of chairs can become very intimidating and doesn't necesarily enable contributions from the more quiet students. Their silence is valued; however, I get a sense that their opportunity to speak is more difficult. This is why I especially enjoy our smaller group breakout sessions. 

sschurtz's picture

Mid- Semester Course Evaluation

It’s kind of amazing to me how much I’ve learned about gender in half a semester. I identify as a feminist but I didn’t realize how little I knew about gender before this class. I found it really intimidating to speak at first because a lot of people in class were using terms I didn’t know and I didn’t want to come off as uneducated on the topic. Now that I know what the terms mean I feel more comfortable expressing my opinions than I did at the beginning of the semester. I don’t feel as comfortable in an open forum setting sharing my ideas than I do having someone moderate the conversation but I think that having Serendip helps a lot with that. I like that if I have an idea that I wasn’t able to share in class its not lost but that I am able to share it in a blog post. I like how they work together to allow people to share their ideas in different formats. Just for the class discussion though I still have reservations about speaking.            

I have really enjoyed the small groups. I feel much more comfortable talking in those and I like the combination of the small groups and the large group. I know that for me it gives me time to think out my ideas and explore them before talking in the large group. I need to speak more in the large groups though. As the semester continues and we get to know each other’s point of views better it becomes easier to share.

I have generally liked the texts that we have read. I enjoyed the Dolls House and Persepolis more than Bornstein’s Gender Workbook. I have not had the opportunity to read graphic novels for a class at Bryn Mawr and I like reading and discussing them and it's been a different experience discussing them than a traditional novel.

            I really enjoyed the experience of writing the first essay on self-representation. I felt supported to explore my own identity. I learned a lot about myself while researching my topic and I feel that I have a found a truer way to express myself. The conference with Anne helped a lot and from the books that were recommended to me I found a new section of the library that I had not known existed until now. The topic that I covered on Christian feminism is still something that I am exploring and it has been great how the classwork has crossed over into my everyday life.

            I hope that as the semester goes on that I can express myself more and bring in my point of view during class discussions. I'm excited to see what else we are going to do in class. This class is different than what I expected but I really enjoy that it is. It has been a nice surprise this semester and I'm learning more about myself in this class than I have in other classes that I've taken at Bryn Mawr. 


Amoylan's picture

I have never taken a class

I have never taken a class that has challenged me in such a positive way as this one has. I am learning so much about myself and about my peers it has been a wonderful, eye-opening experience. that being said, I know I need to involve myself in the class discussion more, it is something I plan to work on. I think the discussions are so rich that I just get lost in them and forget I can join in. I love the way the class is set up in a circle it is very welcoming and personal, everyone has shared so much about themselves I love people's honesty and bravery. Some of the texts I have been in love with and some of them I have not enjoyed at all and that's just the way it goes in such a setting. The discussions on the texts have been so interesting though. I love working in small groups and I think it would be good if we had more time at the end of classes when we do that to talk as a whole about what we discussed in our smaller groups.

Anne, I've loved having you as a professor. I was a tad timid before meeting with you one on one for the first time but it was a wonderful experience you were so open to my ideas and very easy to talk to. I look forward to our next meeting and I think the class is going great overall.

ccassidy's picture


This class has really changed the way that I think about a conventional classroom structure.  It really has been freeing to be a part of a classroom environment that doesn’t rely on a certain number of contributions or strict participation guidelines.  That being said, at times I feel like there is a comfortable discussion and other times it seems like a majority of the class is hesitant to speak, myself included.  I think the small group discussions are helpful in that they provide a springboard for the bigger discussion.  I know that I tend to feel more comfortable speaking in the small groups and one strategy I have for next quarter is to use the small group discussions as talking points so that I feel a little more prepared to speak in the larger discussion.  Because I am enjoying the casual class discussions, so I would feel hesitant to change that format and have students be called on.  But I understand that it might be helpful to change the format of class discussions so that there is a bigger push for quieter students to share their opinions.  I know that the exercise we did before break was really controversial because it really pushed people outside of their comfort zone but it could be that if we did an exercise like that once a week, the class might get even more comfortable with each other and the opinions they have to share.  Again, I also felt really anxious about sharing my response but I think it would be interesting the try the exercise a few more times to see if people being to feel like they can open up.

