Power, Privilege & Bias (Module 1)

This foundational module was designed to introduce you to some complex issues surrounding the concepts and theoretical frameworks of identities, power, and privilege.

In this module, you will be presented with self-reflective exercises, informative activities and videos to help you explore and consider how identities, power and privilege intersect with your teaching pedagogy and personal, professional and academic lives.

You won’t find prescriptive declarations about ‘good teaching’, a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching, or lengthy research reviews. Instead, we encourage you to further explore identities, power and privilege on your own upon completion of the module.

In this module you will:

  1. Analyse how your identities and experiences intersect with other identities, power and privilege
  2. Articulate an expanded awareness of the concepts and theoretical frameworks surrounding identity, power and privilege
  3. Explore the manifestations of identity, power and privilege as they pertain to your role as an educator

"Power, Privilege, & Bias" by Queens University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Course Outline

  • Lesson 1. Critical Pedagogy
  • Lesson 2. Unpacking Language
  • Lesson 3. Situating Ourselves
  • Lesson 4. Exploring Identity and Positionality
  • Lesson 5. Single Stories
  • Lesson 6. Toolkit
  • Congratulations!


Lesson 1. Critical Pedagogy

Pedagogy of Difference and a Pedagogy for Difference
scholar-henry-giroux.jpg

It is important that educators come to understand theoretically how difference is constructed through various representations and practices that name, legitimate, marginalize, and exclude the cultural capital and voices of various groups in American society; similarly, a pedagogy of difference needs to address the important question of how the representations and practices of difference are actively learned, internalized, challenged, or transformed.

 

This quote from Henry Giroux is one example of critical pedagogy. Throughout this module, you will be introduced to this field of study, as well as some of its key principles, themes and ideas.

What I Wish My Professor Knew

Within our classrooms exists a diversity of identities and experiences. As educators, we must strive to acknowledge and understand how these identities and experiences contribute to the classroom environment. Accepting this diversity is essential to creating an inclusive classroom experience.

To help you think more about your students’ experiences, watch the following video created by Stanford’s student-run First-Generation and/or Low-Income Partnership (FLIP). The program called "What I Wish My Professor Knew" was created to help Stanford faculty understand how their classroom practices and statements could contribute to First-Generation and/or Low-Income students feeling alienated or welcomed at Stanford.

Stanford’s First Generation and/or Low-Income Partnership (2014). What I wish my professor knew. Stanford, CA: Stanford Diversity and First Generation Office. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pmJNuxyvpA.

Self Reflection

Take a moment now to reflect on the experiences you just heard about. Ask yourself the following:

  • What do you think Queen's students would say, if asked?
  • What statements resonated with you? Why?
  • How does this perspective on education impact your own teaching pedagogy and/or practice?
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Lesson 2. Unpacking Language

Words Matter

Words Matter. But words contain multiple meanings.

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Image: Words Matter containing Privilege, Power, Inclusion, Bias, Equity, Diversity, Oppression.
It is your role as the instructor to recognize and address these meanings in your planning and reflection process. Because the more clearly a term is articulated, the more likely the student is to develop the necessary knowledge and skills.

In this section, you will engage with several important terms concerning power, privilege and bias. These terms merely skim the surface of these important, complex and deep-seated issues. The purpose of this section is to develop a shared understanding and vocabulary on which to build upon.

Privilege

Privilege can be defined as a group of unearned cultural, legal, social, and institutional rights extended to a group based on their social group membership. Individuals with privilege are considered to be the normative group, leaving those without access to this privilege invisible, unnatural, deviant, or just plain wrong. Most of the time, these privileges are automatic and most individuals in the privileged group are unaware of them. Some people who can “pass” as members of the privileged group might have access to some levels of privilege.

Inclusion

Inclusion is the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity, where each person is valued and provided with the opportunity to participate fully in creating a successful and thriving community. It also means creating value from the distinctive skills, experiences and perspectives of all members of our community, allowing us to leverage talent and foster both individual and organizational excellence.

Power

Power is unequally distributed globally and in society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access and control over resources. Wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates. Although power is often conceptualized as power over other individuals or groups, other variations are power with (used in the context of building collective strength) and power within (which references an individual’s internal strength). Learning to “see” and understand relations of power is vital to organizing progressive social change.

