June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Educational Research and Methods
26.108.1 - 26.108.17
A Series of Singular Testimonies: A New Way to Explore Unearned Advantages and Unearned DisadvantagesThis paper describes the development of a unique interview method based on Peggy McIntosh’s“serial testimony” technique. In her distinguished lecture at the 2014 American Society forEngineering Education conference, Dr. McIntosh challenged the engineering educationcommunity to use its position of privilege to redesign the system of engineering education. Sheadvocated for the community to recognize the “colossal unseen dimensions” of built-in privilegeand to launch substantive collaborative efforts to change the traditional norms in the institutionof engineering education. Our research team has responded to this challenge by developing anadaptation of the serial testimony technique for one-on-one interviews, which we term “a seriesof singular testimonies.”The “serial testimony” technique, introduced by Dr. McIntosh to attendees at the lecture,encourages participants to discuss “unearned advantages” and “unearned disadvantages” thatresult from living in a mono-culture society where privilege is embedded and granted tomembers based on race, gender and social class. By asking attendees to personally shareunearned advantages and disadvantages with a partner during her lecture, she demonstrated howthe technique facilitates equitable sharing in a group, typically allowing each person to speakuninterrupted for a few minutes in each round.Our adaptation preserves many of the hallmarks of the serial testimony technique, specifically:1. Giving participants the opportunity to share their personal narrative, or testimony, about unearned advantages and unearned disadvantages as they perceive them;2. Allowing them to speak uninterrupted;3. Exhibiting no judgment and expressing no rebuttal;4. Returning to a particular advantage/disadvantage for further exploration and follow up questions in additional “rounds.”We have piloted our interview technique with recent engineering graduates, and found it to beefficacious for eliciting participants’ perceptions of unearned advantages and disadvantagesrelated to their engineering education. In this paper, we (1) describe how this method may elicitdistinct responses compared to other interview techniques, (2) present our results related toparticipants’ perceptions of unearned advantages and disadvantages, and (3) discuss how aparticular trait can be perceived as an advantage by one participant, but as a disadvantage toanother. We also present specific examples of certain unearned traits (such as economic status)that some participants simultaneously viewed as both advantages and disadvantages in pursuingtheir engineering education. We end with implications for using this method to illuminate visibleand invisible forms of privilege and oppression, underrepresentation, and marginalization thatundergraduates may experience during their engineering education.
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