Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Considerations for Antiracist Teaching

Considerations for Antiracist Teaching

There are many paths to implementing or strengthening antiracist pedagogy, including personal reflection about one’s own subject position, relative level of power and privilege, and potential biases. While everyone’s process towards antiracist pedagogy varies, consideration of theoretical and evidence-based practices as well as hearing from colleagues are productive complements to self-reflection. We invite you to explore the following questions, which include teaching approaches from Yale faculty and other relevant resources:

How do I acknowledge inequities within my discipline and decenter Whiteness in course content?

Yale Associate Professor of Computer Science, Theodore Kim, includes discussions about the discriminatory racial history of computer science and mathematics as a way to help students understand the politics and power of fields that are often thought of as being objective.

For Yale Professor of Environmental Justice, Dorceta Taylor, it is important to contribute easily accessible resources, such as her recent writings on the historic Chicago race riots and the future of environmental justice, to help students understand the challenges around race, space, and the environment and to support constructive discussions and action around these topics.

Relevant resources:

Potential classroom practices:

  • Reflect on the diversity of author representation and theoretical frameworks integrated into the course content.
  • Consider ways to integrate perspectives that have been traditionally marginalized without tokenizing or simply contextualizing dominant sources.
  • Anticipate how to frame topics related to race and various forms of inequality as they may be emotionally salient in different ways for students with a range of experiences.

How do I communicate antiracist principles in my course policies and learning goals?

For Roderick Ferguson, Professor of Womens, Gender and Sexuality Studies and American Studies at Yale, anti-racist pedagogy begins with the syllabus as a document that signals his principles and values as a teacher. Through the syllabus, he suggests to students that race is not a matter of irrationality. He can also show them that law, science, the social sciences, and the humanities have been intimately involved in the production of racial and racist knowledge. The syllabus is also a means of showing how race is produced in its intersections with the languages of class, gender, sexuality, ability and so on. Lastly, through the syllabus, he can also propose other forms of knowledge and community are possible—besides the ones that racism needs in order to function and grow.

Yale Graduate Program Coordinator in Physics, Rona Ramos, includes a DEI statement on her syllabus to reject discrimination and promote belonging.

Relevant resource:

Potential classroom practices:

  • Consider inviting colleagues to read your syllabus and provide any feedback on policies that may make implicit assumptions about students.
  • You might add an anti-racist statement to your syllabus that is authentic to your voice and discuss its implications for your course with your students.
  • Inquire if your department can host conversations to think critically about incorporating antiracist practices in core and foundational course work.

How do I teach with humility, acknowledging my own biases and challenging my students to encounter their own?

Yale Associate Professor of American Studies, Greta LaFleur, conducts role plays in class where students practice how to engage in meaningful conversation when a class member says something offensive. Greta further invites students to make community decisions regarding use of language in class with challenging subject matter.

Relevant resource:

Potential classroom practices:

  • Consider pausing to reflect and consider if there have been times when you could have been more intentionally or explicitly antiracist while leading a discussion or class session. To build on this reflection, try regularly gathering feedback from your students to understand their experiences and perspectives.
  • Try providing opportunities for students to reflect on their own biases, such as through individual written reflection or small group discussion. Students may have a range of emotional responses, which may mean planning for space for them to process those emotions.
  • If you’re comfortable doing so, share your own journey with your students as a learner who makes mistakes but continually strives to do better. Like your students, you may need time to process your emotions based on your positionality and experiences.

How do I elevate student voice so that a full range of ideas, approaches, and perspectives are valued and recognized?

Matthew Jacobson, William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies & History and Professor of African American Studies at Yale, builds trust and empathy by inviting students to participate in brief, intensive writing exercises during class when racially fraught moments occur: students first describe what happened observationally and then take one position/side before taking the other side. This exercise helps him and his students examine perspectives they may not have considered as well as interrogate their own positionality, power, and privilege.

Relevant resource:

Potential classroom practices:

  • Consider providing opportunities for all students to contribute through written, collaborative platforms, such as discussion boards, Google documents, and annotations in Perusall.
  • Try incorporating frequent questions of your students as a means of decentering your own power and authority as the instructor.
  • It can be helpful to track student speaking patterns during class to analyze whose voices are heard and what positionality and privilege this reflects. Consider inviting a colleague or Poorvu Center staff member to observe student speaking patterns for you or, if online, turn on Zoom closed captioning and review the audio transcript after the class session.

How do I create assessments that enable students to demonstrate different knowledge and ways of knowing?

Yale Associate Professor of Ethnicity, Race & Migration and American Studies, Daniel Martinez Hosang, assigns his students to design, curate, and launch a website in a course that centers on promoting antiracist teaching and learning in K-12 schools throughout Connecticut. The website build is part of the course goals; it serves not only as an assessment of the students’ work but also a compelling resource for K-12 teachers and school leaders.

Lisa Lowe, Samuel Knight Professor of American Studies, understands that while equal achievement is an ideal presumed by normative standards of grading, the reality of students’ preparations, backgrounds, learning styles, and material circumstances can vary enormously. To that end, she approaches grading and evaluation as a qualitative process, and prioritizes a consideration of what students have learned during the semester, that is, she seeks to assess their “movement” from where they began the course to where they end the course, in terms of their demonstrated understanding of key concepts, analytics, and course material, as well as their completion of assignments, papers, and final projects.

Relevant resource:

Potential classroom practices:

  • It can be helpful to revisit course learning goals and consider if your course assessments provide evidence that students are meeting those goals.
  • Consider if there are multiple ways that students may be able to demonstrate their acquired knowledge. For instance, a creative project might demonstrate learning as effectively as a final exam, but draw more readily on diverse student perspectives and experiences.

Contact Us

We welcome conversation and feedback about our antiracist pedagogy resources: