Understanding the characteristics of women-only literacy classes

Virginie Theriault, Lorna Johnstone

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Women who do not master dominant forms of literacies can be ‘labelled as lazy or unmotivated […]. Literacy accomplishment continues to be constructed as their problem, solvable primarily through individual determination’ (Miller, 2004, p. 7). The aims of this paper are to challenge these preconceive ideas and analyse the characteristics of women-only literacy sessions.
The paper draws on a study conducted with the Glasgow Women’s Library as part of a research internship programme for undergraduate students at the University of Strathclyde. The methodological approach is qualitative and includes the following research activities: observation of six one to one literacy sessions, semi-structured interviews with two literacy tutors, and six one to one creative workshops with literacy learners. A content analysis was performed using the NVivo software.
From a theoretical point of view, the project takes on a feminist perspective by adopting the lens of intersectionality, signifying the ways in which ‘axes of social division’—such as social class, religion, sexuality, race and gender—intersect (Hill Collins and Bilge, 2016). Intersectionality has received little attention in the field of literacy studies. Yet, it could enrich our understanding of literacies as social practices embedded in complex contexts.
The findings indicate that it is not helpful to consider literacy education for women from an individualistic and deficit point of view. Authentic, meaningful and multi-layered literacies can be used to aid in developing educational opportunities for women, as they more adequately address their cultural and social backgrounds than decontextualised teaching material.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2018
EventSERA - Scottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference : Critical understanding of education systems: what matters internationally? - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Nov 201823 Nov 2018


ConferenceSERA - Scottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • literacy as social practice
  • women-only literacy sessions
  • intersectionality
  • authentic materials


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