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Acknowledging Positions, Enabling “Learning for Everyone”

Gender- and diversity-conscious teaching can address gender and diversity both implicitly and explicitly. The Course Content and Methods sections give suggestions for both approaches.

As a matter of principle, especially when raising these topics explicitly, keep in mind that students – as well as lecturers – are usually affected by inequality and discrimination unevenly. Students who have never experienced racist or sexist discrimination sit alongside classmates who are routinely confronted by it as well as classmates who are consciously or unconsciously complicit in it. Some students and lecturers know about the barriers because they constantly face them, while others are not. Some of them spend hours after class working or spend the semester break earning money, while others finish earlier in the day and use their free time for language courses, vacations, or intensive test preparation.

Remember that “not all instances of marginalization/privilege are perceptible to outsiders – not even to lecturers” (Goel 2016:40).

However, students should not be compelled to make their situations public – especially their experiences of marginalization – against their will.

These varying positions result in varying approaches to a topic, and often varying needs and questions. While some people might be happy to talk about these issues with those who have had similar experiences, others prefer to avoid the topic altogether. Others are curious to learn about the lived experience of discrimination and inequality for the first time. Potentially, students who experience discrimination themselves might not want to reply to questions, having been asked them too often. For some people, depending on the topic, coming to terms with gender and diversity means increasing their agency and learning to better defend themselves against discrimination. For others, it means conceding their own entanglements in power relations and being forced to rethink cherished certainties.

Paying attention to gender and diversity in your teaching means developing a feel for students’ needs and boundaries.
It is important to communicate transparently that to change discriminatory behaviors often requires temporarily moving outside one’s comfort zone (Adams et al. 2007). One helpful tool for handling this source of tension is a seminar agreement. This can make it easier to bring up discrimination and the enactment of roles without repeating the stereotypes that you wish to confront critically. The concept of error friendliness addresses this issue.

For lecturers, this can mean encouraging certain students to break out of their familiar roles and claim more space: participating more in group work, presenting their own findings, or standing up to interruptions. Lecturers can more overtly encourage other students to take note of their classmates’ boundaries, adopt less dominant roles, let others finish their point, or take on less visible tasks in group assignments. Which strategy is “appropriate” depends on the specific subject and the positions of the students toward it.

The Margherita von Brentano Center’s Intersectional Teaching program can give you more insight about these issues. It may also be useful to connect with other lecturers and to draw on your own opportunities and resources in order to counteract discrimination and unequal power relations in the university.

There is no singlerecipe or method that suits all lecturers and students alike. Finding a practical response to this challenge is part of the process of acquiring gender and diversity competence – for both lecturers and students. In all cases, it is worthwhile to throughly prepare and review your methods and courses through the process of Method Planning and Evaluation.


Adams, Maurianne, Lee Anne Bell, und Pat Griffin, Hrsg. 2007. Teaching for diversity and social justice. 2. ed. New York [u.a.]: Routledge.

Czollek, Leah Carola, Gudrun Perko, und Heike Weinbach. 2012. Praxishandbuch Social Justice und Diversity. Theorien, Training, Methoden, Übungen. Weinheim; Basel: Beltz Juventa.

Goel, Urmila. 2016. Die (Un)Möglichkeit der Vermeidung von Diskriminierungen. In Diskriminierungskritische Lehre. Denkanstöße aus den Gender Studies, Hrsg. Geschäftsstelle des Zentrums für transdisziplinäre Geschlechterstudien der Humboldt-Universiät zu Berlin.

Rosenstreich, Gabriele. 2006. Von Zugehörigkeiten, Zwischenräumen und Macht. Empowerment und Powersharing in interkulturellen und Diversity-Workshops. In Spurensicherung – Reflexion von Bildungsarbeit in der Einwanderungsgesellschaft, Hrsg. Gabi Elverich, Annita Kalpaka, und Karin Reindlmeier, 195–231. Frankfurt am Main: Iko-Verlag Berlin.

Rosenstreich, Gabriele. 2007. The Mathematics of Diversity Training: Multiplying Identities, Adding Categories and Intersecting Discrimination. In Re-Präsentationen. Dynamiken der Migrationsgesellschaft, Hrsg. Anne Broden und Paul Mecheril, 131–160. Düsseldorf: IDA-NRW.

Version April 2017. Unless otherwise stated, this content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.