Diversity

In broad terms, diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. It means respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, ability, sexual orientation, faith, socio-economic status and class. But it’s more than this. It includes differences in life experiences, learning and working styles and personality types that can be engaged to achieve excellence in teaching, learning, research, scholarship and administrative and support services.

Equity

Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all. It requires the identification and elimination of barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups. This principle acknowledges that there are historically under-served and underrepresented populations in the social areas of employment, the provision of goods and services, as well as living accommodations. Redressing unbalanced conditions is needed to achieve equality of opportunity for all groups.

Oppression

Oppression is the systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.

Bias

Bias is a prejudice. It is an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment.

Privilege can be defined as a group of unearned cultural, legal, social, and institutional rights extended to a group based on their social group membership. Individuals with privilege are considered to be the normative group, leaving those without access to this privilege invisible, unnatural, deviant, or just plain wrong. Most of the time, these privileges are automatic and most individuals in the privileged group are unaware of them. Some people who can “pass” as members of the privileged group might have access to some levels of privilege.
Inclusion is the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity, where each person is valued and provided with the opportunity to participate fully in creating a successful and thriving community. It also means creating value from the distinctive skills, experiences and perspectives of all members of our community, allowing us to leverage talent and foster both individual and organizational excellence.
Power is unequally distributed globally and in society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access and control over resources. Wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates. Although power is often conceptualized as power over other individuals or groups, other variations are power with (used in the context of building collective strength) and power within (which references an individual’s internal strength). Learning to “see” and understand relations of power is vital to organizing progressive social change.
In broad terms, diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. It means respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, ability, sexual orientation, faith, socio-economic status and class. But it’s more than this. It includes differences in life experiences, learning and working styles and personality types that can be engaged to achieve excellence in teaching, learning, research, scholarship and administrative and support services.
Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all. It requires the identification and elimination of barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups. This principle acknowledges that there are historically under-served and underrepresented populations in the social areas of employment, the provision of goods and services, as well as living accommodations. Redressing unbalanced conditions is needed to achieve equality of opportunity for all groups.
Oppression is the systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.
Bias is a prejudice. It is an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment.
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Lesson 3. Situating Ourselves

What Do We Need To Know About Ourselves

What do we need to know about ourselves in order to teach and interact thoughtfully, sensitively, and effectively with students/participants and the broader communities and institutions in which we teach?

All of us experience and respond to classrooms and organizations differently based on our various social and personal identities.

In this section, you will explore how your own personal and social identities, and dominant and subordinated statuses affect the way you engage with learners. You will reflect on the many factors that affect your classroom facilitation. How your particular and unique personalities, family backgrounds, life histories, and educational training, to name a few, all impact who you are and how you are in the classroom.

In order to better understand what you need to know about yourself to be a more effective educator, you will consider how you are situated in the classroom and broader community, using the lenses of social and personal identities. While your approaches as educators cannot be reduced to these factors, you are asked to consider their significant and complex role in shaping your senses of self, responses, and experiences as educators.
Image: Identity Dimensions containing the words Internal, Community, Social Life Experiences, Institutional.

Image: Identity Dimensions containing the words Internal, Community, Social Life Experiences, Institutional.
Personal and Social Identities
Personal identities are individual traits that make up who you are, including your hobbies, interests, experiences, and personal choices. Many personal identities are things that you get to choose and that you are able to shape for yourself.
Image: Personal Identities containing the words Experiences, Hobbies, Interests, and Choices.

Image: Personal Identities containing the words Experiences, Hobbies, Interests, and Choices.

 


Image: Social Identities containing the words Religion, Language, Class, National Origin and Age.

Image: Social Identities containing the words Religion, Language, Class, National Origin and Age.
Social identities are group identities. Beyond personal identities, we understand ourselves, and others recognize us, as belonging to social groups. Membership in social identity groups (e.g. Religion, Ethnicity, Gender) are shaped in shared histories and experiences. They are further influenced by external forces such as legal decisions and historical factors and day-to-day interactions. Social identities are an important intersectional component of personal identities.
Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Article: The Complexity of Identity: ”Who am I?”

To engage further with the complexity of identity, read Beverly Daniel Tatum’s article: The Complexity of Identity: ”Who am I?” Tatum outlines how the concept of identity is a complex one, shaped by individual characteristics, family dynamics, historical factors, and social and political contexts. Who am I? The answer depends in large part on who the world around me says I am.

