The Spectrum Activity, Questions of Identity

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Framing Material

Overview

The Spectrum Activity Questions of Identity are questions for discussion or reflective writing that prompt students to critically consider their identities and the relationship between identity and context. These questions can be used in conjunction with the Social Identity Wheel and Personal Identity Wheel to prompt students in a discussion or reflective writing exercise about identity.

Goals

  • To encourage students to consider their identities critically and how identities are more or less keenly felt in different social contexts. The classroom and the university can be highlighted as a context as a way to approach questions on barriers to inclusion.
  • To illuminate how privilege operates to normalize some identities over others. For example, a student who speaks English as their first language can reflect on why they rarely need to think about their language as an aspect of their identity while some of their peers may identify language as the aspect of their identity they feel most keenly in the classroom.
  • To sensitize students to their shared identities with their classmates as well as the diversity of identities in the classroom, building community and encouraging empathy.

Challenges

  • The students may not perceive the activity as relevant to the course and thus may exhibit resistance.
  • If students are unfamiliar with thinking about their identity, they may struggle to answer these questions in critical or dynamic ways. Using the wheel worksheets and discussing anything that might be unfamiliar to students about identities prior to the discussion will help prepare students for the discussion questions.
  • Some of these questions may feel especially vulnerable to students with invisible identities that they may not want to disclose to the class. Disclosure in verbal or written form should be voluntary and discussion questions should be addressed broadly enough that students can opt to not talk about more vulnerable aspects of their identities while still leaving space for them to share if they wish.

Other Associated Materials

 

This video uses both the Personal Identity [5:00] and Social Identity [6:46] Wheel activities                                                                                                                     to prepare for the Spectrum activity [9:50]. 

 

Spectrum Activity Questions

Ask students to consider their multiple identities. You might have them fill out a social identity wheel to begin. Place newsprint around the room each listing a social identity category such as race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, social class, ability status, nationality, first language, etc. Then read off 5-6 of the following questions. Have participants move to the newsprint that most clearly helps them answer the question. Participants should discuss with others who went to the same category about why they moved to that space. Then read the next question. Large group share out at the end.

 

  1. What part of your identity do you think people first notice about you?
  2. What part of your identity are you most comfortable sharing with other people?
  3. What part of your identity are you least comfortable sharing with other people?
  4. What part of your identity are you most proud of?
  5. What part of your identity did you struggle the most with growing up?
  6. What part of your identity is the most important to you?
  7. What part of your identity is least important to you?
  8. What part of other people’s identities do you notice first?
  9. For what part of your identity do you feel you face oppression for most often?
  10. For what part of your identity do you feel you receive privilege for most often?
  11. For what part of your identity do you feel least comfortable with at U of M?
  12. Your own identities you would like to learn more about.
  13. Identities that have the strongest effect on how you see yourself as a person.
  14. What part of your identity do you see having the most effect on your interactions with students?
  15. What part of students’ identities do you most often see effecting their interactions with you?
  16. What part of your identity do you see having the most effect on your interactions with co-workers/peers?

 


Citations

Adapted for use by the Spectrum Center and the Program on Intergroup Relations, University of Michigan.

Resource hosted by LSA Inclusive Teaching Initiative, University of Michigan (http://sites.lsa.umich.edu/inclusive-teaching/).