Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

The Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies

This course is part of the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies (GCWS). GCWS at MIT is a pioneering effort by faculty at eight degree-granting institutions in the Boston area and MIT to advance women’s studies scholarship.


To take this course at MIT, students must be enrolled as a graduate student at one of the nine institutions that participate in the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies.


Despite the importance of science and technology in society, this realm remains relatively insulated from wider public deliberation. (There are, for example, fields of art and literary criticism, but “science criticism” is not a widely accepted enterprise.) With the goal of promoting a wider range of engagements in science and technology, this course stimulates interdisciplinary inquiry, pedagogical, conceptual and practical innovation, and epistemological self-consciousness through provocative Problem-Based Learning (PBL) cases that put into play a variety of resources. These resources might include: the diverse interests, skills, commitments, and passions of the instructors and the students; annotated bibliographies, syllabi, and review essays–especially material contributed by feminist, anti-racist, and other critical analysts of science and technology; the rich personal and intellectual connections made easier in this Internet age; and the instructors’ experience in stretching students beyond disciplinary and conceptual boundaries. The course project provides the opportunity for students to develop their own cases for teaching, prepare grant proposals for further inquiry or activist engagement, or construct syllabi around topics in feminist and critical studies of science and technology.

Throughout the semester we navigate between, on one side, our divergent, reticulating explorations of the implications that each of us sees in the cases and, on the other side, a disciplining of these explorations by building audiences and collaborations around individual and shared knowledges and tools. Both aspects of the course process are animated by a profound question of practice: “What can we do with the knowledge we generate for ourselves and others.” Of course, what can we do depends on who “we” identify with (which field, discipline, research project, social group, level of expertise…). The question also requires us to convince some audience of our knowledge claims and of the value of our questions for further inquiry. To that end students have to address the bodies of substantive knowledge most relevant to their individual inquiries (guided by review essays in anthologies/handbooks, original scientific literature and informants identified by the instructors) and to translate that knowledge into terms digestible by the rest of us with different levels of expertise around diverse (sometimes divergent) bodies of knowledge.

The PBL approach taken in this course makes the rest of the syllabus look incomplete–it doesn’t meet conventional expectations of weekly topics, readings, and pre-defined assignments. The essence of the course is that we make the road as we travel. Of course, once we have done this once in the Graduate Consortium, we can show future students what happened last time. But even then each offering, each collaboration of students will result in a unique construction.

(Note: OpenCourseWare users do not have access to the e-mail listserv or the class wiki).

Key Texts


Buy at MIT Press Hacket, Edward J., Olga Amsterdamska, Michael Lynch, and Judy Wajcman. The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780262083645.  [Read sample chapters at MIT Press Web site.]


Clarke, Adele E. Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory After the Postmodern Turn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2005. ISBN: 9780761930563.

Creager, Angela N. H., Elizabeth Lunbeck, and Londa Schiebinger. Feminism in Twentieth-Century Science, Technology, and Medicine. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780226120249.

Law, John and Annemarie Mol. Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780822328469.

McNeil, Maureen. Feminist Cultural Studies of Science and Technology. London: Routledge, 2007. ISBN: 9780415445375.


A sequence of written assignments (which will average 800 words) and presentations on the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) cases leading up to a final course project. Options for the course project include piloting PBL cases that students write (with the class serving as their students); a grant proposal (students get a chance to present drafts of grant proposals with the class serving as the jury); or a course syllabus.

Participation requirements included active participation based on preparation between classes, interaction between classes through email, conferences on your assignments and projects, commenting on each other’s drafts, and adding an annotated reference to the evolving wiki bibliography each week. It is expected that you will spend at least six hours per week outside class time reading, researching, and writing.


Participation and contribution to the class process 1/3 of the grade
Written assignments and presentations 2/3 of the grade

Participation and Contribution to the Class Process

  • Participation in class meetings based on preparation between classes.
  • Annotated reference or resource added to the evolving wiki bibliography.
  • E-mail contribution to discussion on the course e-mail listserv or exchange with the instructors.
  • Minimum of two in-person or phone conferences on your assignments and projects; one with each instructor.
  • Work with another student commenting on each other’s final project report.
  • Assignment checklist kept up to date and submitted in Week 11 or 12.

Assessment and Grading System

An unconventional assessment system complements the innovative pedagogy. The written assignments are commented on but not graded. Students receive the full grade for the assignment after they revise thoughtfully and resubmit in response to comments received on the initial submission. This system keeps the focus on interaction around written work and presentations that emerge from participation in the unfolding dynamics of the course. The assessment system also accommodates the contingencies of student’s lives by allowing a fraction of assignments to be skipped without penalty. Students keep track of their submissions and revisions on an assignment checklist.

If the points for writing and participation add up to 80 (which gives an automatic B+) the rubric to follow is used at the end of the course to add points (to move above a B+).

For each quality “fulfilled very well” you get 2 additional points. If you “did an ok job, but there was room for more development/attention,” you get 1 point.

Overall course points are converted to letter grades as follows: A> 95%, for A- 87.5-94.5, for B+ is 80-87.4, for B is 72.5-79.5; for B- is 65-72.4; for C+ is 57.5-64.5; and C 50-57.4%.

The Rationale for the Assessment System

The different assignments are commented on and one or both instructors may request that you revise and resubmit. If neither instructor requests this of the original or a resubmission, then the assignment is graded “OK.” An automatic B+ is awarded for 80% (approx.) of written assignments ok and participation items fulfilled. The rationale for this system is to keep the focus of our teaching/learning interactions on your developing through the semester. It allows more space for students and instructors to appreciate and learn from what each other is saying and thinking. Our goal is to work with everyone to achieve the 80% satisfactory completion level. Students who progress steadily towards that goal during the semester usually end up producing work that meets the criteria in the syllabus for a higher grade than a B+.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2009
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Activity Assignments
Presentation Assignments