Charting a Way Forward: Intersections of Race and Space in Establishing Identity as an African-Canadian Teacher Educator

Aug. 01, 2011

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 7, No. 2, August 2011, 133–143.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This research project grew out of the author's desire to address and transform her experience as a Black, female teacher educator in a White settler province and country.

Along with self-study methodology, the author uses critical race theory and feminist post-structural theory to analyze the construction of her racial identity and relations of power in a White settler society.

This self-study was guided by the following questions:
How does the ongoing construction of my racial identity as an African-Canadian woman working in a White-settler space influence my professional identity and behavior?

How can my exploration of race and space in my identity formation assist me in understanding how my students are produced culturally, locally and historically?

How can my self-study become a pedagogical tool for informing my relationships with my students and enhance my practices as an educator?

What can I as an African-Canadian woman working in a White-settler space learn through inquiring into conflicts with my students in ways that will help me work alongside my students and enable them to interact in critical, caring, and transformative ways with diverse ethno-cultural groups?

Collecting Data
The data consisted of journal entries, audio-recording of anecdotes, reflections of feelings and insights that author constructed after each class, and emails she received from students.


The dialectical nature of analysis in this self-study allowed the author to identify a way to chart an anti-oppressive course forward involving both individuals and institutions.
She developed more nuanced understandings of her teaching context to map a course for operating strategically and effectively within it.

Unlike her White colleagues, who generally fit the students’ image of who can be a professor, the author saw that she would need to create pedagogical strategies for introducing and undertaking issues related to race, social justice, and equity.
She surfaced topics early that she might have allowed to emerge later and may have hindered the development of trusting relationships with students being taught by a Black professor for the first time in their lives.
The author theorizes that her appearance, her dreadlocks, was/is an obvious outward sign of the dropping of the White mask.

From an institutional perspective, her experience in the university suggests that, once hired, a faculty member of a racial minority group is on her own.
Feminist post-structuralism gives hope that the author and her students can change by choosing their subjectivities and subject positions, thus altering their discursive practices.
This is vital in charting a more productive, harmonious, equitable, responsive, and interactive learning context in university classrooms.

Other key players implicated are the faculty alongside whom she teaches.
Faculty colleagues can play roles in facilitating contact and breaking down institutional, racial, and cultural barriers between students and minoritized faculty.
Colleagues can encourage and support.
The author describes an instance of such support came from one of her colleagues who knew the author would be teaching some of her students.
To help students become comfortable with the author, the colleague worked on race, place, and identity with them, encouraging them to attend presentations author made.
When the author taught these students, there appeared to be greater familiarity, engagement, and collaboration between us.

The author concludes that empathy, validation and acceptance from colleagues have buoyed her confidence as she searches for ways to narrow the racial and cultural divide between self and other in order to build collaborative relationships with students.
Three important tools that have proved highly effective are critical race theory, critical pedagogy, and feminist post-structuralist theory.
The use of theory has equipped her with language and conceptual tools for sharing with her students so that we can think, speak, write, and act in ways to name, give meaning to, and transform their world for the benefit of all.

Updated: Dec. 11, 2013