Personal and Social Identity Wheel Activities

Download the Personal and Social Identity Wheel Activity Handout.pdf and complete the activities below:

personal-identity-wheel-activity.pngPersonal Identity Wheel Activity
social-identity-wheel-activity.png
Social Identity Wheel Activity

 

Personal Identity Wheel

This icebreaker and community building activity encourages us to reflect on how we identify outside of social identifiers. The worksheet prompts us to list adjectives we would use to describe ourselves, skills we have, favourite books, hobbies, etc.

Social Identity Wheel

The Social Identity Wheel encourages us to reflect on the various ways we identify socially, how those identities become visible or more keenly felt at different times, and how those identities impact the ways others perceive or treat us. The worksheet prompts us to fill in various social identities (such as religion, race, gender, sex, ability, disability, sexual orientation, etc.) and further categorize those identities based on which matter most in our self-perception and which matter most in others’ perception of us. Using the Social Identity Wheel in conjunction with the Personal Identity Wheel encourages us to reflect on the relationships and dissonances between our personal and social identities.


Exploring the Complexity of Identities

Consider the following as you reflect upon the identity wheels you just completed. Another way to think about both our personal and our social identities is to consider the amount of choice we have: Are they identities we choose, can change, can share or hide, if we wish?

Are your identities:
Image: Representing "Are your Identities Visible or Invisible,  Inborn or Chosen,  Permanent or Changeable, Socially Valued or Socially Marginalized?"

Image: Representing "Are your Identities Visible or Invisible, Inborn or Chosen, Permanent or Changeable, Socially Valued or Socially Marginalized?"

You must have realized some aspects of our identities can’t be hidden, and some can’t be changed. This is especially important when considering which aspects of our identities are socially more powerful and which aspects are socially more marginalized. As people with many social identities, we sometimes find ourselves as members of dominant, more powerful groups and sometimes as members of groups that are more marginalized; these experiences of dominance and marginalization can also occur simultaneously.

Situating Ourselves - Self Reflection

What parts of your identity do you choose to share and with whom? What parts of your identity remain hidden and why?

Think about your first day in the classroom. Ask yourself the following as it pertains to the identities you present to your students: What about your identity is... Visible vs invisible; inborn vs chosen; permanent vs changeable; socially valued vs socially marginalized?

Now, think about your students: Are certain voices made more visible/invisible in your classroom? What value judgments do you place on those identities?

Considering all that you have engaged with up to this point: What do you see as the connection between identity, power and privilege? How do you see power and/or privilege in your own identity?

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Lesson 4. Exploring Identity and Positionality

Intersectionality
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There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.

 

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If we aren’t intersectional, some of us, the most vulnerable, are going to fall through the cracks.


Our identities aren’t singular. Our identities are multiple and intersecting.

Intersectionality is a theoretical framework that reveals and recognizes the ways in which identity categories overlap to produce unique experiences of discrimination and oppression. It recognizes that by focusing on a single aspect of marginality, we may fail to appropriately observe and remedy experiences resulting from a combination of marginalized positions.

Intersectionality promotes an understanding of human beings as shaped by the interaction of different social locations (e.g., ‘race’/ethnicity, Indigeneity, gender, gender identity, class, sexuality, geography, age, disability/ability, migration status, religion). These interactions occur within a context of connected systems and structures of power (e.g., laws, policies, governments and institutions).

Engaging with and exploring the key elements and characteristics of intersectionality is essential in understanding our identities, how it has its own distinct approach to equity and how it can be applied in practice and teaching.
Image: containing the words, Race/Ethnicity, Nationality, Disability/Ability, Sexuality, Gender, Class, and Religion.

Image: containing the words, Race/Ethnicity, Nationality, Disability/Ability, Sexuality, Gender, Class, and Religion.
A Framework to Understanding Privilege

Ann Curry Stevens' framework can help us understand and create greater awareness about one's own identity and positionality.

New Forms of Transformative Education: Pedagogy for the Privileged
Ann Curry-Stevens' article New Forms of Transformative Education: Pedagogy for the Privileged offers a specific strategy aimed at working more effectively with privileged learners. It focuses on a transformative education’s strategic tool kit – one that intentionally seeks to engage privileged learners in workshops and classrooms and to assist in their transformation as allies in the struggle for social justice.

The framework is structured into 10 steps that involve confidence-shaking and confidence-building. The first six steps focus on rattling students’ prior conceptions of themselves and their world; while the final four steps involve building agency to undertake action. If successful, the students will have built an awareness about the way power works in the world and their role in that dynamic, and they will be dedicated to building both the skills base to undertake action and will have the confidence and commitment to do so.

