Universities: Past, Present, and Future
Janine de Novais, Harvard Graduate School of Education

"These Classes Equip Me": The Development of Complex Understandings of Race in College Classrooms


What is the relationship between classroom experience in academic courses on race, and students’ understanding of race? To explore this question, I analyzed data from two college courses—one focused on narratives by enslaved people, and one focused on black political thought. I found that students drew from the new knowledge they gained and the experiences they had in the courses to develop a critical and nuanced understanding of race. Students also reported that the courses “equipped them” to better engage with issues of race in their lives. I argue that this relationship between students' classroom experiences and their framing of race has implications for both contemporary higher education and the larger society.