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Intro to Women's Studies: Group Projects

The following suggestions for group projects that can be used in
an Introduction to Women's Studies course appeared on WMST-L in
May, 2004.  Additional suggestions about projects and
discussions of other issues relating to the Intro to Women's
Studies course can be found in the section entitled
Intro to Women's Studies. For additional WMST-L files now
available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Mon, 3 May 2004 17:03:45 -0500
From: "Bevacqua, Maria R" <maria.bevacqua AT MNSU.EDU>
Subject: group assignments
Hi everyone,

Can anyone offer examples of group projects they have used
successfully in an Introduction to Women's Studies class?  I will be
out of town for 4 1/2 hours of class meetings this summer, and I am
hoping to give students something productive to do during my absence.

Topics that we will have covered to that point include systems of
oppression, privilege, and inequality; learning gender in a diverse
society; sex, power, and intimacy; inscribing gender on the body; and
health and repro. rights.  I would like an activity they can complete
during our 4 1/2 hours of class meetings, and which they can present
informally in class once I return.  I expect to have them work in
pairs or groups of 3.

Your ideas or references will be welcome.  Please reply privately.  I
will compile a list of responses to share with everyone in a few


Maria Bevacqua, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Women's Studies
109 Morris Hall
Minnesota State University
Mankato, Minn.  56001 USA
phone (507) 389-5025
fax (507) 389-6377
maria.bevacqua  AT  mnsu.edu
Date: Fri, 7 May 2004 13:15:40 -0500
From: "Bevacqua, Maria R" <maria.bevacqua AT MNSU.EDU>
Subject: group assignments
Earlier this week I requested group work activities for an
Introduction to Women's Studies class.  I asked, "Can anyone offer
examples of group projects they have used successfully in an
Introduction to Women's Studies class?  I will be out of town for 4
1/2 hours of class meetings this summer, and I am hoping to give
students something productive to do during my absence."

Thanks to everyone who replied with these great suggestions.  I am
copying all of the info I received below.  Note that many respondents
included attachments.  If you wish to view the attachments, please
contact the respondent privately to request them.


Maria Bevacqua, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Women's Studies
109 Morris Hall
Minnesota State University
Mankato, Minn.  56001 USA
phone (507) 389-5025
fax (507) 389-6377
maria.bevacqua  AT  mnsu.edu

>From Christine Metzo (crmetz1  AT  uky.edu):

I've found some good ideas for short assignments such as what you're
looking for in Women's Voices, Feminist Visions, Susan M. Shaw and
Janet Lee's introductory textbook from McGraw-Hill.  I'm attaching a
copy of an activism activity I did with my introductory class, for
which I took inspiration from an activity in their textbook.  My
activity could easily be adapted to suit your purpose, as it covers
concrete manifestations of oppression and privilege.  As an activism
activity, students collected data and we then did some comparisons and
preliminary analyses during a class session, for which I wrote up a
summary to distribute to the students afterward. As a group project, I
would imagine that students could do a brief presentation of their own
analysis of the data.

For a homework assignment, I had students use the materials we'd
covered in class, along with some (minimal, supplementary) web-based
research, to develop informational or political pamphlets for women
their age(s) on a women-centered issue. This was not collaborative,
but students did then develop pamphlets as part of their group
projects for the class (which was a topical project spanning the last
month of the course), so it seemed to be both a tangible and enjoyable
activity for putting their learning into action.

Since you will also have covered gender and the body, you may consider
having them view Jean Kilbourne's video Killing Us Softly-3 and having
them do one of the activities in the study guide she has on her
webpage: http://www.jeankilbourne.com/ I've used her videos quite
successfully in class, but only discovered the study guide
afterward. It has some wonderful resources in it, which I anticipate
using when I teach the Introduction to Women's Studies class in the
fall at MSU.

I also like to extend the collaboration to the evaluation of the group
project.  So I'm attaching a copy of the evaluation that I use, as

I look forward to seeing what other feedback you get regarding your
request, as I have become a strong proponent of group
projects/collaborative learning.

>From Shreen Siddiqui (siddiqui  AT  fau.edu):

I use the attached facilitation guidelines every class. Usually I
assign students to a group at the beginning of the semester. Each week
the groups cover each of the areas on the sheet. We rotate each class.
If I have a larger class, a larger group is responsible for all of the
roles for the week, instead of dividing the roles among smaller

>From Kass Fleisher (hkfleis  AT  ilstu.edu):

maria, 2 things come to mind, assuming it's a smallish class:

-  i have students work together to figure out how a family of 4 can
live just above the poverty level at $18,000.  we imagine the
children to be 4 and 6, with one wage earner making $6 for 40
hours/week ($12k/year) and the other earning $6 for 20 hours/week.
students develop the categories of necessities (you might want to
help with this before you go).  in small groups they figure out how
much a given category of necesseties cost; back in large group they
figure out what to eliminate to come in under the budget of
$1500/month.  it usually leads to some tension about what to cut.
i'd appoint a facilitator and prompt them ahead of time to point this
out to the group if it happens.

-  i have students bring women-targeted periodicals to class (along
with scissors, paper, and glue) and examine the assumptions about
women behind the ads, headlines, etc.  then they cut out whatever
phrases, images, etc, suit their fancy and they create a new media
textualizing a different set of assumptions.

