Presentation on theme: "Learning and Teaching Research Group Diversity in Higher Education: Lesbian & Bisexual Psychology Undergraduate’s Experiences of Studying Psychology Carol."— Presentation transcript:
Learning and Teaching Research Group Diversity in Higher Education: Lesbian & Bisexual Psychology Undergraduate’s Experiences of Studying Psychology Carol Pearson & Sue Smith University of Westminster June 2006
Learning and Teaching Research Group BACKGROUND 1: Rich (1980): first drew attention to what she termed society's and psychology's "unexamined heterocentricity “ i.e. the assumption that the 'natural' form of womankind is heterosexual and how this can block meaningful analyses of the diversity of female identity Kitzinger (1990): the marginalisation and problematisation of lesbian and gay issues within psychology undergraduate curricula and in textbooks. She highlighted the oppressive nature of university psychology departments for both staff and students in terms of homophobic and discriminatory attitudes.
Learning and Teaching Research Group BACKGROUND 2: Pilkington & Cantor (1996): found heterosexual bias & discrimination in areas such as textbooks & course material, and interactions with programme administrators & other faculty and teaching staff Skelton (1999): argued that texts such as the Dearing Report on higher education focus on inclusive access but neglect inclusive experience, which requires both structural and cultural changes. Simoni (2000): psychology still lacks an appreciation of and sensitivity to sexualities that are different to ‘ the norm’. Treatment of these issues is either cursory or as a segregated topic.
Learning and Teaching Research Group BACKGROUND 3: Evens & Broido (2003): suggest both lesbian and bisexual female students experience some levels of non-supportive actions and indirect harassment from both students and staff Smith & Pearson (2005): found lesbian students reported levels of dissatisfaction with their experiences of studying psychology in terms of their: expectations of psychology experience of ‘fitting in’ with both staff & students the relevance, scope and nature of the content of psychology
Learning and Teaching Research Group OBJECTIVES: Informed by the authors previous research (Smith & Pearson 2005), this study re-examined three main issues relating to the experiences of both lesbian and bisexual female students who were either currently studying or who had previously studied psychology: This project is funded by the HEA. E xpectations of psychology before commencing the degree course Subjective experiences of being a lesbian or bisexual female psychology undergraduate psychology undergraduate How the content of psychology relates to lesbian or bisexual female experiences experiences
Learning and Teaching Research Group METHODOLOGY 1: Design: The study utilised a qualitative approach informed by grounded theory principles (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Confidentiality was guaranteed & maintained throughout the study for all participants, and non of the 15 universities at which they had studies were identified. Participants: A total of 30 women were interviewed, their ages ranged from 20 to early 50 years of age. All were ‘out’ - self- identifying as lesbian or as a bisexual female. Procedure: The interview protocol was based upon previous research. A semi-structured framework was adopted for questioning
Learning and Teaching Research Group RESULTS 1: Commonalities : During the course of the interviews all the women freely moved between 3 distinct positionings, as a woman, as a lesbian/bisexual, as an undergraduate. All appeared to be politically aware, particularly when speaking from a woman’s perspective Expectations of Psychology: In line with the authors previous research three main themes emerged: 1.The expectation of gaining career advancement and/or personal achievement was consistently reported - Virtually all the achievement was consistently reported - Virtually all the interviewees reported that their expectations of psychology had been met in this regard interviewees reported that their expectations of psychology had been met in this regard
Learning and Teaching Research Group RESULTS 2: Expectations of Psychology cont : The two remaining expectations were: 1.The expectation to gain an understanding of others 2.The expectation to gain and understanding of the self On the whole our interviewees felt that these expectations had not been met by psychology with the one caveat that they had had no expectations in terms of understanding themselves in terms of their sexual orientation The interviewees consistently suggested that the entrenched empirical nature of psychology contributed to this fact
Learning and Teaching Research Group RESULTS 3: Subjective experiences: In line with the aurthors previous findings the experience of ‘fitting in’, in terms of both the social and personal environment, was a theme that consistently emerged from the data: The main issue raised was that of Inclusivity - this included: Feelings of isolationFeelings of isolation Lack of role modelsLack of role models Feelings of ‘ second class normativity’Feelings of ‘ second class normativity’ Expressions of homophobic attitudes (particularly from male students), language and incidentsExpressions of homophobic attitudes (particularly from male students), language and incidents
Learning and Teaching Research Group RESULTS 4: Subjective experiences cont : For some of our interviewees these factors led to feelings of oppression within their social and personal environment at University However, on a more positive note although inclusivity was seen as very important by all: 1.Some interviewees found certain staff and students were very supportive 2. University life was seen as secondary to their life outside – the focus at University being solely for academic purposes focus at University being solely for academic purposes
Learning and Teaching Research Group RESULTS 5: Curriculum content: Previous research suggested that there was dissatisfaction with the relevance, scope and nature of the content of psychology (Smith & Pearson, 2005) The main theme to emerge from this study concerned feelings of Marginalisation - this included: 1.Feelings of separation from the content 2.Lack of visibility in both research and course content 3.Sexist content 4.Androcentric viewpoint 5.Entrenched ‘Western Culture’ normativity
Learning and Teaching Research Group Conclusions: Levels of dissatisfaction were expressed by our interviewees in terms of their experiences of studying psychology Despite this all interviewees expressed a level of loyalty to psychology particularly in terms of what it had offered in terms of career and personal development Despite several of the interviewees experiencing the duality of being either bisexual or from an ethnic background overall there were no distinct differences in their reported experiences
Learning and Teaching Research Group Conclusions cont : Nevertheless it is felt that psychology as a discipline both at the international, national and local level should fully embrace issues surrounding diversity - psychology must question itself re. how it can encompass the sexual diversity of its student population into its social, teaching and learning practices and identify strategies to do so References: Rich 1980 Kitzinger 1990 Pilkington & Cantor (1996) Skelton (1999) Simoni (2000) Evens & Broido (2003): Smith & Pearson (2005)