On September 25, Katherine Field-Rothschild, Assistant Professor of English, will chat about "Using Visibility Language to Create Classroom Empathy."
My research is based on Adrienne Rich’s 1972 assertion that students can learn “that language can be used as a means of changing reality.” This presentation suggests that the framework of Fairclough’s (2011) four-stage practice of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) can work to heal fragmented discourse and counter student bias during difficult dialogs by offering neutral terminology and pathways to empathetic discussion. I have used CDA pedagogy as a framework for my January Term class, Protest, Parade, and Pop Music, then explored its effectiveness through student focus group research. Originally developed in response to the challenges of open discussion in civil liberties curriculum, the pedagogy aims for the almost-impossible feat of turning a classroom into a safe house, or a place of deep trust and understanding (Pratt 1991, p. 40). The classroom-based study describes how the protest course, grounded by Freire’s theory of problem-posing education and actively using Critical Discourse Analysis framework guided by Blackledge’s 2012 definition of CDA and following a modification of Fairclough’s 2012 four stages, allowed students to take a step back from language and separate themselves from bias in order to accept (and refrain from arguing with) the experiences of others. This presentation would break down the theories, offer accessible terminology, and detail how this approach can be used in any class during a difficult dialog by an instructor, and give students neutral language to address moments of feeling invisible or verbally harmed. The goal of the pedagogy is to help make all student experiences more visible and respected. The presentation will also offer instructors language to use in a syllabus around difficult dialogs and the use of CDA as take-aways. I hope to share this work—particularly neutral terminology and definitions about language and power—to assist students and instructors to feel empowered to engage in difficult but necessary dialogs on race, religion, political forces, and power dynamics.