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Positionality a scholarly reflection paper

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The concept of positionality includes the ethnographer's given attributes such as race, nationality, and gender which are fixed or culturally ascribed.

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Positionality a scholarly reflection paper

  1. 1. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 1 A Scholarly Reflection paper on positionality Author’s Name Institution Name
  2. 2. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 2 Introduction The concept of positionality includes the ethnographer's given attributes such as race, nationality, and gender which are fixed or culturally ascribed. Such attributes require textual disclosure when they affect the data, as they always do to some degree. The development of cultural responsiveness stems from various experiences, as it is multi-dimensional and complex. We believe self-reflection through writing (literacy practices) is an aspect of culturally responsive teaching that needs more exploration. Self-reflection and awareness of one’s interpersonal insights are essential to teacher education programs and culturally responsive pedagogy; in order to understand others, individuals must first understand themselves (Howard, 2006). Some scholars encourage critical self-reflection and analysis to further generate sociocultural consciousness (Gay & Kirkland, 2003; Villegas & Lucas, 2002), and others emphasize cognitive dissonance as a way to promote increased understandings (Lea & Sims, 2008). Teachers’ unconscious understandings, such as biases and prejudices regarding students from diverse backgrounds, impact their beliefs and teaching practices (Berlak, 2008).Essential to becoming a culturally responsive teacher is awareness of differentness of self and others and relatedness to other people and cultures (Howard, 2006). Preservice teachers need to know what the differences are and how they connect to others. As educators and researchers, we need to find ways to facilitate deeper reflections and to better prepare preservice
  3. 3. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 3 teachers in a time-efficient manner (Adams, Bondy, & Kuhel, 2005). Written reflection can serve as a tool to gain individuals’ knowledge of self and others, and through their own self-awareness individuals recognize connections to and differentness from others. In recognition of differences and connections, teachers must respect the values and beliefs of others. Written language provides one channel for individuals to explore the self and others. Preservice teachers’ reflections illustrate social/emotional connections and personal growth, and reflections can provide further insight into the development of culturally relevant teachers (Morton & Bennett, 2010). Reflection is a means to examine cognitive dissonance and change. Potitionality Positionality, also termed social location, refers to the place that a person occupies within a set of social relationships. It offers that all persons have a position in relation to others within a society. One’s position is the result of combining various social factors or identifiers including, but not limited to, race, sex, class, gender, ability, age, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, physical stature, education, occupation, relational status, language, etc. Social location (Zaytoun, 2006) and critical feminist (Collins, 2005) theories also argue that educators are not purely “objective” beings and thus, do not come neutrally into a classroom. They, on the one hand, have many experiences and prior learning that shape who they are as embodied educators. As much as they try to remain fair in the educational process and may take the posture of learner and facilitator, they are not blank slates when they enter a classroom. They have biases
  4. 4. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 4 and opinions that affect their teaching in some way (Freire,2000; Sleeter, 1996).On the other hand, the learning environment is replete with embedded scripts on account of society’s shaping of its views in regards to persons and people groups. Students come into a classroom with their own biases, preferences, and assumptions that are mostly based upon the previously-mentioned social identifiers and the histories behind those identifiers. The students, in their quest to make meaning, already come with constructed language, meaning, and understanding that arise out of personal and social histories and experiences. They too are not neutral participants but ones who bring existing meaning into class space. Two studies, for instance, suggest that social identifiers such as race and gender are significant factors in student opinions and evaluations of faculty members. One study of entering college students reveals that these students make evaluations prior to commencing their studies of their professors‟ competency and legitimacy levels based upon the ethnicity and gender of the professor (Bavishi, Madera, & Hebl, 2010). Black professors are seen as less competent as, and with less legitimation in their academic accomplishments than are white and Asian professors, despite having been hypothetically constructed with the same academic qualifications as their white and Asian counterparts. A second study reveals that students rated Black and Asian professors with less overall quality, helpfulness, and clarity than white professors on the popular website, ratemyprofessors.com (Reid, 2010). While race or ethnicity appears to play the most significant role in these studies, gender is also an important factor where women are mostly evaluated lower than are men, except in the case of Black men who are usually the lowest rated (Reid, 2010).
