From the Teachers Perspective: Exploring Ways to Navigate Transformative Dialogues about Microaggressions in Social Work Higher Education

Allen Lipscomb, Wendy Ashley, Sarah Mountz


Graduate social work education is a fertile context for microaggression encounters. Because a core concept of the discipline is social justice advocacy, social work pedagogy is steeped with instruction, reading materials, activities and dialogue regarding diversity, intersectionality, oppression, power, and privilege. Students enter graduate school from a plethora of backgrounds, maturity levels, and exposure to justice informed critical thinking. As a result, learning opportunities take place not only in classrooms and field placements, but also in social, interpersonal exchanges. Therefore, it is imperative that social work educators teach academic concepts while modeling and managing the process in which microaggressions proliferate. Drawing from auto-ethnographic data obtained through instructors’ observations of microaggressions occurring in social work classrooms, the authors posit that uncontained microaggressions can have a deleterious impact on students, faculty and the larger social work climate outside of higher education. Pedagogical tactics and strategies to navigate the nuances of micro, mezzo and macro microaggressions within the constructs of social work higher education are provided.

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International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

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