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Leaning in: A student's guide to engaging constructively with social justice content

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Abstract

As educators who teach social justice education, we often struggle with student resistance to new and challenging critical frameworks. In this essay, we address students directly and offer guidelines for constructive engagement. These guidelines address common barriers such as: lack of intellectual humility, conflating opinions with informed knowledge, relying on anecdotal evidence, inattentiveness to positionality, and valuing grades over comprehension. The essay includes vignettes and examples that illustrate each of these guidelines, as well as a glossary and discussion questions that can be taken up in class.
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... If our students could commence their journey down this intellectual and emotional path, then we believed we were on the right track for students to engage in a process of becoming 'culturally competent' teachers upon graduation, and to continue this developmental process beyond university striving for social justice by taking a critical stance (Cross et al., 1989;DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2014). ...
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Graduate qualities, also known as graduate attributes, are a universalising and common feature in universities (Universities Australia, 2011). The intention is for graduate qualities to be addressed throughout an institution’s curricula across all disciplines. Arguably, cultural competence is one of the most value-laden of all graduate qualities, having its origins in the fields of health, human services and education where various frameworks have been developed. The terms ‘culture’ and ‘competence’, which are derived from the concept, are complex ideas with no consensus on either term. This paper will focus specifically on the challenges of developing curricular that seeks to embed the graduate quality of ‘cultural competence’ into a first-year, mandatory Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Unit of Study with a large student cohort. The paper illustrates how the term ‘cultural competence’ was deconstructed using concept mapping and analysis by a team of diverse teacher educators. While an agreed-upon singular definition of cultural competence was not reached, all team members agreed that cultural competence is a social justice imperative in education. The intent of this paper is not to provide a formulaic, one-size-fits-all approach but rather reflect upon the multi-layered and complex nature of the task of building a future teacher workforce that is engaging in the continuous process of becoming culturally competent in an ever-increasing diverse world.
... Breunig, 2009) and the texts offering guidelines (whether explicit or implicit) for teaching courses with social justice goals (e.g. DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2014), scholars have suggested the advantages of co-constructed learning goals, collaborative group work, journal writing, student dialogue, and the use of multiple forms of evaluation. Ultimately, such strategies can provide opportunities for critical reflection and link political issues with personal experiences (Lewison, Flint, & Van Sluys, 2002) while also potentially redefining the role of the teacher (Breunig, 2005;Suoranta & Moisio, 2006). ...
Article
Higher education institutions face two concurrent demands: preparing students for the job-market, while also developing informed and engaged citizens (Frey & Palmer, 2014; Gould, 2003). How universities reconcile these demands varies. The Innovation Engineering program (IE) at the University of Maine strives to both, “change the world by enabling innovation” (concern for social issues) and educate entrepreneurs (students) whose innovations reach markets quicker and at a decreased risk (capitalist orientation) (Hall, 2013; Kelly, 2014). The program uses a systems approach to innovation by teaching tools and methods for creating, communicating, and commercializing meaningfully unique ideas. Processes and contexts are important parts of a systems approach, yet within this program there is not a clear articulation of the various processes and cultural ideologies and contexts that enable or discourage particular orientations to communication, innovation and social change. This dissertation is a critical qualitative case study of one Social Entrepreneurship program (SE) – the IE program at the University of Maine. This critical case study aims to better understand such processes and contexts through a focus on the meanings and practices of communication and social change as they are taught and experienced in IE. In this study, I use articulation analysis (Hall, 1985; 1989) to expose the dominant cultural and ideological discourses embedded within IE’s program documents. Additionally, I use relational dialectic theory (Baxter, 2011; Baxter & Montgomery, 1996) to describe the discursive struggles and cultural ideologies embedded within the co-participants experiences. Finally, I employ critical communication pedagogy (Fassett & Warren, 2007) to evaluate the descriptions of the discursive struggles and cultural ideologies and discourses that emerged. I find that two dominant discursive struggles emerged: integration-separation and dissemination-dialogue. I also find that although IE fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, the program privileges neoliberal values where the autonomous individual is prioritized. Based on the results of this dissertation, I propose a critical social entrepreneurship education model for the IE and other SE programs to consider embracing in order to reconcile the two demands of higher education of preparing students for the job-market and developing agents of social change.
... Breunig, 2009) and the texts offering guidelines, whether explicit or implicit, for teaching courses with social justice goals (e.g. DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2014), scholars have suggested the advantages of co-constructed learning goals, collaborative group work, journal writing, student dialogue, and the use of multiple forms of evaluation. Ultimately, such student-centered strategies can provide opportunities for critical reflection and link to political issues with personal experiences (Lewison, Flint, & Van Sluys, 2002) while also potentially redefining the role of the teacher (Breunig, 2005;Suoranta & Moisio, 2006). ...
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The extent to which critical pedagogy disrupts the relations of dominance inside postsecondary classrooms, or empowers students to take socially just action beyond the classroom has been debated and challenged for decades. Through the use of métissage, an interpretive inquiry method that affords collaborative interrogation of individual narrative writings, we five participants in the same critical pedagogy course conducted a post-course inquiry project in order to explore what we had learned through the course. Through this inquiry project, we have come to a deeper understanding of critical pedagogy praxis. Ultimately, what we learned through the use of this inquiry method maintains important implications for postsecondary educators.