Aside from the discussion format, I have been happy with what I am learning in the class and the different ideas that everyone is presenting. When I registered for this class last year, I had no idea what my personal opinions were in the context of feminism.  I still don’t think that I know.  If anything this class is confusing me in a great way.  Even though I don’t have a concrete stand on feminism right now, this class has made me feel more confident about my beliefs and the way that I express them to people outside of Bryn Mawr. I am really happy with what I have been learning in the class but I would like to spend more time connecting a feminist context to the texts that we have been reading.  Sometimes I felt a little off track while we were reading “The Doll’s House” and I wasn’t quite sure how it connected to the class.  After a while, it started to make more sense but there were times when I was struggling to understand the feminist argument.  That could be because I still am learning about a feminist context in general but I really am enjoying the process so far.

kwilkinson's picture

My Mid-Course Evaluation

I was very excited to take this course this semester.  I had taken Sex, Gender, and Culture (which is listed in Anthropolgy) last fall, and although I have become well-versed in feminist thought I wanted to take a course that dug a bit deeper.  That being said, I believe that I have grown alot in this class already, challenging my own relationship with feminism, broadening my perspective on the gender spectrum, and the use of different mediums and their intersectionality with feminism.  Although I was not entirely sold on the Gender Workbook, this forced me to be more introspective on satire within the framework of intersectionality, race, and critical feminist studies.  I also enjoyed the graphic novels, Persepolis more so than Doll's House.  I think I just connected with the Marjane narrative better.  I LOVED the art project, and the idea of using different mediums to convey narratives of marginalized peoples.  I would have to say that, although difficult, I enjoyed last week's discussion the most.  I think that it forced us to be more honest and vulnerable, allowing for a more productive class discussion.  However, I believe that because we are all at different levels of familiarity with feminist theory, we are all at different starting points?  Overall I am really enjoying the course, and always enjoy coming to class.

Although I am truly enjoying myself, I do wish that other would talk more in class.  It is very important to consider that the majority of our class is comprised of first-years and sophomores, so I think that those of us more comfortable with the material tend to speak up more (myself included).  I think it was really great that we did the exercise last class when people had to experience being censored.  Many times as a minority, especially in a class such as critical feminist studies, I feel that I have to give the perspective that is often times forgotten.  Of course now I feel more comfortable in our class and truly feel like my opinions are understood and respected, which I really appreciate.  I hope that we are all able to be comfortable with one another and speak our minds, without fear of being judged.  However I also believe that debate is healthy and that often times, that is when conversation is the most productive.  

Overall I am really enjoying this experience.  I am not sure I have taken a class at Bryn Mawr that has inspired me, as this one has.  I really appreciate everyone's honesty, and I look forward to growing more with you guys this semester!  Also, thank you Anne! 

EmmaBE's picture

My course evaluation

I came into this class expecting something far simpler and straightforward - a basic analysis of gender and sexuality, nothing I hadn't encountered before - and instead I have learned to see the world in a whole new way. I am beginning to think outside of heteronormativity and see the flaws in social structures that I never bothered to question. I think what I like best about the class is that we study these issues in context - where do I fit in this world of gender? How do I understand and express myself within and outside social rules?

I'm glad that we have Serendip as a place to discuss outside of class. I know I have trouble communicating what I want to say in class and that I'm still getting over the fear of saying something "wrong". I would really like to work more in small groups because they are less intimidating and I often feel that the discussions I have in small groups are more productive for my understanding of the class material. I think that in small groups we are forced to refer to the text more to communicate our ideas and that helps move the discussion along and helps us learn in a context that we are all familiar with.

I have really enjoyed all of the texts we have read so far - they have been engaging and thought-provoking, and it's always nice to brag that reading The Sandman is your homework. I really like that every time we discuss a text in class, I come out of the class with a different opinion and thoughts about that text than when I came in.

