An Instructor’s Guide to Understanding Privilege

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The following content and linked resources have been curated as a primer for instructors to better understand and attend to the ways privilege operates in the classroom. This resource is broken up into sections: Introduction to Privilege, Why Talking About and Acknowledging Privilege is Difficult, Privilege in the Classroom, and Further Reading on Specific Kinds of Privilege. Potentially unfamiliar vocabulary is in bold text.

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Doing One’s Own Personal Work on Privilege and Oppression

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This guide is intended for instructors who are preparing to implement meaningful inclusivity and diversity work in their classrooms. It is intended as a starting place for instructors to think through their own relationship to and experience of privilege and oppression as a crucial part of the foundational work of inclusive pedagogy. The guide offers reflective questions for instructors to explore and suggestions for appropriate ways and forums to work through the personal challenge of anti-oppressive work.

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Stereotype Threat

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This resource explains stereotype threat (the risk that people who fall into identity groups that are often negatively stereotyped may underperform in evaluative settings such as the classroom, as a result of feeling the pressure of the stereotype), provides a few strategies for counteracting stereotype threat, and directs instructors toward further resources. While stereotype threat can impact student performance in any course, it is particularly prevalent in STEM courses, thus this resource focuses primarily on the context of STEM courses. For a more extensive definition of stereotype threat and how it impacts student performance, visit the Glossary of Education Reform at http://edglossary.org/stereotype-threat/.

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Facilitating Through “Perfectly Logical Explanations”

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This short document from the Commission for Social Justice Educators gives a concise description of strategies of multipartiality in discussion facilitation as a way to challenge dominant narratives that students have internalized and tend to reproduce in the classroom. Unlike impartial facilitation in which the instructor aims to be neutral towards all narratives, multipartial facilitation takes into account how dominant narratives already have significant weight and power in the classroom as the students have internalized the logic and assumptions of these narratives. A multipartial facilitator’s responsibility is to address the weight and power of dominant narratives by inviting participants to analyze the assumptions and limitations of their thinking and encourage the contribution of counternarratives. This is not to be confused with a partial approach where an instructor would advocate for particular perspectives.

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Responding to Common Dialogue Blockers

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This resource is designed to help instructors manage the challenges of difficult classroom dialogue, specifically the way some students block or divert dialogue as a defensive response to perspectives they find uncomfortable or challenging. The “common blockers,” authored by Kelly Obear of the Social Justice Training Institute, are listed below with explanations of how they act to block dialogue and suggested responses that you or your students can use to respond and restore dialogue effectively. The section on “Facilitator Considerations” gives further strategies for instructors to approach difficult classroom conversations.

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Inventory of Inclusive Teaching Strategies

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This resource is an inventory of 50 concrete strategies for building an inclusive class. The Inventory focuses on four course components: student-instructor interaction, student-student interaction, content, and instructional practices. Instructors can use the list to consider what strategies they may already be taking toward an inclusive pedagogy, what strategies they may like to implement, what strategies they would like to investigate further, and what strategies may not work for them or their classroom. This resource is best used during the planning stage of a course or while reflecting on the successes and failures of a completed course, but many of the strategies could be implemented at any point of the semester.

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Setting the Tone for Inclusive Classrooms

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Overview

This resource details five general practices for building inclusivity in the classroom: (1) Establish clear expectations and goals for classroom interactions; (2) Build rapport and community in your class; (3) Model inclusive language that acknowledges student differences; (4) Help students develop awareness of multiple visible and invisible identities in the classroom; and (5) Address tensions or problematic patterns of interaction. For each practice, several concrete and specific actions are proposed.

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