Teacher Educators under Surveillance at a Religious University

Oct. 01, 2011

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 17, No. 5, October 2011, 545–558
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to examine how institutional norms are enforced through surveillance within a religious university.
Specifically, the guiding research question was the following: How does location within a religious university impact how white Christian teacher educators tell stories about their racial identity development?

The eight participants in this study were full-time faculty in a graduate-level teacher licensure program.
They signed a required document indicating evangelical faith and an agreement to follow the university lifestyle standards.
Participants were recruited from among nineteen members of a teacher education department, just two of whom were faculty of color.


Eight teacher educators met as part of a larger study on white racial identity and praxis.
Focus groups and personal interviews were transcribed and analyzed using situational mapping, a postmodern form of grounded theory.


The participants discussed four themes which illuminate how the surveillance of norms and self-discipline functioned at the university: the university, academic culture, religion and whiteness, and sexism.

This research reveals how surveillance and self-discipline operate within a religious university and its effects on teacher education faculty members.
The data revealed that participants carefully chose what to say – or not say – as they discussed race and racial identity development and as they pondered what it means to be a white teacher educator in a predominantly white context.
It was evident throughout the study that they disciplined themselves to meet institutional norms.
Because whiteness may serve as an unspoken norm, there was uncertainty among participants in general when discussing race, and this appeared to be particularly keen within the academic context in which certainty is valued.

In some ways, this study provided an opportunity for participants to exercise agency, in speaking out against norms (Chan, 2005).
However, data reveal how fear played a part of the process, as participants disciplined themselves to fit university norms and censored themselves when they began to exercise agency
The author concludes that discussing certain social justice issues within many religious institutions simply remains unsafe for faculty members.
Teacher educators in these settings face the awkward task of preparing future teachers to work in a diverse world while censoring themselves as academics.

ReferenceChan, A.S. (2005). Policy discourses and changing practice: Diversity and the university-college.
Higher Education, 50, 129–157.

Updated: Feb. 17, 2014