I would definitely say that this is the class I struggle most with, not because of the workload but because it pushes the boundaries of my worldview a little more with every class. I have grappled with myself in this class and learned things about myself that I never knew. I hope to continue this journey and begin to open up a little more to the class as the semester goes on.

juliah's picture

Mid-Semester Course Comments

First off, I am still adjusting to the fact that we are already halfway through the semester. BUH. Anyway, before I go on a rant about how crazy that idea is, I'll try to narrow this down to my specific feelings in regards to Critical Feminist Studies. So far, I'm truly enjoying it. I was a bit nervous at first--for a 100-level that I intended only to be used to fulfill a requirement and balance out my schedule, it seemed like a big commitment. However, after the Kathy Acker reading, I was hooked. The materials we have read for the class are unlike what I am typically exposed to. I had only read one graphic novel before this course, but the way we approached both "Persepolis" and "The Doll's House" helped me adjust to a medium that I was fairly unfamiliar with. I have really appreciated all of the readings; I feel like I have gleaned something from each of them, even (maybe especially) the ones that infuriated me ("When Girls Will Be Boys", anyone?). Without a doubt, when it comes to the readings, I approach them with enthusiasm, ready to delve into the next challenge.

As far as class discussions go, I have mixed feelings. I love the intent with which we came into the course, when we nixed the use of hand-raising and decided to address everyone collectively; however, I feel as though we have begun sinking into the same hole most of my classes fall into, where a select few do all of the talking. I understand that you cannot force people to speak up in class. Personally, I do not make as many contributions as I would like. I do love the way we can combat this, though--the use of Serendip as a way for those of us who often need more time before commenting on a class discussion is, I think, one of the most beneficial aspects of the site. I have yet to make an unassigned comment, but I hope to change that, and that our goal of creating an ongoing discussion is fulfilled.


shainarobin's picture

Mid-Semester Course Evaluation

I was really excited when I first signed up for this course because feminism and gender were topics that I had only begun to touch upon in high school. Upon receiving the book list for this class I became even more excited. I recognized some of the books that were on the list and was keen on looking at them in a new light. The ones that I had never seen before deeply intrigued me. Though there were times when I found myself frowning while reading Kate Bornstein’s My New Gender Workbook, for the most part I understood the methods that she used to get her messages across. Having parents who have used similar techniques when trying to get me to understand what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes, I didn’t feel too angry when filling out the quizzes. I got frustrated, but that was the whole point the exercise. Kate Bornstein helped me to understand gender and fluidity in a way that I had never quite been able to grasp before. By using intersectionality and connecting the idea of gender being complex along with my experience of trying to figure out my racial identity, I was able to understand the position of non-cisgender people in a new way. 

I like the “round table” set up that we have in class and I am glad that we took the time to learn each others names. I feel that this allows us to be more open with one another and breaks through a barrier, thus giving us the courage to talk with one another. I appreciate how we divide into mini groups sometimes to answer questions that came up in our readings. This decreases the pressure on all of us to come up with a concrete opinion to be dissected by the whole class. Instead, we can bounce ideas off one another and ask the people in our group how they interpreted the question. As we share our thoughts with one another and genuinely listen to what is being said, we can expand our ideas and interpretations to include observations that group members made that we didn’t think of ourselves. This is always a fun experience for me and allows me to get to know my classmates better.

Serendip has been a useful platform when I have wanted to record my thoughts and experiences. I like that I can ponder on a discussion that we had in class or I can bring up a subject that popped into my head when reading other peoples posts. I like the accessibility that we have to each other that is sometimes limited in class by time or vulnerability. Since the questions that are brought up in class often take me a while to think about, I appreciate that Serendip allows me to layout and construct my thoughts online. That way I don’t have to rush myself to form an opinion in class that might not be representative of what I’m actually thinking or trying to say.

Right now, I think we’re becoming more comfortable with one another as a class and we are getting more used to the idea of stepping outside of our comfort zones. I think many of us have realized that we feel similarly about raising or talking about controversial topics. We don’t want to offend others and feel ostracized (verbally or silently) if our viewpoints aren’t shared by others. However, we’ll never learn (for ourselves and others) if we don’t ask questions or contribute points that may not bode well with everyone. When we did that exercise last Thursday that banned us from talking about the things we cared about, I realized how hurtful it can be to the whole class when we constantly censor ourselves. In a way, it’s more hurtful than asking a question that has difficult connotations. At least then we’re being honest with one another about what we’re really thinking and feeling. In the end, none of us are experts on this subject, that’s why we’re taking this class. We want to learn and that is something that we can only accomplish by not being afraid to make “fools” of ourselves in front of one another.  Overall, I am satisfied with what I have accomplished with this class, despite its challenges, and I’m excited to see how much more we can grow throughout the rest of the semester.

