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Praxis – Identity Focus Groups

Hummingbird's picture

My praxis placement is based on-campus, where I'm working to facilitate conversations about identity and perception of identity. The goal of the groups is to offer suggestions to the President's office to make changes on campus which will better support students from diverse backgrounds on campus. The week before break, I had the opportunity to co-facilitate a focus group for the first time, and just this week I facilitated my second group. It was a rewarding and challenging experience. I needed to figure out how to act as an engaged and active listener, while also guiding the participants to think critically about themselves, taking notes, thinking about broad themes, and coming up with follow-up questions to responses. It's a balancing act that I imagine is similar for teachers leading discussions –– who also need to recognize the themes their students are bringing up and challenge their students (and themself) to think more deeply about the content. I also have to be aware of my own positionality. Sometimes my identities overlap with those of the participants, but often they do not or they simultaneously overlap in some ways and don't in others. And even with overlap, opinions and experiences differ enormously. This experience has echoed my understanding of Ellsworth's theories on dialogue. However, it has also reinforced my belief that in spite of a necessary failure to ever entirely understand one another, dialogue with others is still important to and even necessary for knowledge building.