Identifying and Supporting Marginalized Students

Advocating for students requires educators to first identify marginalized populations in their schools and classroom
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About This Strategy

Identifying Marginalized Students is a strategy that educators can use in order to know which students in their classroom may need additional support and teacher advocacy.  When teachers allow students to share their experiences through writing and discussion, teachers gain insight into which aspects of the school structure or curriculum can be improved to better serve all students. Identifying marginalized students is the first step in advocating for a more inclusive classroom and school.

Implementation Steps

  1. Identify marginalized student populations in your school. Start in your own classroom. Marginalized populations often include race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and  religion.
  2.  Create opportunities for students to share about their experiences.  You can gather this information from individual students as well as from group discussions.
    1. Journaling is a way for students to write about their experiences in a safe way. The social justice prompts linked below are written for middle schoolers but can be tweaked for other grades.
    • For group discussions, students could use the "Socratic Seminar" strategy which you can explore in the BetterLesson lab, to dive into topics in an organized way.  As facilitator, you will be able to take note of what students are sharing. A basic journal prompt could be used for the seminar.
  3. After reading journals and listening to students discuss topics during their Socratic Seminar, take notes on what you heard so that students' feedback can be incorporated into your advocacy.  Use the Notes from Student Conversations resource below to capture ideas. Save this form so that you can use it to connect with other colleagues to improve these issues.

4.   Examine your curriculum to determine whether it omits the stories of the marginalized students you identified.  Much of our advocacy can begin in the classroom. Do students see themselves reflected in the curriculum they encounter? Read Required Reading Reconsidered BetterLesson blog post for ideas. To learn more about this step, explore the "Integrating Inclusive Content" strategy. Additionally, explore NNSTOY's Social Justice Booklist for book titles by grade level.

Identifying and Supporting Marginalized Students in Blended or Distance Learning

When school is taking place in a distance or blended format, it is important to understand that students who feel marginalized in the classroom may feel even more marginalized when school is taking place at a distance. Learning about students’ experiences is vital in making them feel more connected to their experiences in school.

  1. Create opportunities for students to share their experiences. You can create a Google Form to capture students' thoughts about curriculum, discipline, extracurricular activities, relationships with students and teachers, and school policies and procedures.

  2. To further dive into students’ experiences, create opportunities for them to have small group discussions.  In Zoom or Google Meet, students could be given a topic to discuss. Have them determine what issues may exist with that topic, and have them list students who may be affected by these issues.  Allow students to share back to the larger group.

  3. Have a brainstorming session with students in which they share with you potential solutions to improving students’ experiences.  This session could take place in a live discussion, or students could journal about solutions they think would be helpful to make more students feel more welcome in the classroom and school as a whole.

  4. Share these findings with colleagues and other school leaders.

Coach Tips

Monica Washington
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Small group and whole group discussions may not prove to be useful for gathering student voice unless you first create a positive and safe culture in the classroom first.  Students may first be more comfortable with journaling until they know that it is safe to share their experiences verbally. First, start with low-risk topics to teach students the protocols in discussing with peers.  Then, you will be able to work up to more challenging topics.