Participation in Higher Education Classroom Discussions: How Students’ Identities Influence Perspective Taking and Engagement




postsecondary education, classroom discussions, identity, controversial issues, first-generation students


This study examines the impact of students’ identities on how students participate in classroom discussions in postsecondary courses. Participation in such discussions is known to increase students’ learning, but, despite this, little is known about how students’ identities influence how and whether they choose to participate. Drawn from a larger study on the experiences of postsecondary instructors and students, this article focuses on students’ perspectives and experiences. Survey data were collected from undergraduate students enrolled in an interdisciplinary undergraduate program. Students’ race, religion, gender, and their first- or continuing-generation university status were found to have varying influences on their participation in classroom discussions. Most students with marginalized identities opted out of actively participating in discussions about contentious or sociopolitical topics. This study suggests that inclusive approaches to classroom discussion can be useful in promoting students’ engagement and academic learning.

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Author Biography

Crystena Parker-Shandal, University of Waterloo

Crystena Parker-Shandal is an associate professor in social development studies at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo, Canada. She holds a PhD in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development and a Master’s of Teaching from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She is an Ontario Certified Teacher.


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A group of seven diverse students sit in chairs arranged in a circle. One student is talking while the others are actively listening.




How to Cite

Parker-Shandal, Crystena. 2023. “Participation in Higher Education Classroom Discussions: How Students’ Identities Influence Perspective Taking and Engagement”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 11 (June).