Nurturing voices that challenge the dominant narrative

Students' racial and gender identities can influence the extent to which they participate in discussions. Having safe and open environments to wrestle aloud with difficult conversation topics can be both essential and empowering.  In this video, Christina “V” Villarreal and her students discuss the participation dynamics in a seminar which covers challenging conversation topics.  


Christina “V” Villarreal, Lecturer on Education

Student Group



Harvard Graduate School of Education


Ethnic Studies and Education

Group Size

23 students

  • Cultivate “brave spaces” in your classroom so students can regularly reflect on their identities and how those identities converge or conflict with course content
  • Elevate historically marginalized voices
  • Know your students individually so you can best meet their participation needs
  • Incorporate small group discussions so quieter students can become more involved and multiple voices may be empowered simultaneously
  • Building on sociological research, one study finds that comfort in public speaking is highly gendered, with female students demonstrating markedly higher levels of anxiety than their male counterparts, underscoring the imperative for developing more secure, empathetic learning spaces (Moffett et al., 2014)
  • Another study demonstrates that regularly providing opportunities for student collaboration and interaction during class can address performance gender gaps in the physics classroom while improving both male and female understanding (Lorenzo, 2006)