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.

Facilitating Through “Perfectly Logical Explanations”

This page focuses on an article written by the Commission for Social Justice Educators. The article describes multipartiality, or the strategy of balancing the power of narratives in discussion facilitation, as a way to address the weight and power of dominant narratives. Dominant narratives are generalized assumptions that dismiss others’ experiences and reference the experience of privileged groups to refer to everyone. Multipartial facilitators invite participants to analyze the limitations of their thinking and encourage the contribution of counternarratives.

Doing One’s Own Personal Work on Privilege and Oppression

This page is intended as a starting place for instructors to think about their own experience of privilege and oppression as a crucial part of the foundational work of inclusive pedagogy. It is important for instructors to learn about and reflect on topics like social identity, social relations, inequality, and social justice education because we expect our students to do the same. Instructors can share with students their own learning process, but only when such sharing is done appropriately and with educational benefit. This guide offers reflective questions for instructors to explore and suggestions for ways to work through the personal challenge of anti-oppressive work.

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.

Responding to Common Dialogue Blockers

This page helps instructors manage the way some students block or divert dialogue as a defensive response to perspectives they find uncomfortable or challenging. Common blockers and suggested responses for how to restore dialogue effectively, authored by Kelly Obear of the Social Justice Training Institute, are listed below. For instance, “Explain-Aways,” which appeal to the dominant narrative as a way to side-step critique without addressing the key issues in question, are one type of blocker. Further strategies for instructors to approach difficult classroom dialogue, such as turning it to the group and using “I statements,” are also available below.

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.

Dialogue Blocker Activity

In this activity, students analyze the dialogue blockers present in “Post Mortem: A Conversation Gone Wrong.” The instructor can use this discussion of dialogue blockers to guide students in constructing classroom norms and ground rules that will support an inclusive learning environment. This activity helps students recognize common dialogue blockers, consider why people use them, and become more aware of how they inhibit important conversations.