identity

An Instructor’s Guide to Understanding Privilege

This page helps instructors better understand and attend to the ways that privilege operates in the classroom. Privilege refers to the systemic or structural advantages that affect people based on identity factors, such as race, gender, sex, religion, class, sexuality, and disability. Depending on their proximity to privilege, students and instructors may find that thinking about and discussing privilege can be difficult. Students and instructors can navigate this difficulty by acknowledging discomfort without avoiding discussion. Instructors should familiarize themselves with the ways that privilege can impact their classroom and implement strategies to mitigate this impact.

Gender Diversity and Pronouns

This page helps instructors better meet the needs of transgender and nonbinary students. Gendering, or the social assignment/designation of a person’s gender, usually on the basis of perceived sex, is often a key aspect of interactions inside and outside the classroom. The routine invalidation of trans people through misgendering contributes to a culture that punishes and dehumanizes trans people for existing. Because instructors have a responsibility to create a space in which students feel safe, welcomed, and respected, this resource provides instructors with information about correct pronoun use and trans-inclusive course policies to avoid misgendering.

Invisible Knapsacks

This activity has students read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” to familiarize themselves with examples of oppression that they do not experience based on skin color. Students form small groups based on six types of privilege: ability, Christian in the U.S., cisgender, man, socioeconomic status, and U.S. citizenship. Students are asked to join a small group based on a privilege that they hold. This discussion-based activity guides students in understanding privilege as a concept and helps students recognize how their own privileges benefit them and impact daily life.

Mapping Social Identity Timeline Activity

This activity asks students to create a timeline of their lives, noting particular lessons they have learned about some aspect of their social identity (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). When completing this activity, students can refer to the Cycle of Socialization handout, which offers a diagram to represent the socio-cultural construction of social identities. Both the timeline and handout allow students to reflect on the ways in which students reinforce or challenge the socio-cultural construction of identities.

Name Story

In this activity, students share the name they will go by in class and any history or story the name has for them. They might share the meaning of their name, who they were named for, why their parents gave them that name, or why they chose that name for themselves. Instructors should give students time to write down their thoughts alone, and then students will share their name story with the class. This activity helps students learn each other’s names and recognize the diverse group of students that make up their learning environment.

The Five Minute Poem

In this activity, students spend five minutes writing a brief four-stanza poem about where they are from. Poems can then be shared in a large group, in pairs or small groups, or posted to a class website. This activity can serve as a starting ground for students to reflect on how where they come from impacts their learning experience in the classroom.

The Spectrum Activity, Questions of Identity

The Spectrum Activity uses the Questions of Identity to engage students in discussion or reflective writing. The Questions of Identity prompt students to critically consider their identities and the relationship between identity and context. Example questions include “What part of your identity are you most proud of?” and “What part of your identity did you struggle with most growing up?”. This activity can be done in conjunction with the Social Identity Wheel and Personal Identity Wheel to encourage students to think about their identity and the identities of their peers.

Social Identity Wheel

The Social Identity Wheel is a worksheet that encourages students to identify and reflect on the various ways they identify socially, how those identities become visible or more keenly felt in different contexts, and how those identities impact the ways others perceive or treat them. This worksheet asks students to fill in various social identities, including race, gender, sex, ability/diasbility, and sexual orientation. Students then categorize their identities based on which matter most in their self-perception and which matter most in others’ perception of them. The Social Identity Wheel can be used in conjunction with the Personal Identity Wheel to help students reflect on the connections and dissonances between their personal and social identities. The Social Identity Wheel and the Personal Identity Wheel can be used in small or large group discussions or as a part of the Spectrum Activity.

Personal Identity Wheel

The Personal Identity Wheel is a worksheet that encourages students to reflect on how they identify outside of social identifiers, such as gender, race, or sexual orientation. The worksheet asks students to list adjectives they would use to describe themselves, skills they have, favorite books, hobbies, etc. Unlike the Social Identity Wheel, the Personal Identity Wheel does not emphasize perception or context. The Personal Identity Wheel can be used in conjunction with the Social Identity Wheel to help students reflect on the connections and dissonances between their personal and social identities. The Personal Identity Wheel and the Social Identity Wheel can be used in small or large group discussions or as a part of the Spectrum Activity.