iskierka's picture

Mid-semester course evaluation

The dynamic of the class threw me for a loop, and while it's still a challenge to speak up in the large setting - either that awkward silence falls and it's hard to find the strength to speak up, or the course of conversation flows too quickly to think up a proper response or form an argument or example in time. I do really love it when we split off into smaller groups, though; in comparison, it's really easy to pass ideas around and bounce them from person to person to build on them. Learning everyone's names definitely helped, and this being one of the few classes where I do know everyone's names, it made it more personal and made me more comfortable with my classmates. While the overall style is still tricky to deal with, the intimate intentions of the structure makes it easier to deal with certain difficult topics by relating it to personal examples and questions. 

My opinions vary on the texts we read. I find the supplementary reading very enjoyable, and of the books we purchased, Persepolis was probably my favorite. I was not fond of My New Gender Workbook, but after finding out that a friend is a big fan of hers, I'm curious to read her other writings to see how her tone compares between the two. Like many others in the class, I'm still trying to connect The Doll's House to the central theme of the class. I do, however, really appreciate the inclusion of graphic novels in the class, as it feels like an often dismissed genre seen as 'not serious enough' - in fact, I returned to my high school and spoke to a tecaher who had also put Persepolis on her curriculum, so I'm excited to see the spread. I have spoken openly with friends about the coursework, and they all seem very interested, which sparked a lot of conversations both directly and tangentially relevant to what we learn in class. 

I'm excited to see what else comes from the class, especially now that we're moving toward more applications. The discussion of BMC's policies was particularly fascinating, and I hope to see more in that vein. The talk about writing groups also interested me because it returned to this idea of small groups where we can share ideas easily. Mostly, I'm excited to see what comes next in class, and I can't wait to share what I've learned outside of the classroom as well.

Polly's picture

Mid-semester Course Evaluation

I enjoy the setup of our class-sitting in a circle and talking rather than being called on. As some other people have said, I like that we made learning names important, because I barely ever know all the names of the people in my classes. For the most part, I think that the atmosphere is inviting and comfortable because we know each other so people feel that they can voice their opinions. However, there are some times when we discuss touchy subjects when I can feel the scared silence that everyone shares. I know sometimes I want to ask a question but I don't want to be judged. I think that the last class we had before break was beginning to help with that silence, but we didn't really have enough time. I hope we continue discussing silence and voice next week.

I like when we break off into small groups and then report back, but sometimes when we come back to the big group and Anne brings up a question or topic, it wasn't something my small group discussed. I know that we have topics on the chalkboard to talk about in the small groups, but it isn't always clear what we are supposed to be doing in the small groups.

This class has been challenging and very good for opening my mind to new ideas. I hesitated to enroll, but I am glad I did, because although it can be intimidating and difficult, I think that it is a great experience for me as a student.

MargaretRachelRose's picture

My Mid-Semester Course Evaluation

This class has broken my old, narrow ways of thinking. I’ve learned about the different waves and spheres of feminism, the idea of situation-based self-presentation, the spectrum of gender identity, and the use of graphic novel as a medium of self-representation.

Every day I’ve come to class, I’ve had I thought challenged, questioned, and stretched beyond the boundaries of what I previously knew. These boundaries were regimented by the education system I’ve been in all my life. At first, when these boundaries were being pushed on and torn down, I felt frustrated because I was uncomfortable with the idea of un-learning what I had been trained to learn. But this constant challenging and critical questioning has expanded my thinking. For the better. With hindsight, I can say that I trust and appreciate this process. Every day is new and exciting. The discussions in class and online are frank and meaningful and open. The reading material is honestly fun to read and extremely thought-provoking.

Through this process I’ve been whittled down, week by week, to my essentials. This class has made me question not only what I think, but how I think. I’m beginning to break the habit of thinking in binary. I’m beginning to better define myself. I’m beginning to see society differently. I just need to be able to externalize these discoveries – because that’s the thing I think I’ve most struggled with so far. At this point in the process, I want to reflect on what I know and believe more. I want to formulate opinions, to really decide where I stand in some of these topics and theories. Small group discussions and the Serendip postings/commenting are where I feel most comfortable expressing my confusion, understandings, and ideas. Having more small group discussions and maybe more required posts/comments on Serendip would be helpful for someone like me, who doesn’t speak up in class. 

nia.pike's picture

Mid semester evaluation

This class truly has enlightened me and made me question many aspects of gender, sexuality, and feminism, which I had never encountered or considered before.