... For my father and i, what we value and believe affects how we see the world, which in turn affects how we behave (Collins, 2009;DiAngelo & Sensoy, 2014;Owens, 2007;Sue, 2004). When i recovered from the fury with my father, i decided to direct my energy intentionally. ...
Thesis
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This critical qualitative, autoethnographic research project explored how i came to understand the American dream through stories shared with me during semi-structured interviews, scholarly literature, and my own lived experience. i utilized critical reflexivity to examine the ways in which race, gender, and class appear in a person's understanding of their life and the American dream. Critical whiteness theory, critical race theory and critical race feminism, and structuralist constructivism guided my understanding of the American dream and how it influences the ways in which individuals and i understand our lives. Through what i learned, i discuss how the American dream affects education and the way we understand our lives in the United States. These lessons include ideas such as what are the American dream, meritocracy, social mobility, equity, privilege and oppression, and how to achieve success. Impacted areas include conceptions of equity, equality, race, privilege, gender, class, education, success, family, career, and personal values/beliefs. ii DEDICATION This dissertation is dedicated to the nineteen people who shared their lives and perspectives with me. Thank you for honoring me with the belief that i was worth your time. my work is, and will always be, dedicated to disrupting privilege and oppression. iii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
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Effectively addressing both cognitive and affective dimensions of learning is one of the greatest obstacles to teaching race and racial justice in higher education. In this article, we first explore the need to integrate attention to cognitive and affective development, along with evidence-based strategies for doing so. We then provide a case study of an undergraduate sociology course on environmental justice in which the instructor intentionally adopted holistic pedagogical principles of teaching race. Analyzing student responses from a pre- and post- course survey, course assignments, and instructor observations of student participation, we find that both white students and students of color experienced significant growth in their cognitive and affective understanding of the complexities of race and work toward racial justice. However, results also show how challenging it can be to create the conditions for productive multiracial dialogues that produce extensive affective development, particularly interpersonal skills of racial reconciliation. Reflecting on the limitations of the case, we conclude that more holistic teaching approaches are necessary to develop both students’ cognitive and affective abilities to navigate race and work against racism, and we make suggestions for faculty development and administrative support.
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Chapter
Denial, displacement, defensiveness, disengagement. These are common responses from students in classrooms that invite critical reflection on the intersecting vectors of privilege and marginalisation such as race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, and nationality. Such responses are commonly read from the perspective of the educator as “resistance”—a concept that has been productively theorised from a critical psychoanalytic perspective. This chapter offers another perspective on student resistance in social justice classrooms. With reference to conceptualisations of the ego from existential analysis, Low reflects on how intersectional analyses may precipitate little “ego deaths”, especially in teacher education classrooms where the complicity of schooling with systemic oppression confronts those whose identities as preservice teachers are tied up with benevolent intent. Reflecting on techniques developed within existential analysis for dealing with such experiences, the chapter offers some tentative suggestions for their adaptation in a classroom context for working with student resistance.
Thesis
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In earlier work (Oreopoulos, 2009), thousands of resumes were sent in response to online job postings across Toronto to investigate why Canadian immigrants struggle in the labor market. The findings suggested significant discrimination by name ethnicity and city of experience. This follow-up study focuses more on better understanding exactly why this type of discrimination occurs -- that is, whether this discrimination can be attributed to underlying concerns about worker productivity or simply prejudice, and whether the behaviour is likely conscious or not. We examine callback rates from sending resumes to online job postings across multiple occupations in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Substantial differences in callback rates arise again from simply changing an applicant’s name. Combining all three cities, resumes with English-sounding names are 35 percent more likely to receive callbacks than resumes with Indian or Chinese names, remarkably consistent with earlier findings from Oreopoulos (2009) for Toronto in better economic circumstances. If name-based discrimination arises from language and social skill concerns, we should expect to observe less discrimination when 1) including on the resume other attributes related to these skills, such as language proficiency and active extracurricular activities; 2) looking at occupations that depend less on these skills, like computer programming and data entry and 3); listing a name more likely of an applicant born in Canada, like a Western European name compared to a Indian or Chinese name, In all three cases, we do not find these patterns. We then asked recruiters to explain why they believed name discrimination occurs in the labour market. Overwhelmingly, they responded that employers often treat a name as a signal that an applicant may lack critical language or social skills for the job, which contradicts our conclusions from our quantitative analysis. Taken together, the contrasting findings are consistent with a model of ‘subconscious’ statistical discrimination, where employers justify name and immigrant discrimination based on language skill concerns, but incorrectly overemphasize these concerns without taking into account offsetting characteristics listed on the resume. Pressure to avoid bad hires exacerbates these effects, as does the need to review resumes quickly. Masking names when deciding who to interview, while considering better ways discern foreign language ability may help improve immigrants' chances for labour market success.
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