Gender in focus: examples of gender-oriented courses across different SSH disciplines at Comenius university
Comenius University in Bratislava
Psychology, sociology, ethnology, political science, and education science
The case study provides an example of how gender is addressed in teaching different SSH disciplines at Comenius University in Bratislava through presenting the gender-oriented courses across several study programmes (sociology, psychology, ethnology, political science, and elementary education) taught at the three SSH faculties. The case study builds on the analysis of the syllabus of the courses and focuses on the content of the course but does not address the pedagogical approaches and methods used in their delivery. Rather than describing the courses the case study aims to demonstrate how integrating gender-oriented courses cannot only contribute to a better understanding of the concept of gender and its implications for the specific discipline but also enables students to experience and practice interdisciplinarity, provides them with the tools for doing better and more relevant research and helps them develop practical skills for their professional practice. The case study can be used by teachers who want to develop gender-oriented courses or want to integrate gender within the other existing courses in their study programmes.
The case study presents the courses that are part of the bachelor’s and master’s programmes at three SSH faculties of Comenius University in Bratislava. Specifically, it is based on the courses:
- Gender Aspect of Ethnology (undergraduate level, elective course)
- Gender Aspect of Psychology (graduate level, elective course)
- Gender Aspect of Sociology (graduate level, elective course)
- Gender in Political Science (graduate level, elective course)
- Gender aspect of Education (graduate level, compulsory course)
- Gender Policies (graduate level, compulsory course)
A short description of the courses is available in the table at the end of this case study. The case study focuses on the content of the courses building upon the information included in the official syllabus of the presented courses and does not address the teaching methods used in their delivery.
How is Gender integrated in this Research
The courses presented in this case study focus on gender aspects of a specific discipline or topic. Their content is structured in a similar way starting with introducing the basic terms and concepts related to gender studies and continuing with (1) discussing and applying those concepts across the discipline-specific topics and problems or (2) applying the discipline-specific methodological tools to the gender-related. In some cases, a short historical overview is also provided. Most courses also include practical application of the knowledge on specific cases studies or small research assignments.
The aim of this case study is however not only to provide an example of how gender-specific courses can be structured across different SSH disciplines. It also aims to demonstrate that such courses can not only deepen the understanding of gender, but they also enable students to practice interdisciplinarity and help them develop skills for both research and professional practice regardless of whether its focus is gender or not. What all above-mentioned courses have in common is:
- Paying attention to methodological perspective: One of the expected outcomes presented courses have in common is that they teach students how to use gender as an analytical category or apply gender-sensitive approaches in their research. By drawing attention to this, the courses help students improve their research skills for both critical reviews of existing research and doing their own research.
- Embracing interdisciplinarity: Gender studies themselves are interdisciplinary, it is therefore hardly possible to teach about gender aspects without reaching out to other disciplines. Through discussing issues such as e. g. division of labour in the family or the labour market students need to appreciate the perspectives of other disciplines and understand the importance of interdisciplinarity in analysing the complex social phenomenon. They also understand better how they can contribute to analysing those phenomena through tools and knowledge from their own discipline. Such experience might considerably increase their ability to engage in interdisciplinary research.
- Linking theoretical concepts to their application in professional practice: The courses do not only focus on theoretical concepts. They also have a strong practical dimension. E. g. course on gender in political science requires that students apply the acquired knowledge on the examples of specific policies and helps them to develop the skills needed for this. The syllabus of the course on gender aspects of elementary education provides a good example of how theoretical concepts can be linked to professional situations in which understanding gender can be helpful (e. g understanding the relationship between gender and sexuality helps teachers to intervene in cases of sexual abuse or understanding gender dynamics in the group can help them in preventing harassment).
What could be done differently
The majority of presented courses work with gender as a binary concept focusing on gender relations of men and women. To ensure inclusivity of the course other gender identities and intersectionality with other forms of inequality could also be addressed (e. g. in context of Slovakia looking on intersection of gender and ethnicity or socio-economic background is of particular importance, especially with regard to the Roma women and multiple forms of discrimination they face).
Even though the courses focus on gender, some of the syllabuses do not use gender-sensitive language (in Slovak version of the documents).
Key Learning Points
Gender is a conceptually challenging and complex topic. Linking it to discipline-specific problems and encouraging students to look at their discipline through gender lenses might help them to understand the nuances of the concept and the added value it can have for both their research and professional practice.
Resources to explore
See annex No. 3