Skip to Main Content

Teaching & Learning Center Resources

Power and Privilege in the Classroom: Home


Power and Privilege in the Classroom

What is it?

We all hold a number of visible and invisible identities (including but not limited to gender, sexuality, race, spirituality, eduction, ability, neurodiversity, wealth, language, housing, socioeconomic). Within each of these categories, there are certain identities which are more dominant and others that are marginalized in a given cultural context. 


According to the Office of Pluralism and Leadership at Dartmouth: Power describes the ability to influence or make decisions that impact other people. Whereas, privilege refers to advantages or benefits that an individual receives because of their status within a particular identity category. Privilege is often given to one group based on the result of systematic oppression of another group. 


             Diagram of power/privilege showing different categories of identity and which are closer to power. For example, one category of identity is citizenship. Individuals who are undocumented are more marginalized in society than people who are citizens or documented immigrants.

Image Source:


Additionally, the term intersectionality recognizes that we all hold multiple identities at the same time - some of which may be closer to power and some may be more marginalized - and the intersection of these identities shape our lived experiences.

Examples and Implementation

Power, privilege, and intersectionality are important factors to think about in the classroom. For example, the educational system in the United States was designed to support the success of White, cis, straight, rich, able-bodied, English speakers and the remnants of that exist on campuses today. Think about the physical environments of campuses, what languages are classes taught in, what types of knowledge are taught and what ways of knowing are valued. In order to support equity, inclusion, and accessibility, we need to be intentional about our teaching practices.

Here are a few points to consider: 

  • Students who have been historically minoritized in the US, may not feel equal power in sharing their lived experiences in the classroom, critiquing work (from texts or their peers), asking questions, or requesting support. 
  • Not all students have equal access to mentors or role models in the professoriate or profession. Not all students seem themselves represented in the in-class examples, campus images, and websites. 
  • We don’t know what we don’t know, so we are often unable to see ways in which classroom policies may provide privilege to some groups over others. 
  • Certain topics might be more difficult for some students to discuss than others. 


It’s important to reflect on your own intersecting identities and to work intentionally towards promoting parity in education.