Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


Dr. Sandy DeLuca

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Helene Berman

Joint Supervisor


In this autoethnographic study, I utilized my past experiences as a Gynecological Teaching Associate (GTA), along with data collected within a particular pelvic teaching module, to critically explore the ‘silences’ and taken-for-granted assumptions embedded within the performances of pelvic teaching. Theoretically informed by (post)critical feminist theories, I considered how the ‘culture’ of pelvic teaching, as enacted within this specific setting, simultaneously (re)produced and resisted particular normative discourses about women, and how the performances of GTAs, medical students and program administrators were reflective of larger social-political and biomedical discourses. Data collection methods included participant observation, field notes, reflexive journaling, and individual interviews with GTAs, students and administrators. A focus group with GTAs was also conducted wherein my own storied reflections as a former GTA were shared to create points of connection and departure, providing us with a unique starting point to explore the varied experiences of GTAs, and to re-visit the meanings I had made out of my own performances as a GTA. I utilized thematic analysis informed by the “multiple lens” approach developed by McCormack (2000) to interpret participants’ data. Interpretation of research findings demonstrate how GTAs (re)performing the practice(d) body reified normative discourse about women, particularly by focusing on how to (not) talk the body, and acceptable ways to ‘be’ the/a body. GTAs were motivated to perform their roles due to a myriad of, at times, competing interests – complicating their ‘willingness’ to depart from the script when faced with disconcerting situations. While GTAs framed their work as fundamentally self-affirming, their sense of ‘self’ in this context was interwoven with assisting students to achieve their goals, and their desire to improve examination experiences for women in the broader community. However, by placing ‘lay’ people in the position of instructor and ‘knower’, the GTA performance potentially destabilized biomedical practices. The multiple roles that GTAs (re)performed are particularly relevant for programs utilizing GTAs. Additionally, interpretations offer significant considerations for pedagogical practices and curriculum development in medical education more generally by taking into account how normative discourses related to gender inform the assumptions underpinning performances enacted within teaching spaces.