2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity

Measuring the Conceptualization of Oppression and Privilege

Presented at Track: Special Topic - Social Justice & Reform Technical Session 3

Many campus programs seek to enhance students’ and faculty’s capacities to engage issues of inclusivity, equity and social justice. Having the ability to measure an individual’s growth in these areas would be instructive for the individual and for measuring success of programs designed to promote this learning. While there are quantitative assessment tools that measure constructs such as “cultural competencies,” we are not aware of any that measure understanding of social power and oppression, particularly how socially constructed differences and identities like gender, race, and class intersect and combine to affect people’s lives in various settings. Our approach builds on conceptual change research where students’ understanding is investigated through semi-structured interviews. In particular, we developed a realistic and relatable vignette centered around gender dynamics that explores four broad themes of understanding: social construction of gender and masculinity, systems of power, gender roles, and cooptation and power dynamics. We divided the vignette into four sections - each highlighting one of the themes listed above – and constructed sets of probing interview questions for each. Our team recorded, transcribed, and analyzed five pilot interviews using an adaptation of the constant comparison method. The analysis resulted in five spectrums of understanding within an individual’s overall conceptualization of oppression and privilege: knowledge of systems of power, the framework of viewing privilege and oppression through an individual lens versus a systems lens, social construction of gender and masculinity versus essentialism, understanding intersectionality, and use of vocabulary pertinent to the field. Presently the research team continues to test the instrument across a broader group of individuals in order to reach data saturation and instrument validation.

  1. Rachel M. Johnson University of Minnesota [biography]
  2. Dr. Devlin Montfort Oregon State University [biography]
  3. Kali Furman Oregon State University [biography]
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