Intersectional and Anti-Racist Pedagogy: The Soul’s Work
Kim A. Case, Virginia Commonwealth University
Our intersectional and anti-racist pedagogies cannot be turned off like some mythical, convenient light switch. In other words, teaching is the soul’s work. Intersectional, antiracist, and other critical pedagogies directly challenge status quo academic practices, reward structures, and individuals who benefit most from these traditions. For this column, we focus on ways to strengthen your promotion and tenure case as an educator infusing intersectional and anti-racist pedagogy.
Connecting to evaluation criteria
When putting together a tenure file, start with a thorough review of the evaluation criteria that will be applied to your work. How does your institution define the standards for excellence in teaching? Effective educators demonstrate a commitment to continually developing their pedagogy and expertise, practice intentional course design to achieve clear learning objectives, cultivate inclusive learning environments that spark students’ curiosity and promote intellectual growth, create meaningful assessments that align with learning goals, and contribute to the development of critically and socially aware students (Addy et al., 2021). As an intersectional, antiracist, feminist educator, you are doing this work. You can strengthen your case for promotion and tenure by educating your evaluators on intersectional, antiracist feminist pedagogy, documenting your efforts to master it, and outlining them for your review. Evidence for desired outcomes may come from a variety of sources: formal course evaluations, student narratives within evaluations or other assessments (essays, presentations), and student work that directly reflects valued learning outcomes (e.g., community-engaged projects).
Addressing student dissatisfaction
In her work on pedagogy of discomfort, Megan Boler (1999) noted that the emotions that result from acknowledging and confronting systemic injustice can provide valuable insights into students’ beliefs and help them interrogate their resistance to learning. As we all know, student discomfort can translate to dissatisfaction in course evaluations that are referenced during tenure and promotion review, especially if the instructor embodies a marginalized identity. Rather than apologizing or deflecting attention, we recommend engaging this feedback directly in your narrative statement. Continue to educate your evaluators on resistance and discomfort as a common response to intersectional pedagogy, as fertile ground for learning, and discuss the ways you address student discomfort in your classes. For example, I (Kim) developed a community-building activity that I use in week 1-2 of each course to explicitly address myths about what learning should feel like. Students brainstorm possible emotions or reactions they may have to studying challenging topics. We then process those possibilities as a group and identify ways students can intentionally choose to stay in the learning, such as asking for support if they begin to feel frustrated or tempted to withdraw.
Find your people
We recommend that you develop a village of like-minded educators who can provide support and validation and serve as mentors as you develop your pedagogical practice. Don’t be shy about reaching out to intersectional teacher-scholars to share resources, ideas, and get feedback in times of crisis. Practicing intersectional, antiracist, feminist pedagogy can be lonely, but we can break out of pedagogical isolation (Case et al., 2021).
This work will appear as a chapter in the forthcoming volume, Feminists on the Road to Tenure: The personal is professional, Editors Kate Richmond, Alex Zelin, Isis Settles, Stephanie Shields.
Addy, T. M., Dube, D., Mitchell, K. A., & SoRelle, M. (2021). What inclusive instructors do: Principles and practices for excellence in college teaching. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Boler, M. (1999). Feeling power: Emotions and education. Routledge.
Case, K., Kite, M., & Williams, W. R. (2021). Pedagogical humility and peer mentoring for social justice education. In M. Kite, K. Case, & W. R. Williams (Eds.), Navigating difficult moments in teaching diversity and social justice (pp. 3-16). American Psychological Association Press.