Teaching Microaggressions, Identity, and Social Justice: A Reflective, Experiential and Collaborative Pedagogical Approach

Kenny Kwong


The purpose of social work is actualized through its commitment to diversity and differences in practice, as well as human rights, social, economic, and environmental justice.  A review of literature on microaggressions and oppression against marginalized and vulnerable populations suggests important themes that social work instructors need to examine with students. It is unclear to what extent instructors use pedagogical tools to gain knowledge, skills, and critical consciousness to navigate social justice contents and manage difficult conversations with diverse student groups in class settings.  Not much attention is paid in social work education on how well instructors are prepared to teach this content in depth and what challenges they face when facilitating highly sensitive and difficult discussions with students.  This article described and evaluated five sets of reflective, experiential, and collaborative activities in a social justice course designed to help social work students examine the histories of various identity groups that have experienced discrimination and oppression and increase their self-awareness of both privilege and personal bias in one’s life.  These activities include: (1) reflective reading notes; (2) critical reflection paper; (3) brief lecture and experiential class activities and discussion; (4) collaborative group presentations and role-plays; and (5) cultural competency plan.  Thirty-two students completed the evaluation surveys to assess their overall feedback about course activities and 36 students completed anonymous online course evaluations to assess their level of attainment in all course competencies. Student feedback collected in course evaluations and surveys, students’ self-assessment of attainment of course competencies, and the instructor’s critical reflection and self-assessment, suggest that teaching social justice using a reflective, experiential, and collaborative pedagogical approach has a promising potential for advancing course objectives.  Through these activities, students increased their knowledge on a range of topics such as racism, oppression, microaggression, social identities, intersectionality, privilege, and cultural humility, enhanced their understanding of various forms of prejudice and discrimination, and acquired critical skills and cultural competence that have direct application in social work field. 

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v9n4p184


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International Journal of Higher Education
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