The Professor, Pluralism, and Pedagogy: A Reflection

The Professor, Pluralism, and Pedagogy: A Reflection

by Michelle D. Deardorff, Jackson State University

This essay discusses concrete approaches for faculty to use when teaching a student body whose demographics and cultural backgrounds are significantly different from that of the professor. As a white political scientist from the north teaching at a historically black university in the south, this work is particularly concerned with the dynamics of race and gender. However, the lessons from this essay are applicable to all of us who need to construct space in which our students can challenge their own preconceived notions.

If the United States and other pluralistic democracies claim that our very strength is found in the sharpening of our individual interpretations against competing ideas to best approximate the truth, how can we replicate this process in our increasingly diverse classrooms? What might this dynamic look like when the professor at the front of the room is radically different in significant ways from the students he or she teaches? For our classroom this means that pluralism must be real.

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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.