Decentering Whiteness in the Social Work Classroom

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Social work education faculty are mainly white and female-identified. However, across the United States, they teach a diverse student body, half of whom are students of color. MSW graduates will primarily provide service to communities of color, and we know the lived experience and social location of the teacher affects the experience of students in the classroom. Inspired by an impactful teaching experience, and a school-wide curriculum revision, this paper analyzes whiteness in the social work classroom and applies critical race theory to examine one instructor’s teaching practice. Critical race theory (CRT), an understanding of epistemic injustice, and a teacher’s reflective process are tools that can help de-center whiteness in our classrooms and propel faculty forward toward providing an inclusive and equitable education for all students. A description of the teaching experience here highlights the challenges of privilege, bias, self-regulation, and judgment for both students and the instructor. Lessons learned are presented, along with an analysis of the instructor’s choices and challenges. Implications for social work education and the preparation of critically-centered and antiracist social workers are discussed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-189
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Teaching in Social Work
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 30 2022


  • Critical race theory
  • decentering
  • epistemic injustice
  • social work education
  • teaching
  • whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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