Description of Entry
"Fourteen students… One instructor… Fifteen weeks… A single united cause… to break the habit of prejudice and discrimination against any and all groups by promoting Awareness through education, Harmony through understanding, and Acceptance through experience." This was the mission of our group, called the AHA Advocates. These advocates created the website, Breaking the Prejudice Habit (BreakingPrejudice.org), to provide tools for engaging students in the study of prejudice and discrimination. Our project was funded by the Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.
The BreakingPrejudice.org website was created by students for students. The authors' majors included Anthropology, Communication Studies, Creative Writing, Psychology, Sociology, Women's and Gender Studies, Telecommunication, and Visual Communication. Two diversity consultants also contributed a teaching activity.
Overview of the Project
Today's students care deeply about the potential for reducing prejudice and promoting social change. Howe and Strauss (2003), for example, found that Millennials see racial diversity as very important and as an appealing part of the college experience. Moreover, experience with diversity positively affects students' personal and intellectual development (Pike & Kuh, 2006). However, many students come to college without the skills they need for successful intergroup interactions. Our project was designed to help remedy this situation and to address Johnson's (2006, p. 125) goal of "removing what silences… the millions of people who know inequities exist and want to be part of the solution."
Stereotyping and prejudice can seem inevitable and unchanging, so we wanted to focus on ways that people can break the prejudice habit. Beliefs do change over time, and people can be agents in this process. As Winterowd and colleagues (2009) have noted, effective pedagogy for teaching about social change includes both learning about and understanding people from diverse backgrounds and increasing self-awareness of biases and their impact on others. Our work was guided by this principle.
To begin, students chose their topic and worked in groups to examine recent social science research; they also participated in three all-day workshops led by Jeffrey Mio (an expert on multicultural competence), Linda Tropp (a renowned scholar in prejudice reduction), and Erin Cressy (an organizational diversity consultant). Based on what they learned, students then created a set of materials for teachers, diversity consultants, and social justice activists. Specifically, members of the class:
- Created 13 original teaching activities
- Wrote and filmed 4 original public service announcements
- Edited 16 video diaries about people's personal experience with prejudice
- Conducted and transcribed interviews with 13 social justice activists
- Compiled and categorized an annotated list of videos
- Collected a set of social justice songs
- Provided definitions for commonly used terms
- Spearheaded a social media campaign, including a Facebook page that is now updated each week by my research group
These resources were designed to help people learn firsthand about prejudice and discrimination and can be used with minimal preparation. Our target audience was instructors and students at the high school and college level, but most resources can be tailored for younger students or for use in work settings.
The authors of the 13 individual teaching activities are noted on each module's page. For each activity, we provide the objective of the exercise, background literature, estimated time, optimal group size, instructions, and ready-to-use materials, including worksheets and discussion questions. For example, the Entertainment Personality Activity was designed to raise awareness about the lack of meaningful roles for women, people of color, and other groups in entertainment media. We provide a worksheet for students to complete on their own or in groups, along with suggested answers. The discussion questions prompt participants to consider how this underrepresentation relates to prejudice and social privileges. The Microaggression Activity teaches people to recognize how different audiences can interpret subtle comments and actions. The discussion questions encourage reflection and consideration of how comments can be rephrased to avoid this type of prejudice. Other activities address topics such as how subtle prejudice affects people's interactions with others, the experience of being excluded, the history of racism and gay rights in the United States, the role of physical appearance in stereotyping, and prejudice and discrimination in social media.
Video Diaries and Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
The students edited video diaries from 16 people from diverse backgrounds who described their experience with prejudice and wrote, filmed, and edited five public service announcements (including one based on the video diaries). For example, the Breaking Stereotypes PSA features a diverse group of individuals who are speaking out against commonly held stereotypes. The camera pans across their faces as they express assumptions about their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, and how they do not identify with those assumptions. In the Loving Couple PSA, a voiceover explains a couple's story while they playfully interact. The identities of the lesbian partners remain hidden until the end of the video.
Videos and Social Justice Songs
The songs and videos, available on the web, are categorized by topic. The videos are annotated to show their connection to social psychological theory. Most are brief and can be used to supplement lectures or discussions about social justice issues. Music is a category that is often overlooked when teaching about social justice, but it has many advantages. For example, students can listen to music in many different places, and songs are usually short and concise. We collected songs and list the artist, album, song lyric sample, and a link to the YouTube video.
Interviews with Activists
We interviewed a host of people and groups concerned with civil rights and progressive social change, including psychologists Mary Crawford and Margo Monteith; authors Margo Mifflin and Holly Kearl; and journalists Melissa Harris-Perry and Rocky Rivera. The detailed accounts of their journeys can be used to cultivate students' passion about social justice.
Pedagogical Effectiveness of BreakingPrejudice.org Resources
All of the teaching activities were tested with the seminar students and revised based on their feedback. Activities on subtle prejudice, social media, and gender stereotypes were tested diversity-related classes. All but one of the teaching activities were peer reviewed by the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology (OTRP); they were then revised based on that feedback and are available on the OTRP's website. Erin Crawford Cressy, a diversity consultant, reviewed the appropriateness of our activities for the workplace, and we revised our work accordingly. At a public presentation to showcase our work, a number of students, parents, and community members also provided positive feedback on the effectiveness of select activities and PSAs.
Between May 2013 and January 2014, our website had 14,185 visits from people in 49 countries. Word is getting out—our January 2014 total was up 126% from December 2013. Our most frequently visited pages were the teaching activities, PSAs, and video clips. Our Facebook page currently has 484 "likes," and we reached 167,000 users with Facebook advertisements announcing the PSAs. We also mailed a packet with our teaching materials to 587 Indiana high school social science teachers. Informally, we have received many thank-you emails from high school and college teachers.
One student's words illustrate what the AHA advocates gained from this experience: "Since embarking on this journey together, our lives have permanently changed for the better. None of us left the same person we were when we began." Students reported they learned how to advocate for themselves and others, learned how to work as a team, became part of the solution, had increased confidence in both their personal and professional skills, recognized the importance of understanding the social science literature, found common ground, understood that being uncomfortable is okay, and learned that what they do does matter.
Our teaching activities are largely "paper and pencil," although instructors can modify them for online completion. We made every attempt to write activities and discussion questions for an international audience but recognize we were not always successful in reaching this goal (for example, the Identity Star Activity, the National African American History Museum Activity, and the Gay Rights Timeline focus on U.S. history). Other activities, such as the Microaggression Activity, Understanding Cognitive Dissonance Activity, and Social Media Activity, are more easily adaptable for an international audience.
Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2007). Millennials go to college: Strategies for a new generation on campus (2nd ed.). Great Falls, VA: Lifecourse Associates.
Johnson, A. G. (2006). Privilege, power, and difference (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Pike, G. R., & Kuh, G. (2006). Relationships among structural diversity, informal peer interactions, and perceptions of the campus environment. Review of Higher Education, 29, 425-450.
Winterowd, C. L., Adams, E., M., Miville, M. L., & Mintz, L. B. (2009). Operationalize, instilling, and assessing counseling psychology training values related to diversity in academic programs. The Counseling Psychologist, 37, 676-704.