Teaching Race and Social Justice at a Predominantly White Institution

Teaching Race and Social Justice at a Predominantly White Institution

by Kelly Bauer & Kelly Clancy, Nebraska Wesleyan University

At our predominantly white university, students often shy away from controversial conversations. How can the classroom encourage students to value and engage in potentially explosive conversations? We develop a concept of “empathic scaffolding” to articulate an approach that integrates diversity and inclusion into the classroom. Empathic scaffolding structures content and pedagogy in a way that strategically expands students’ zones of comfort, starting with very personal experiences with the material and expanding to include broader groups of people and course concepts. Understanding and engaging with these concentric circles of students’ relationships to the course material is crucial if students are to hear and engage with voices to which they may have limited exposure. This article documents the best practices of implementing empathic scaffolding in the realms of content and pedagogy, offering a toolkit for professors to critically engage conversations about race and social justice.

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This Educate-JPSE collaboration brings together articles published in the Journal of Political Science Education that discuss classroom approaches related to teaching about race, racism, social justice and civic action. Our reading list offers a range of materials – from syllabi, reading lists to active learning assignments – that discuss classroom practices through the lens of identity, gender and power relations. It includes a model for professors who are interested in partnering with local community activists to design civically engaged courses, with specific examples covering research and organizing around affordable housing issues. 

The Journal of Political Science Education is an intellectually rigorous, path-breaking, agenda-setting journal that publishes the highest quality scholarship on teaching and pedagogical issues in political science. The journal aims to represent the full range of questions, issues and approaches regarding political science education, including teaching-related issues, methods and techniques, learning/teaching activities and devices, educational assessment in political science, graduate education, and curriculum development.

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