Approaches to Inclusive Pedagogy

I have been thinking very deeply about inclusive pedagogy throughout my Ph.D. degree program in Rhetoric and Writing.  My views of inclusive pedagogy is not just understanding that we have implicit biases or that we are complicit in the system that we aim to deconstruct.

I was hoping to understand how I have implicit biases by taking one of Harvard’s Project Implicit. I selected the skin-tone test that assessed if one favors light-skinned people vs. dark-skinned people. Interestingly enough the images displayed within the test did no represent, to me, any Black or African American faces. As a dark-skinned Black woman, my lens for what light-skinned and dark-skinned people look like is within the context of my race and is the only context that I hear these dichotomies referenced. I spent more time trying to understand how the test was designed to assess me that by the end I realized that my (slow) speed was the major factor to determine my skin-tone of preference. With that, I cannot say that the test results are a true representation of my perspective because I was not intuned in taking the test correctly. Also, I was distracted by the skin-tone associations with positive or negative words and the test designed where the user can have “wrong” answers. I share my test experience because as I mentioned before there is more to inclusive pedagogy than just an awareness that our attempts at effective pedagogical practices will never be free of biases.

However, we can begin to reimagine what an inclusive pedagogy looks like and begin to implement concepts from the literature on this topic to take baby steps toward dismantling our old perceptions of our teaching practices. After reviewing The Teaching Commons, I realized there are similarities with research that I have previously conducted on the racialized experiences of Black graduate students.

Below is an abstract of my current research focus:

There are vastly more Black graduate students earning their degree from Historically White Colleges and Universities (HWCUs) than from any other type of academic institution (U.S. Department of Education). HWCUs are comprised of a majority of white faculty who lack engagement in race discourse that “results in further disenfranchisement for people of color” (Patton, 2016, p. 334). Although research exists on the racialized experiences of Black students at HWCUs (Patton, 2016), there is limited research about Black graduate students on these campuses. Black graduate students struggle at HWCUs due to alienation, racial tension, and a lack of support and representation (Milner, 2004), which often leads to withdrawal from the general campus community and relegation to find “like-minded and like-complexioned” peers (Bonner II & Evans, 2004, p. 5). HWCUs do not disrupt the marginalization of minorities reifying color-blindness by faculty and peers, which affects Black graduate students’ experiences in the classroom. Black graduate students face “stereotype threat” and “silencing” in seminar-structured courses (Milner).  “Critical mentorship” (Kynard and Eddy, 2009) empowers Black graduate students to understand how their ways of knowing and meaning-making disrupt normative epistemologies and dominant narratives about Black graduate students’ identities. The “color-attentive approach,” as preparation for critical mentorship, encourages “writing instructors [to] be intentionally reflective on their pedagogical practices and constantly adjust their practices to address newly realized forms of whiteness and/or racism” (Pimental, et al, 2017, p. 120). In this presentation, I will argue for the convergence of “critical mentorship” (Kynard and Eddy, 2009) and “color-attentiveness” (Pimental, et al, 2017) by professors, advisors, and advanced graduate students to help Black graduate students recognize their agency in their classes.



Bonner II, F. A., & Evans, M. (2004). Chapter 1: CAN YOU HEAR ME?: VOICES AND EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION. In Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty & Graduate Students (pp. 3–18). Peter Lang Copyright AG.

Kynard, C., & Eddy, R. (2009). Toward a new critical framework: Color-conscious political morality and pedagogy at historically black and historically white colleges and universities. College Composition and Communication61(1), W24.

Milner, H. R. (2004). Chapter 2: AFRICAN AMERICAN GRADUATE STUDENTS’ EXPERIENCES: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF RECENT RESEARCH. In Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty & Graduate Students (pp. 19–31). Peter Lang Copyright AG.

Patton, L. D. (2016). Disrupting postsecondary prose: Toward a critical race theory of higher education. Urban Education51(3), 315-342.

Pimentel, O., Pimentel, C., & Dean, J. The Myth of the Colorblind Writing Classroom: White Instructors Confront White Privilege in Their Classrooms. Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication, 109.

4 Replies to “Approaches to Inclusive Pedagogy”

  1. Thank you for this set of interesting provocations. I think this presentation you end with sounds extremely important. I think a critical race analysis of the sociology of knowledge production is very necessary. As a reader who is not familiar with some of these literatures, I am interested in hearing more about the concept of critical mentorship and what it entails.

  2. Hi,

    I really enjoyed your article! I love the way you deconstruct the implicit bias tests and how they are not representative of your experiences. When I was taking them, I realized that the way the tests are “quantifying” your biases are to assess how quick you are to judge certain skin tone or other forms of discriminatory factors based on the first word you would associate. I think, to certain extent, it may be helpful to some who have been part of the system that may not have gone through the minoritized experiences in the US. However, the tests definitely are not the “be all end all” of telling one of their implicit biases.

    I am particularly compelled by this quote of yours: “there is more to inclusive pedagogy than just an awareness that our attempts at effective pedagogical practices will never be free of biases.” I totally agree with this statement. Acknowledging that biases will exist and one must be mindful of them in the classroom is the small first step. However, what’s next? How do we translate such acknowledgment into actions? How do we create a learning environment that is brave for our students so that they feel comfortable to be uncomfortable while challenging their preconceived notions and biases and checking their privileges? I like that you are pursuing a scholarship to contribute to answering these difficult questions, and I look forward to learning more about them from you!

  3. Your research sounds super interesting and super needed! As I’ve began discussing race more with friends and family, I’m realizing the extent of damage that not acknowledging race has had on people’s perspective of society. I think that by being willfully color-inattentive, people have shut out realities that less privileged folks are unable to avoid. I hope that the increase in inclusivity, especially in younger education, will help combat the ignorance that many people in this country suffer from.

  4. Hi Amilia,
    Thank you for sharing your reaction to taking the implicit bias test on skin color. It was helpful for me to hear about your experience. I took that one back in 2017 when I first heard of it and so it has been a while since I have engaged with the content. I do remember feeling uneasy about the positive and negative word-associations, too. I also question their validity, but despite that, I do think they make for a starting point to talking about bias. Also, taking the test means that we can be critical about what we experienced and I appreciate you for doing that in your post.

    Your research focus sounds so interesting and it is certainly timely and important. I look forward to a day when graduate students no longer feel othered, unsupported, or left out of the institution. The critical mentoring and color-attentive approach sound like valuable tools that we could all incorporate to become better teachers, regardless of the discipline. I look forward to reading/learning more about what you are doing. If you think of other ways that your work intersects with topics discussed in this class, I think we would all benefit from hearing your ideas and insight. Thank you for sharing!

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