Teaching Strategies: Antiracist Teaching Methods
- Author: Elizabeth Harsma
- Many thanks to Kyoto Kishomoto for serving as peer reviewer on this article.
Antiracism is defined as “supporting an antiracist policy through actions or expressing an antiracist idea” (Kendi, 2019, p. 19). Antiracist policies, actions, and ideas are any that say that the racial groups are equal (Kendi, 2019). Antiracist teaching methods are those that support antiracist policies by expressing antiracist ideas and taking action to address inequality.
Characteristics of Antiracist Teaching
Knowles and Hawkman (2020) distinguish antiracist teaching methods from non-racist and culturally responsive teaching methods:
- Non-Racist Teaching: Avoids direct teaching on issues of institutional and systemic racism, may teach on individual racism or acknowledge issues of race.
- Culturally Responsive Teaching: Responds dynamically to student learning needs through culturally relevant materials, cultivation of teacher-student learning relationships, incorporation of collaboration, and applying a critical lens to teaching and learning, among other methods (Gay, 2002; Hammond, 2015; Ladson-Billings, 1995).
- Antiracist Teaching: The practice of culturally responsive teaching that also challenges issues of institutional and systemic racism to build race literacy and address systems of oppression through real world action.
An antiracist teaching practice intentionally and regularly:
- Challenges assumptions about white privileges,
- Deconstructs race relations,
- Articulates the influence of whiteness and white supremacy, and
- Actively rejects all manifestations of white supremacy.
The desired outcomes of an antiracist teaching practice is to:
- Build students’ race literacy through examination of the persistence of systems of oppression at individual, institutional, and systemic levels,
- Provide opportunities to create real world solutions to address oppressive systems, and
- Guide students in creating plans of action to challenge racism (Knowles & Hawkman, 2020).
Other scholars suggest that antiracist teaching goes beyond classroom interactions. Antiracist teaching may include advocating for antiracist policies and practices at the institutional level such as ongoing professional development, recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and staff, and examining resource allocation and funding structures, among other approaches (Bell 2020; Darling-Hammond, 2017; Kendi, 2019; Kishimoto, 2018).
Foundations of Antiracist Teaching
Kishimoto (2018) shares these foundational aspects to engaging in antiracist teaching practice:
- Continuous self-inquiry is necessary to build awareness of institutionalized racism and one’s own racial and social identities (including/especially white race). Awareness of one’s social position allows an educator to reflect critically upon that position in relation to course content, teaching methods, and the identities of students in the classroom (See also Darling-Hammond, 2017).
- Critical reflection helps an educator understand that one’s identities are not static – that each individual has both privileged and oppressed identities. Critically reflecting on dynamic social identities builds an educator’s capacity to analyze power, privilege, and oppression as it relates to teaching practice.
- Mutual learning communities within the classroom diminish hierarchical power structures between student and faculty and make space for students to share their expertise (See also Freire, 2014). Educators can build community through vulnerability and humility as they share with students their own ‘in process’ work around race, oppression, and privilege.
Examples of antiracist teaching methods related to self-inquiry:
- Avoid a cookie-cutter approach: Acknowledge that antiracist teaching methods are limited and contain contradictions. Educators must engage in ongoing self-reflection to avoid being complicit in oppression, even in the practice of antiracist teaching. Avoid unexamined repetition of what is considered to work or has worked in the past (Kumashiro 2015).
- Help students become aware of their social positions: Provide opportunities to practice self-reflexivity and to see themselves as part of the topics discussed; value all students experiences without re-centering whiteness or restraining conversation for white student comfort; expect discomfort and provide opportunities for processing these experiences. This could be done in any discipline by discussion the ethics of research and accountability to the communities being researched (Kishimoto, 2018).
- Leverage identity development models: Assist students in processing challenging thoughts, emotions, and experiences related to antiracist work (Davis & Livingstone, 2016). One method for processing include analysis of experiences through racial identity development models (Kishimoto, 2018). This can help students imagine an antiracist future and constructively challenge racism on a daily basis in their lives (Darling-Hammond, 2017; Kishimoto, 2018).