When I first signed up for this course, I expected more theory than literature. Earlier in the semester, I was disappointed at the small amount of feminist theory in this class, I now understand that learning feminism through the literature and discussion can bring about many intriguing topics. To a certain extent I enjoy learning about feminism through literature, it more accessible than some theory (as I found with Judith Butler while writing by first web event.) But reading Judith Butler brought about many more questions than did the same amount of literature. Perhaps incorporating more theory into the course would spark more a more animated in-class discussion.

I really enjoy having Serendip as a portal to continue class discussion outside of the classroom. In other classes, if I leave class still pondering questions, I have no way of expressing my thoughts until the next class period, which could be several days from then. But with Serendip, our class is always in touch, always answering each other's questions and always challenging each other.

Challenging. When I think about my time in this class thus far, this word comes to my mind most frequently. And in the best possible way. My views of sexuality, gender, and feminism have been challenged. What I thought I knew has been challenged. I enjoy being challenged. Stationary knowledge is not as useful as knowledge that flows like a river, always twisting and turning, being joined by other tributaries, carving out new paths. This class has created new rivers, while shaping and adding to my existing bodies of knowledge.

There have been a few classes though which I felt were unproductive/not as productive as they could have been. I think the problem during these classes was that the conversation was not added to, instead it felt like the same ideas were being recycled over and over again, but in different ways. I think it might be helpful if when the conversation seems to come to a stand-still, someone picks a new direction for the conversation. As we established the first day, Anne is an equal with the rest of us during a conversation (a welcome change in the classroom power dynamics), so we should not rely on Anne to be the one to pick a new direction.

EP's picture

Mid-semester course evaluation

The dynamic in this class differs greatly from that of my other classes in that it is more of a large discussion of the topics we encounter in the course material, rather than a rehashing of what we were able to understand from it. I find that I can learn a lot from this because it gets straight to why the material matters and what effects these topics have on the world around us and the world as a whole. I find that this also leads to a lot of thoughtful interpretation of ideas from various people in the class, and that we see a variety of viewpoints because of this setup. I've really found that my ideas of what feminism and representation are have expanded and developed in this class. I've really learned about how feminism has developed (at least in the U.S.) historically and how that has led to matters of inclusion and different focuses of feminism today. I have also learned a lot about the representation of feminism, women, and people in general through different mediums such as essays, autobiographies, graphic novels, and self-portraits (as well as anti-self-portraits), and how these mediums differ in nature. As far as what I have actually done, I have been able to discover why I represent myself the way that I do (as well as why other people may represent themselves as they do), which I wrote about in my Web Event. This helped me gain a better understanding of the driving forces of self-representation, which is important. I find that the interactions in class are informal, but still thoughtful, which I find is very helpful for discussion. However, I think that the large class size makes this kind of discussion difficult simply because it is difficult to have a focused discussion between so many people and still get everyone's view on a topic. I find that breaking into smaller groups to discuss a subject is helpful so that everyone gets a chance to share their ideas and the discussion is more focused. I'm hoping to see more perspectives on the topics that we discuss, because I find that the variety of views on a topic is interesting.

pialamode314's picture

mid-semester course evaluation

So far I have really been enjoying this class. I love the structure of the classroom, how we sit in a circle and can see and interact with each other, how we don't use hand raising to encourage normal discussion, and how we've broken down that power dynamic that usually comes in a classroom with a professor. I also like that we have grown to really know everybody in the classroom, to a point where we are able to be vulnerable in front of each other and share in really deep conversations on sometimes controversial topics. In a way, it has made me feel comfortable being uncomfortable in the class. I really love that we've covered so many topics and have been generating so many questions on topics that I have never really discussed in depth before. However, as I think some other people above have said, I often leave class more confused than when I came in. In one sense, that's good because it means our discussion was thought-provoking and made me think really hard, but at the same time, I often feel like we don't come to a clear conclusion and that leaves me with lots of questions, wishing we could go deeper. I think it would be helpful if at the end of our discussions, we at least summed up the ideas we discussed to give us a better conclusion.

