Studying the “I” in our Teaching and Learning: Influences of Identity on Pedagogy for Faculty of Color at a Rural University

Aug. 15, 2010

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 6, Issue 2, August 2010 , pages 143 – 159.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors report how the cultural identities of three Black professors influence their pedagogy at a rural, predominantly white, university in the USA.

Research Questions
The authors explored the following questions:
(1) Who are these professors in terms of cultural identity? and
(2) How has this cultural identity contributed to their pedagogy at this rural New York campus?

Context and Participants 

The authors of this study teach at rural, northern New York State, liberal arts campus.
The campus employs approximately 250 faculty. Of these, three, the primary participants, were identified as African American and Black at the start of this study. 

Deborah and Dennis were both special educators in Trinidad before completing PhD degrees at Virginia Tech.
Deborah coordinates the Childhood Education Program; her research interests include literacy studies, responsive pedagogy, identity, and culture.
Dennis teaches in the Department of Special Education; research interests include intersections of culture, ethnicity, leadership, learner differences and difficulties, and education.

John teaches in the English and Communication Department. His research interests focus on intersections between race, sex, gender, culture, identity, and the Black church. He and Dennis serve as advisors to minority student groups and are often sought to act as minority representatives on diversity issues. Deborah works in similar capacities with campus organizations.

Two other colleagues, Anjali and Michele, served as critical friends. They challenged the primary participants to clarify their narratives and provided a sounding board while sharing in the learning experience (Schuck & Russell, 2005).

About Method and Completeness
The authors describe this study as co-auto-ethnographic (Coia & Taylor, 2005; Loughran, 2004). The authors explore relationships between self and classroom/college community with a view to better understanding the values and practice of their own teaching, and to improving their teaching.


The narratives of the primary participants have demonstrated that the intersections of personal and professional identities shaped the pedagogy of the three primary participants. Their responses to two central questions reflected ongoing tensions with the challenges they face in a rural, homogenous, higher education community. Such challenges included a pervasive sense of being minority; meeting a young son's needs; and the need for belongingness.

Analysis of the narratives in collaboration with two critical friends revealed the need for teacher educators to reflect on how their practice influences the identity development among teacher candidates, inclusive of professional dispositions, and responsive to issues of educational and social inequities.

The authors recommend the use of co-auto-ethnographic self-study with critical friends as an important methodology to guide faculty members as they engage in social justice teaching practices.

Coia, L. and Taylor, M. Kosnik, C. , Beck, C. , Freese, A. R. and Samaras, A. P. (eds) (2005) From the inside out and from the outside in: Co/autoethnography as a means of professional renewal. Making a difference in teacher education through self-study: Studies of personal, professional, and program renewal, pp. 19-33. Kluwer , Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Loughran, J. J. Loughran, J. J. , Hamilton, M. L. , LaBoskey, V. K. and Russell, T. (eds) (2004) Learning through self-study. The international handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices pp. 151-192. Kluwer , Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Schuck, S. and Russell, T. (2005) Self-study, critical friendship, and the complexities of teacher education. Studying Teacher Education 1:2 , pp. 107-121.

Updated: Jan. 30, 2011