Inclusive Pedagogy feat. Offensive Language

I wanted to start this post by addressing a video I just saw: ‘How microaggressions are like mosquito bites‘. Too often, I find that discussions of ‘sensitive topics’ (or insert your other favorite euphemism) happen in this uncomfortable sort of somber monotone. As if the very nature of these topics somehow necessitates a level of caution, so we don’t step on anyone’s toes. What I loved about this video is that it said a big f*** you (don’t follow the link if you are offended by potty-mouths) to that notion of caution, and tackled the concept of microaggressions using the language of pissed off and frustrated Millennials. It also managed to capture the idea of microaggressions, with a half dozen or so examples, in less than 2 minutes. And the use of humor made it all the more memorable.

While I found this video to be extremely effective, I recognize that my positive feelings towards it would not be shared by everyone. And that idea brings us to today’s topic, inclusive pedagogy. The Teaching Commons at Georgetown University defines inclusive pedagogy as the creation of a space that works for all students. So while the microaggression video worked for me as an educational tool, it’s unlikely to work for everyone. Recognizing that we all learn and grow in different ways is an important distinction, especially as it relates to inclusivity in the classroom.

The Georgetown article discusses some evidence that marginalized students feel excluded from our education system. An important point made was that “techniques that help improve the academic performance of students in marginalized groups tend to benefit other students, too.” I should also note that one of the citations for this claim comes from one of VT’s very own [Haak et al. 2011]. This quote reminded me of a recent conversation I had with one of my faculty mentors. They were discussing diversity in higher education and made the point that there is often a false choice between hiring diverse candidates and excellent candidates for research positions. As if increasing diversity comes at a cost of quality… The Georgetown article provides a line of evidence to counter this all-too-prevalent belief, that in fact the recognition and value of diversity can increase excellence.

Perhaps at the core of inclusive pedagogy is what the article calls a growth mindset – “the belief that a student’s abilities, interests, and capacities can change.” I think inclusive pedagogy, like all authentic efforts to increase inclusivity, is itself an optimistic concept. If we can focus on teaching our students as individuals, and recognize that their uniqueness requires a level care and thoughtfulness, I think we can achieve a fuller and richer educational experience for everybody.

P.S. I feel like I always end these blog posts on an optimistic note and recognize my own loftiness and perhaps false sense of positivity. Maybe it’s because things are a mess at present [COVID et al. 2020], or maybe because I’m watching West Wing (a show which exists solely in a false reality when compared to the modern political climate). Either way, I’d appreciate any counter-points you might have to offer!


4 Replies to “Inclusive Pedagogy feat. Offensive Language”

  1. That was a great video! I found the mosquito analogy very valid! I moved to the US two years ago, and if I watched this video two years ago, I would not agree with it, and I would probably think that the microaggression concept is being exaggerated. However, as I got immersed in the culture, I started seeing things from the eyes of people of color (and “legal aliens”), and now I completely agree with it. I said all these to say one thing: with my new cultural lenses, I realized that my interpretation completely changed. Your post was an excellent vignette for me to reflect on my changing cultural interpretation. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hey Derya & Sam,

    I’m glad y’all liked the video. It definitely gets to the point and teaches a lesson in a way that is hard to forget.

    Thanks for your post this week, Sam. When it comes to what you mentioned: having a “growth mindset” and “techniques that help improve the academic performance of students in marginalized groups tend to benefit other students, too,” I agree, they are two key ingredients to practicing inclusive pedagogy.

    The first idea boils down to creating a community around the central idea that everybody can learn–this is inclusive. The second is about looking at those minority students and figuring out how to serve them better, and how that action in itself helps all students–also inclusive. Another piece of that second part requires educators to take a step back and ask whether there are things they could do better, to meet more student needs. I think when we are intentional about this (you know, reflecting on our own teaching) we can be very deliberate in our approach of being inclusive.

  3. Great post! One of your points resonated a lot with me. In your post, you talk about the effect on the group educational experience when we teach students as individuals and with care. I try my best to apply this in my courses, however sometimes I struggle because of the sheer number of students I have. I have attempted to get to know my individual students through office hours and surveys, but I wish I could apply more effective and practical practices. Also, please always end with cheerful or positive thoughts! I enjoy it very much.

  4. Sam,

    I also appreciated the delivery method for the message about microaggressions in the video. Being honest, I did not even stop to recognize that others may not have the same opinion. You are completely right in pointing out how people have different preferences for taking in information. As teachers, we not only have to consider that as we prepare our teaching material, but how we present that material! We need to consider each individual students and then create a classroom for all.

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