Banks: Identity Impacts Classroom Experience

Conversations about personal identity may be difficult to have, but faculty in higher education should be prepared to consider how those issues affect both the way they teach and the way students learn.

Cerri A. Banks, MHC’s dean of the College and vice president of student affairs, believes educators committed to bettering their practice should be mindful that identity, or rather the parts that comprise it, have an impact on classroom experience.

“We have found that identity plays out in a multitude of ways in college classrooms,” Banks said. “Our schools don’t exist in a vacuum. All the things we see in the world happen in our classrooms, and come to our classrooms.”

Banks, who co-edited the recently published text Teaching, Learning, and Intersecting Identities in Higher Education, said the sociological theory of intersectionality is particularly helpful when analyzing the interplay of identity.

Intersectionality is a conceptual framework in which multiple aspects of identity — such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation — are considered simultaneously and in relation to each other.

According to Banks, the essays in the book, which were written by both faculty members and students, are designed to make the theory of intersectionality as accessible as possible while also making very clear that the concept can inform teaching practice.

“These issues are going to infiltrate your classroom,” she added.