- Incorporate issues of social justice: Discuss social justice, diversity, power, and discrimination in your subject matter – research suggests that this can be done in disciplines where race is not a central subject including biology, english, engineering, nursing, math/statistics, social work, and many other disciplines (Baker-Bell, 2020; Bell, 2020; Darling-Hammond, 2017; Davis & Livingstone, 2016; Kishimoto, 2018).
Antiracist teaching methods related to critical reflection include:
- Diversify course content: Challenge Eurocentrism in the curriculum by seeking multiple sources that represent a variety of voices in your field, avoid additive and/or tokenized inclusion – instead make diverse sources of content a seamless part of curriculum in a meaningful way (Darling-Hammond, 2017; Kishimoto, 2018).
- Contextualize your discipline: Avoid presenting content as ahistorical or apolicital – knowledge is not neutral; Incorporate the historical, political, and economic context of your discipline into the course to set the stage for discussions of race, racism, power, and privilege (Baker-Bell, 2020; Bell, 2020; Kishimoto, 2018).
- Analyze race: Guide students in deconstructing myths and analyzing race as a systemic and social construct to identify impacts and root causes (Bell, 2020; Kishimoto, 2018).
- Explore intersectionality: Analyze the diversity of individual experiences within and between racial groups without ‘flattening out the differences’ (Davis & Livingstone, 2016; Kishimoto, 2018, p. 545)
- Represent resistance and agency: Avoid presenting racial groups as victims – instead present these groups as empowered people with agency. Include representations of antiracist work that goes beyond big, visible movements, including counter narratives and subtler forms of resistance such as oral stories, art, journals, interviews, writing in other languages, songs, or other non-academic sources (Kishimoto, 2018).
- Promote critical thinking: Help students challenge assumptions; deconstruct ideas of ‘objectivity’ or ‘objective Truth’ in your discipline by analyzing power relations in knowledge production by questioning:
- what counts as legitimate knowledge;
- who has access to and can create knowledge;
- identify and analyze how and why certain theories or knowledges became popular or considered legitimate;
- examining whose stories, experiences, and knowledge have been ignored and why they are excluded (Baker-Bell, 2020; Kishimoto, 2018).
Mutual Learning Communities
- Communicate expectations: Declare your antiracist teaching approach in the syllabus, acknowledge that teaching is not neutral/apolitical with your students (Kishimoto, 2018; Kumashiro, 2015).
- Process oriented: Antiracist teaching methods are non-prescriptive and focus on the learning process. Start with where your students are at, design antiracist learning activities and assessments that focus on the process of learning rather than end results (Kishimoto, 2018).
- Decentralize authority: Faculty can practice self-reflexivity, acknowledge learning as a mutual process between student and instructor, and employ practices like co-creation of syllabus, assignments, assessments, and learning process to allow students to take responsibility and to lead their own learning (Friere, 2014; Kishimoto, 2018).
- Descentralizing authority is moderated in complex ways by both student and faculty social identities including race, class, and gender.For example, sharing power in the classroom may be easier for a white male faculty, whose authority is mostly unchallenged, while this may be of greater challenge for faculty of color or women faculty, who authority is already challenged (Kishimoto, 2018).
- For faculty, this process can include emotional and intellectual challenges as well as a heightened awareness of positionality in teaching practice (Kishimoto, 2018).
- De-centering authority requires self-reflection on one’s social position in the context of systems of race, privilege, and power before going into the classroom and continue in an ongoing capacity (Kishimoto, 2018).
- Empower students: Make space for students to question how and what they are learning. Seek to make learning relevant through application of theory to practice. Find opportunities for relevant problem-based learning that applies to students’ everyday lives (Darling-Hammond, 2017; Ladson-Billings, 1995; Gay, 2002; Kishimoto, 2018).
- Create community through collaboration: Rather than competition, encourage collaborative learning to build a trusting community through self-reflexivity, shared interest in mutual well-being, willingness to be vulnerable and challenge others. Consider collaborative work that deconstructs racism and then imagines an anti-racist alternative (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Gay, 2002; Hammond, 2015; Kishimoto, 2018).
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