Evaluating workshops and tutorials in Women’s Studies

Since 1997 Women’s Studies units at the University of Western Australia (UWA) have been structured to include one lecture, one workshop and one tutorial each teaching week. These classes are an hour in length and each fulfils a specific role in the teaching and learning strategy for the unit. In particular, workshops were introduced to act as bridges between lectures and tutorials. This paper revisits the concept of workshop teaching in the context of Women’s Studies at UWA, and re-evaluates, ten years after the introduction of this type of class, how workshop teaching is understood to function by both lecturers and students. The project on which this paper is based consisted of a student survey and informal interviews with members of staff. The results of the project have been used here to explore whether including workshop classes can be seen to increase the learning opportunities for students over and above the more common practice of providing two hours of lectures and a one-hour tutorial or a one-hour lecture and a two-hour tutorial in Arts and Humanities units. It is suggested that, although the use of workshops needs to be considered carefully in the context of each unit’s structure and requirements, workshops can provide a valuable way of engaging students in a process of interactive learning. Workshops are shown to situate students’ understandings within a broad social and cultural context, as well as enlarging their thought by exposing them to the opinions and perspectives of many other students taking part in the unit.

The full paper is also available online.