>From Isbel Ingham (ingham  AT  pdx.edu):

A couple of  years ago I had a young man mentor with me in my Intro  to WS
class. He is an artist, and had the fabulous idea that the students should
do 'zines for the final class project. It has worked better than anything
I've ever tried for any class. Students are allowed to choose from any  of
the topics we cover in class, and have free rein. They are, however,
required to reference at least five of the assigned readings in their
'zines. They have produced projects worthy of publications--and most
importantly, have loved doing the work.
Thanks to Tony for this great idea.

>From Heather Howard-Bobiwash (howardh  AT  msu.edu):

Hi Maria,
I have very successfully used the information fair project in both Toronto
and here at Michigan State. Students work in groups of three, and prepare a
display on a topic of their choice to educate the campus public. They hold
the fair for about two hours, and need to know enough about their topic to
interact with the public about the issues. This year, their topics ranged
from prostitution, to fairy tales, to the impact of free trade on women, to
"reality" tv shows. Some of them get very creative and make it a lot of
fun, as well as get information out there about some sensitive topics. They
usually speak of the experience very highly, but they do tend to complain
that with group projects they can't seem to find time to meet, so I do give
them some class time to work together (either in the classroom on the
displays, or at the library doing research). Below is the full description
of the project from my syllabus.

Information Fair/Group Project (30%) This project is based on a feminist
pedagogical strategy, which incorporates academic study with the practice of
making your research a tool for social action and change. It involves the
class as a whole preparing an Information Fair consisting of educational
exhibits on topics related to women and gender in society. The tentative
time of the Information Fair is near the end of the semester, on April 8,
2004, between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00p.m., in a large public venue on campus, to
be announced when confirmed. While the time of the Information Fair
coincides roughly with class time, some preparation and take-down time is
required, and students should be prepared to devote three hours of their day
to stay with your display. We will decide by consensus as a class, the
finalized time and location to accommodate scheduling conflicts with other
classes, or other issues.

Each exhibit will be prepared by a group of three students. You may be as
creative as you wish in the preparation of your visual and textual materials
for your exhibit. Tables and chairs will be provided by the university, but
you are otherwise required to supply your own display materials. This
assignment will give you the opportunity to explore topics in more depth, or
ones that are not covered directly in this course.

This assignment has three parts and each part is worth 10% of your overall
grade. In addition to the actual visual display, the group will prepare and
submit a proposal and annotated bibli/web-ography of information about your
topic (due February 19th, 2004), and a short paper due April 27th, 2004.

1) The exhibit should contain visually interesting and accurate up-to-date
information about your topic. Again, you may be as creative as you want with
the display. You are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of information in
your display, and you should be prepared to discuss your topic with
individual members of the MSU community who will approach your display. If
possible, you may want to link your display to the work of a community
organization and assist the organization in distributing information. You
want to provide as much information as possible in an accessible and
visually stimulating way. The exhibit display is worth 10% of your overall

2) The proposal for your group project is due February 19th, 2004, and your
topic is subject to the final approval of the Instructor. It must contain
the following information:
1) the names of the members of your group;
2) the topic of your display;
3) a one-paragraph summary of your project which says:
a) what your topic is and why you felt it was important and relevant for the
MSU public to be made aware of it,
b) what your approach to the topic is,
c) what your plans for the visual display are,
d) which tasks each individual member of your group is responsible for; and
4) an annotated bibli/web-ography of sources related to your topic.
Annotations consist of one paragraph, which describes the source (a book,
article, or web-site) and indicates how and why it is useful or pertinent to
your project (if done very well, you might choose to make this list into a
hand-out for the public who visit your display). If applicable, you may also
include the names and descriptions of organizations whose work is relevant
to your topic. You must have a minimum of ten annotations. This proposal is
worth 10% of your overall grade.

3) The final report on your group project is due in the last class on April
27th, 2004. It should be no more than four double-spaced, typed pages. The
paper should discuss the following three aspects of your project:
1) highlights of the key debates and issues around your topic (Why is it an
issue for women? What is the history of this issue for women? How have you
proposed to discuss, deal with, or resolve the issue?);
2) a reflection on your experience of the process of preparing your project,
and exhibiting and educating the public about your topic (Did the
preparation of the exhibit go as planned? How were your interactions with
the public? Was it what you expected? What problems and successes did you
encounter in your participation in the public venue?);
3) working together as a group (What were the strengths and weaknesses of
your group? How did this group project compare with some examples of group
projects in other classes? How does it compare with working individually on
a similar project? Is there anything particularly feminist about this group
project you would like to comment on?)
This final report is worth 10% of your overall grade.

>From Anne Wiley (wiley  AT  crocker.com):

Hello Maria

Two successful projects that I have done utilizing computers in the
classroom via blackboard (you could do with Web CTor any

1- Load in 5-7 local area women's shelters web sites and have students
examine the organization for mission, service area, how they address
diversity of needs, community outreach and education, what did you
learn new, and what was most interesting.  See attachment.  If you do
not use computers, you could give websites and let them work on it
together working up a profile of each center. I live in a rural area
in western Mass, so I tend to list the centers within about a 75 mile
radius across Mass, NH, and VT.  I also generally put in the Minnesota
Domestic Abuse Intervention Project and ask them to comment on power
and equality wheels.

2-Compare progressive and conservative sites concerning reproductive
choice, sex education, women's rights to work, and family structure.
See attachment.  I am not sure that I would do this one without
teacher presence, but students could bring evidence of one site from
top of page and one from bottom of page, and have them print 2 pages
and do a "language" analysis.  How is message framed?  What
exaggerations were used? etc.

Both of these have been successful, to varying degrees with different
types of undergraduates (community college: traditional and non
traditional age as well as a nearby 4 year state college with
primarily traditional aged)

Hope this helps.

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