  5. 5. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 5 Intersectionality A young, female, dark-skinned, Muslim educator who wears a hijab as she teaches in the U.S., holds a much different social position than seeing her as a young, female, educator, or simply, as an educator. The embedded scripts constructed sociohistorically in the U.S., particularly after 9- 11, do not allow her to be seen simply as a young, female educator. Therefore to speak about social position adequately, intersectionality asks that all identifiers be simultaneously considered Intersectionality is important to consider in higher education because learners enter the classroom with preconceived ideas and assumptions concerning others, content matter, and daily life realities. Context For instance, there is a traditional privileging in the U.S. of men over women, white over non- whites, and elite- and middle-class over the poor; one could see various societal values with every other social identifier. It is mostly advantageous, for instance, for a person to be a white man in the U.S. where white men have historically administered it, particularly in the public sphere and at the highest levels of the private sphere (Allsup, 1995; Howard, 2006). His power and privilege are far different than is a Latino child of poor, immigrant parents from Mexico. Moreover, this privileging is learned and passed on from one generation to another until the work to uncover and alter these power dynamics occurs. It is important, however, to note that while there exist overarching privileges in any given society, there are more particular contexts that may privilege one or a few social identifiers over others. While an older, white, heterosexual,
  6. 6. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 6 male educator undoubtedly has more power in most contexts in the U.S., there might be other spaces where the young, dark-skinned, Muslim, female educator might have more influence than him on account of referent power and similar identification to an authority figure with oneself (Glascock & Ruggiero, 2006; Goodboy, Bolkan, Myers, & Zhao, 2011; Muhtaseb, A., 2007). For instance, a group of other young, female, Muslims may identify more readily with this woman than they would the man. This is not to dismiss the overall inequity of power between the latter and the former, but it is meant to show the importance of shifting contexts. Moreover, the identifiers of gender and religious identity may take precedence over others (e.g., race and nationality) in this imaginary context, while in another context, race and gender may take precedence over religious identity (e.g., mutual respect and understanding among darker-skinned women regardless their religious identity). Though a person is all of these identifiers simultaneously, several may take more primacy in any given context. Conclusion Teachers, by virtue of their role, hold much power in traditional classrooms. They are authority figures who possess the power to establish and change syllabi, course content, and assessment tools. Perhaps the chief example of this power is the power to grade. Students, however, possess their own measure of power. On the rare occasion, they may explicitly question an instructor’s authority but usually revert to subtle forms of resistance such as sleeping in class, checking social media rather than engaging in the lesson for the day, and writing student evaluations with poor remarks of the instructor. A young, tall, good-looking, white male professor carries with him a much different social location and thus level of privilege than does a shorter, older, faculty
  7. 7. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 7 member of color in the United States. This is amplified in an undergraduate context where many of the students, faculty, and administration carry several of the same social identifiers as the white male instructor and not the faculty member of color. The two, therefore, do not hold the same power. The two professors could teach the same content in the same ways, and yet, students may receive the professors‟ teachings in two differing ways by virtue of the professors‟ positional differences. The context constructs frames that allow one to be seen as “cute,” “funny,” “engaging,” and “smart,” while the other, as “tries too hard to be funny,” “boring but nice,” and “needs to retire.” Talvacchia (2003).
  8. 8. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 8 References Talvacchia, K. T. (2003). Critical minds and discerning hearts: A spirituality of multicultural teaching. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press Glascock, J., & Ruggerio, T. E. (2006). The relationship of ethnicity and sex to professor credibility at a culturally diverse university. Communication Education, 55(2), 197-207. Goodboy, A. K., Bolkan, S., Myers, S. A., & Zhao, X. (2011). Student use of relational and influence messages in response to perceived instructor power use in American and Chinese college classrooms. Communication Education, 60(2), 191-209 Muhtaseb, A. (2007). From behind the veil: Students' resistance from different directions. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 110, 25-33. Howard, G. R. (2006). We can't teach what we don't know: White teachers, multiracial schools (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College, Columbia Universit Bavishi, A., Madera, J. M., & Hebl, M. R. (2010). The effect of professor ethnicity and gender on student evaluations: Judged before met. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 3(4), 245-256 Collins, P. H. (2005). Black sexual politics: African Americans, gender, and the new racism. New York: Routledge.
  9. 9. Running head: A SCHOLARLY REFLECTION 9 Zaytoun, K. (2006). Theorizing at the borders: Considering social location in rethinking self and psychological development. NWSA Journal, 18(2), 52-72.

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