Positionality & Intersectionality

Building off Ambrose et. al.’s (2010) work on social identity development and its’ impact on classroom climate, our approach to faculty professional development recognizes core principles of positionality and intersectionality.

Positionality refers to the how differences in social position and power shape identities and access in society. Citing a few key definitions of positionality, Misawa (2010, p. 26) emphasizes the fluid and relational qualities of social identity formation while also noting that “all parts of our identities are shaped by socially constructed positions and memberships to which we belong” and which are “embedded in our society as a system.”

Pascua Yaqui/Chicana scholar M. Duarte (2017, p. 135) describes positionality as a methodology that  “requires researchers to identify their own degrees of privilege through factors of race, class, educational attainment, income, ability, gender, and citizenship, among others” for the purpose of analyzing and acting from one’s social position “in an unjust world.”

In acknowledging positionality, we also acknowledge intersecting social locations and complex power dynamics. Therefore, our approach to classroom climate is also grounded in analysis of intersectionality, a concept arising out of Black feminist legal studies and critical race theories. Hill Collins (2001, p. 18) writes:

Intersectionality refers to particular forms of intersecting oppressions, for example, intersections of race and gender, or of sexuality and nation. Intersectional paradigms remind us that oppression cannot be reduced to one fundamental type, and that oppressions work together in producing injustice.



Ambrose, S.A. et. al. (2010). How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Collins, P.H. (2001). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge.

Duarte, M.E. (2017). Network Sovereignty: Building the Internet Across Indian Country. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Misawa, M. (2010). Queer Race Pedagogy for Educators in Higher Education: Dealing with Power Dynamics and Positionality of LGBTQ Students of Color. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3 (1), 26-35. Retrieved from http://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/view/68.