Women's Studies: Applying and Assessing Gender Theory

This page is authored by Diane LeBlanc, St. Olaf College, with material adapted from an assignment by Janell Hobson, University at Albany, State University of New York, and materials distributed by Wendy Kolmar at National Women's Studies Association Conference 2007.
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Participants in Women's Studies Senior Seminar, Discourses in Gender, complete two projects toward the goal of understanding, evaluating, and applying theory.­ For Project I, students write an annotated bibliography and a 7-page research essay. For Project II, students design and implement a community activity informed by their research. In addition to organizing and leading the activity, students write a project summary, a self-assessment, and a 2-page essay assessing a particular theory's value as a tool for addressing the problem or condition emphasized in the project. Each project is completed in stages, using a progressive rubric to evaluate each stage.

Learning Goals

  • Articulating a clear thesis or central claim
  • Using effective research strategies to locate appropriate sources
  • Evaluating and selecting compelling qualitative evidence
  • Evaluating and selecting compelling quantitative evidence
  • Recognizing assumptions and using sound logic
  • Anticipating and responding to opposing views
  • Writing effectively
  • Organizing resources and people for an activity

Context for Use

This semester-long assignment sequence is designed for majors and concentrators enrolled in the women's studies senior seminar. Not all students study feminist theory prior to the seminar. The sequence is particularly adaptable to advanced interdisciplinary courses (women's and gender studies, American studies, environmental studies) in which students may share limited common coursework.

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching materials include:
  1. General Description of Projects I and II (Microsoft Word 21kB Jan29 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips

  1. I work closely with library faculty to introduce students to advanced research tools.
  2. We discuss several models of annotated bibliographies. Students submit two annotations for feedback before completing the annotated bibliography. Early response helps identify areas of reading and writing that require further attention.


This rubric isolates theory, one of six learning outcomes for the women's studies major and concentration. Students receive this assessment rubric with the description for Projects I and II. The annotated bibliography is assessed according to criteria in the top row of the rubric. The research essay is assessed according to criteria in the top and middle rows. Project II is assessed using the entire rubric. The sequenced development, from understanding to evaluating to applying, shapes the project sequence as well as class activities.
WSST Assessment Rubric (Microsoft Word 34kB Jan29 10)

References and Resources