Mapping Social Identity Timeline Activity – Inclusive Teaching

Mapping Social Identity Timeline Activity

Mapping Social Identity Timeline


This activity asks students to create a visual map of their socialization in some aspect of identity (such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) through the course of their life. Students will create a timeline of their lives, noting at what ages they learned particular lessons about their identity, by whom those lessons were taught, and how those lessons were taught.

Students can refer to the Cycle of Socialization handout to help them understand the relationship between identity and socialization. This handout offers a diagrammatic representation of how social identities such as race, gender, sexuality, and class are constructed and reinforced by socio-cultural interactions and context. It prompts students to reflectively engage with aspects of their own identities, and identities they learned about but do not share, to consider how their understanding of identities is enforced and how they reinforce or challenge the socio-cultural construction of identities. This activity could also be paired with The Social Identity Wheel to help students determine which aspects of their identities they might like to further explore in this exercise.

The activity includes questions for reflection and discussion that will encourage students to recognize the larger social context of identities and how identities are socially constructed and maintained.

Activity Goals:

  • To help students understand the ways their identities were learned and policed throughout their lives. This can prompt students to question the pervasive essentialization of identities.

  • To assist in challenging normalized policing of gender, sexuality, and race in social groups.

  • To emphasize the difference between messages students receive about their genders, classes, and races depending on what groups they belong to. For example, white students might not remember learning anything about whiteness from television as whiteness is normalized and abundantly represented in television. Students of Color, on the other hand, may have memories of learning negative messages about their racial groups from television.

Application in a Large Course:

Cooperative learning and small group approaches in a large course can greatly benefit student learning, engagement, and overall sense of community. Research has shown that leveraging such approaches can lead to the development of key skills such as active listening, empathy, consensus building, leadership, constructive conflict management and resolution as well as decreasing racial prejudice while increasing interracial tolerance. This activity allows students in your large course to learn from each other and to reduce the feeling of anonymity that can be pervasive in a large course setting. By making your large course feel smaller through this activity, you are actively working toward making a more inclusive space for all students.

Application in an Online Course:

Online learning can feel impersonal and disconnected, but there are inclusive teaching practices you can leverage to build community and connection in your online course. Taking the time to get to know each other through this activity can help build trust between students, which is a key indicator of whether or not students feel comfortable participating. In one study, researchers asked the question, “What did graduate students who were enrolled in an online course about teaching online find most valuable about online moderation and community building?” From the study, students stated that Student Needs and Community Building were essential components to online learning. Regarding Student Needs, one student stated, “It is necessary that everyone feels safe, comfortable, and welcomed before they will fully engage, enabling them to make personal connections and grow from each other. Regarding Community Building, another student stated, “Learning communities often develop naturally in a traditional classroom environment, but in an online course, the instructor must make that happen.”

Mapping Social Identity Timeline Activity Guide:

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