Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Utilizing Narrative Pedagogy to Disrupt Impostorism: Strategies for Community College Faculty to Support Students of Color

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Utilizing Narrative Pedagogy to Disrupt Impostorism: Strategies for Community College Faculty to Support Students of Color

Article excerpt

Stories matter. The stories we tell about our lived experiences and how those have impacted us shape our meaning-making and our ability to act in the present. There is no one way to parcel out history, identity, race, or culture from our individual personal narratives or the interpretations of our lives. In this way, stories are always situated within a cultural milieu that informs our views of the way things are-even within community colleges. And with the philosophy, intent, and open access of community colleges, the range of students' stories provides a relatively untapped cultural and pedagogical richness that merits exploration. Underrepresented students can have powerfully rich stories to tell and other students have much to learn from them. For students of color in community colleges, withholding their storied lives from their learning environment may result in, among other things, impostorism, a performance where students feel like intellectual frauds (Clance & Imes, 1978; Young, 2011). For example, after learning about the impostor phenomenon, many students of color in a recent transfer summer bridge program shared about feeling like there was some mistake that led to them being admitted to the university. Therefore, to the extent that students of color experience the impostor phenomenon, we can expect it to materialize initially within the community college setting. A discussion of the impostor phenomenon, its impacts and ways of overcoming it, is timely and important for educators in community colleges who not only serve a diverse student population, but who also may experience impostorism themselves.

We have observed that the use of a narrative pedagogy to address impostorism experienced by students of color in the community college classroom provides one way to address students' impostorism. Our collective experiences teaching, writing, and presenting narratives testify to their power to profoundly humanize learning spaces and foster collective sense making (e.g., Geist-Martin et al., 2010).

The Impostor Phenomenon: Its Significance for Students of Color

Initially explored in the 1970's (Clance & Imes, 1978), the impostor phenomenon is a highly debilitating experience whereby students may fail to internalize their academic success or over-identify with the institution (Bowman & Palmer, 2017; Young, 2011). Some students believe the only path to success is to willfully submit themselves fully, which includes their inherent worth and their values, to a system in which they invest their time, finances, and hope for a brighter future. Such an over-investment, for some, may result in excellent grades and persistence. However, there may be a high price paid when students, despite even remarkable achievements, feel like frauds. As Parkman (2016) stated, "The Impostor often overestimates the abilities of others and underestimates the amount of work those individuals put into their success" (p. 52). In light of the impact that the impostor phenomenon can have on students' experiences and due to its ubiquitousness, we call for community college educators to identify new ways to disrupt impostorism and to begin viewing it as an overarching paradigm, which is a threat to authentic learning in the college classroom. We believe one powerful way to do this is by providing opportunities for students of color to bring their personal narratives into learning spaces in culturally competent ways.

Sadly, it is well documented that students of color are less likely to persist in and complete community college (e.g., Bush & Bush, 2010; Green, 2006; Wood & Harris, 2014; Wood, Harris, & Delgado, 2016). This situation can be attributed in part to the idea that, as Guiffrida (2006) described, students of color who commonly identify with a collectivist culture do not separate from their communities and therefore reject integration into the more individualistic nature of higher education. In higher education, then, there exists a paradox of both a wild, agentic hope for what education can do to transform lives and a very real, internalized fear playing out in the hearts and minds of many students of color who may enter their education with trepidation about their past, present, and future academic performance. …

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