Confidence Shaking (Steps 1-6) and Confidence Building (Steps 7-10)

Look over the 10 stages Ann Curry-Stevens identifies: What stage are you at in this confidence shaking/building framework? Why do you think you’re at that stage? Where would you like to be and how would like to get there?

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Lesson 5. Single Stories

What is a Single Story?

Single Stories in our everyday lives and in the classroom

What is a Single Story?

Our lives, both personal and professional, are composed of many overlapping stories.

In this section, you will explore the realities and implications that manifest when you only hear a singular story. How do you actively listen with intention, thereby actively learning, and in some cases, unlearning? You will discover, through reflection, ways of bringing in richer, multiple voices and stories in your professional practice and everyday life.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. View on TED

Implicit Bias

Implicit bias broadly refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.

A Few Key Characteristics of Implicit Biases:

  • Implicit biases are pervasive. Everyone possesses them, even people with avowed commitments to impartiality such as judges.
  • Implicit and explicit biases are related but distinct mental constructs. They are not mutually exclusive and may even reinforce each other.
  • The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse.
  • We generally tend to hold implicit biases that favor our own ingroup, though research has shown that we can still hold implicit biases against our ingroup.

The provided definition and characteristics are an introduction to implicit bias and they do not acknowledge all the problems within the field. It must be noted that implicit bias is a complex concept with rich and conflicting literature.

All the Caffeine in the World Doesn’t Make You Woke

Consider listening to Kelefa Sanneh’s podcast All the Caffeine in the World Doesn’t Make You Woke as Sanneh sits in on one of Starbucks’ anti-racial bias classes.

All the Caffeine in the World Doesn’t Make You Woke

By Kelefa Sanneh

Kelefa Sanneh sits in on one of Starbucks’ anti-racial bias classes. There’s one thing that no one seems to want to talk about. (16 minutes)

Being Proactive & Reactive - Self Reflection

Implicit biases are malleable and you can form strategies to help you be proactive and reactive. Take a moment now to reflect on your own teaching practices. Ask yourself how you can challenge a single story.

  • What strategies do you presently use to challenge a single story?
  • Are you more proactive or reactive?
  • How can single stories operate in your professional practice?
  • How can single stories operate in your personal life?

Please consider this question in relation to: your syllabus, student engagement, forms of assessment, classroom arrangement, course policies, image selection, rhetoric, course resources.

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Lesson 6. Toolkit

Module Resources

Consider visiting these resources to learn more:

Cultural Iceberg

Culture is similar to an iceberg with both visible and invisible parts.
It is important to remember how the invisible parts influence the visible. These parts are very meaningful in driving behaviour and determining certain practices. Failure to understand and recognize these parts often is the key reason for misunderstandings.

Explore the picture below. Start with 1 and 2 first before viewing examples on the iceberg.

cultural-iceberg.png

1. Approximately 10% of culture is composed of things more evident and easily seen, like language and fashion.

a. Greetings, Language Food,
b. Festivals
c. Behaviours
d. Fashion, Art, Music, Literature

2. Approximately 90% of culture resides below the surface and is composed of things that are not immediately apparent or are difficult to see, like values and beliefs.

e. Communication, Facial and Personal Space, Expressions, Tone and Gesture
f. Eye Contact, Body Language, Display of Emotion and Touching
g. Concepts of Time, Self, Past and Future, Fairness, Justice, Family Roles, Age, Sex, and Class
h. Notions of Courtesy, Manners, Power, Leadership, Friendship, Beauty, and Cleanliness
i. Attitudes towards Death, Expectations, Elders, Dependents, Rules, Sin, Animals, and Cooperation vs. Competition
j. Values
k. Assumptions
l. Approaches to Religion, Courtship, Marriage, Raising Children, Decision Making, and Problem Solving
m. Beliefs

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Congratulations!

You've Completed the Module!

…but we hope that this is only the beginning of your learning in this area.

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These modules have been collaboratively developed by Queen's University and the University of British Columbia. Special recognition to the following offices:

Office of Professional Development and Educational Scholarship (Queen's University)

Human Rights and Equity Office (Queen's University)

Centre for Teaching and Learning (Queen's University)

Equity and Inclusion Office, The Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (The University of British Columbia).
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