I have really enjoyed reading the texts, and I love the variety of styles and topics that they've covered. I was still a little confused by how The Doll House connected to feminism and our discussion of gender representation. Of course there were some ties that I saw, but I wish we had discussed as a group more what the connection there was. However, many of the other readings have been really intruiging and thought-provoking. I also enjoy when we do small group discussions on the readings, etc. because it gives us a chance to really engage in a tight and short discussion and gives people who don't normally speak up much in the big group a chance to really voice their opinions and ask questions. I also really liked meeting in these small groups to discuss our papers after we wrote them. I think it would be nice to meet in small groups before writing papers just to bounce ideas off of each other, but I would also like to still meet with Anne because it really helped me last time to narrow down my thoughts into one solid topic. I also have really liked using Serendip to share our thoughts and have a way to archive some of our thoughts and opinions that stemmed from our discussions.

Maya's picture

my mid-semester course evaluation

Over the course of this first quarter, I have had my mind blown, opened, and stretched. From the first day of class when we decided to try not raising our hands in our discussion, I have allowed myself to question many parts of myself that I had not allowed myself to before. Our ability as a class to have fascinating discussions questioning touchy subjects without raising our hand and having a single person dictating the flow of conversation really helps the conversation progress in directions that it might not if we censored ourselves and allowed someone else to dictate when we talked. Our discussions in this class have allowed me to explore not only myself and how I see myself; how I define myself; but society in general. I never had the opportunity to discuss feminism, transgender; or any type of bending the gender binary. I have thoroughly enjoyed the discussions, especially the two we had right before break, and I think we are going farther as a class, exploring and testing our current (which have changed from the beginning of the class) definitions of gender. Our current interaction with the text is really good, but I think it could be more. This is maybe mostly for us, but we should use the books we have read to back up our arguments more. It is helpful to connect our ideas to not only our own experiences, but others ideas and experiences as well, outside of the class. I also think that it might be useful to get more people to talk, if we talk some in small groups and then come back into the big group to talk about what we discussed in the smaller groups. That might help people have something more to say and get more people talking because they are asked to share what they have already shared in their small groups, but with the rest of the class. 

Fdaniel's picture

My mid-semester course evaluation

This class does a very good job at allowing students to think critically about everything and reach inside of themselves to find answers to questions they never thought about asking. It has really challenged me intellectually and I appreciate that very much. I have found myself asking questions that I clearly don’t know the answer to and eager to go to class to hear different views about it. It gets frustrating when class ends and I don’t get the answer to the lingering questions I have but it creates a challenge for me to figure it out myself. I like the harkness style teaching where there is no hierarchy but rather everyone is equal including the professor. I am able to see everyone and get many different reactions and analysis to the text and prompts at hand. Since entering this class I have restructured my definition of feminism tremendously and have questioned even more about what feminism truly is to me. I have also questioned my ignorance and really embraced what I don’t know. I’m not ashamed that I don’t know as much as I THOUGHT I knew about feminism and gender. I have allowed myself to be vulnerable in class and keep an open mind to other ideas. Within this short period of time I have already gained so much knowledge about different points of views on feminism and sexuality.

I am not a fan of all the books and still don’t quite understand how The Dolls House connects to feminism in any way but most of the books we’ve read so far such as Persepolis and My new gender workbook are very intriguing and I would have never picked them up if it wasn’t assigned in class.  The essays and online readings we have done are very short, interesting and provokes a lot of thought and questions. The more I read these the more I feel myself forming more opinions about everything and that I appreciate.  I also like the idea of meeting with Anne before essays are due because we can get feedback on our ideas. Forming writing groups was extremely helpful too because I enjoyed reading essays that were similar to mine. I also got to understand the idea from a new perspective and get feedback from my peers rather than just my professor. One thing I still hope for in this class is to learn more about feminism in a lecture style. When Anne explained what first, second and third wave feminism was It was very helpful because I didn’t know in detail what they were. Also when Anne explained all the different types of feminism it was very helpful. I am just hoping for more information/background information of feminism and gender/sexuality. I feel as though with out that background knowledge it will be hard to have rich, meaningful discussions in class.  Additionally, I like the use of serendip because we can interact and have conversations out side of class but submitting essays on serendip are worrisome because I’m so use to just handing in printed essays rather than submitting them online.  Maybe creating the option to also submit a hard copy would be helpful

So far I love this class and would recommend it to friends next semester.