Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access


Media & Communication Studies

Faculty Mentor

Sheryl Goodman

Project Description

A review of research on talking about race in the college classroom revealed that scholars have focused on identifying students’ struggles and considering the impact of intense discussions have on students. Specifically, Miller and Harris (2005) found that White students struggled with feeling that their opinion on racial issues mattered and with learning to accept their privilege, and Sue et al. (2009) found that Black students struggled to feel understood and with the pressures they felt were placed on them by students and instructors. Because these discussions have been found to involve conflict, disagreement, and discomfort, this study seeks to explore the face concerns and facework strategies used by students. Specifically, face concerns are how people want to be seen by others and facework strategies are what people say and do to maintain their desired appearance and to reveal how they see others. During difficult discussions, face concerns may become very important and these can affect the outcome of these discussions. Transcripts from 4 different classes in which students discussed race-related issues were analyzed using Penman’s (1990) model for studying courtroom discourse in order to better understand how students used facework when talking about race. In these classes, the students used more other-oriented facework strategies than self-oriented ones. Excerpts involving student feedback and distancing moves were analyzed further to explore how students threatened and protected their own face and the face of others. The implications of these findings will be considered.


Presented during the 22nd Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 24, 2020 at Ursinus College.

A related presentation is available here.


Available to Ursinus community only.