Trisha Franzen, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies

In the first few weeks of this semester I tried using a concept map in my 200-level class, Gender and the Global Garden. In this class we have read about the development of feminist environmental theory. At the center of this field of study lies “ecofeminism.”

Ecofeminism developed from feminism and environmentalism in the 1970s. Since then it has been critiqued by both feminist and environmentalists. Based on those critiques, scholars have created various other feminist environmental theories.

To help students understand the development of these theories and the relationships among them, I used a concept map. The top of the map shows how different academic fields and social movements fostered the basic ecofeminist ideas. Each movement is listed in its own bubble with arrows pointing down to a central bubble labeled “ecofeminism.”

The lower part of the concept map shows how the term “ecofeminism” takes on two basic uses. For one, it becomes an umbrella term for all feminist environmental theories. The concept map illustrates this with a large bubble containing the various theories. The other use encompasses very specific ideas and theorists associated with it. The concept map illustrates this second use with a cluster of bubbles, each labelled with a different theoretical approach. Key differences are listed under each one.

Students diligently recreated the concept map in their notes and asked questions of clarification about the relationships among the terms. They also asked if they would be expected to answer exam questions using a concept map. We had a useful discussion about how different people best process concepts, noting how some of us find diagrams and concept maps very useful while others would rather have the relations described in a narrative form. To make sure everyone understood the relationships we went over the diagram and added some words next to the directional arrows and other images to clarify the connections.

In their upcoming exam, students will be asked to describe the evolution of feminist environmental thought. They will be able to answer with either a narrative or a concept map. I’ll see how many students choose the concept map. That way I’ll learn how well it worked for them.