Written by: Alaa Abdelghaffar
Positionality Statements: A learning technique for grounding and contextualization
Positionality statements have become a common practice among scholar-researchers (Coretta, 2021). The practice simply entails reflecting on one’s identities that shape their own opinions and worldviews about certain topics and/or issues, thus their approach to the research they are engaged in (Coretta, 2021). Engaging in positionality statements enables researchers to recognize and evaluate their own prejudices and biases and their possible influences on their research pursuits ( Holmes, 2020).
Despite how intensive the practice of positionality statements has recently become in academic research settings, it has not received equal attention in classroom settings. In response to this gap, this post aims to introduce the practice of positionality statements into classroom teaching: That is, integrating it into the classroom learning process and outcomes.
As part of my scholar-educator doctoral training, I have created the following set of questions I use as a guiding template for the Positionality Statement Exercise to integrate into my classroom lesson planning. The exercise is designed to allow students an opportunity to think deeply about how they perceive and in what ways they relate (or not) to a specific topic or issue covered in the given course content. The questions can be adjusted to tailor to specific course content or class session focus.
Positionality Statement: A Self-Reflexive Exercise:
- In what ways do you identify yourself in relation to this topic/issue?
- What elements of your familial and/or cultural background do you have in intersection with this topic/issue?
- How significant are these elements to how you identify yourself?
- What meanings - cultural and/or personal - does the topic/issue carry to you?
- Do you recognize any biases you have toward this topic/issue?
- If yes, do you think you need to maintain or unlearn these biases? Why? Why not?
- Do you recognize any possible harms that can be associated with these biases? Why? Why not?
This learning exercise can also be expanded to be before and after covering the learning content as a way for students to reflect on their learning. According to Homlmes (2020), some aspects of one’s positionality are “fixed”, such as one’s gender, race, and nationality, while other aspects are more “fluid and subjective”, such as one’s political views, personal experiences, and familial history (p. 2). Having a before-and-after component of this self-reflexive exercise can serve as an indicator of the changes that might have happened to a student’s perceptions, views, this stored prejudices about a given topic or issue.
References (APA, 7th Ed.)
Coretta, S. (2021, April 29). My researcher's positionality statement. https://stefanocoretta.github.io/post/positionality/#ref-darwin2020
Holmes, A. (2020). Researcher positionality - A consideration of its influence and place in qualitative research: A new researcher guide. Shanlax International Journal of Education, 8(4), pp. 1-10.