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Michigan State University

Decolonize the University

Created Spring 2023



Questions for self-reflection upon beginning the journey to decolonize your pedagogy, syllabus, assessments, and self. 

Thoughtfully prepared by Tracie Swiecki (


What voices are not heard in my classroom?  Why?  How could I address this?
How can I celebrate/center more diverse voices?
How might I expect my students to conform?  Why?  What cultural practices or beliefs do I explicitly or implicitly believe/reinforce?  
What are the power dynamics in my classroom?  How can I balance them?
Do I center or celebrate multiple ways of knowing?
Do I give students the opportunity to connect their learning with their own experiences?
Is my class about teaching or learning?  How might I center questions as the place to begin?
What role does making mistakes play in my pedagogy, curriculum?
Could I diversify course content by including some of the following with assigned readings: (auto)biographical narratives/memoirs, theatre, video, spoken-word, social media, music, visual art, advertisements, and games?
How can I bring more ideas, voices, ways of knowing to the center of my syllabus, curriculum, pedagogy?
How can I diversify the format of content? 
Where do/don’t students have agency in my syllabus and/or classroom?  Why?  Where could I give them more?  How?
Where are there opportunities for me to co-create with my students?
What are the power dynamics in my classroom? How can I balance them?


How might I totally reimagine my syllabus in terms of structure or accessibility?
How might I totally reimagine my syllabus and pedagogy from the lens of student’s interest, needs, goals?
Is there other less canonical but equally relevant content I could bring to my course?
How can I expand who or what is at the center of my curriculum?
What voices are not heard in my curriculum?  Why?  How could I address this?


How do I measure success? (for students, for lessons).  Is this steeped in colonizing or power-driven ideology?  How might I rethink my success criteria (and grading…)
How can I appreciate rather than critique students and their work?
How can I reimagine the idea of critique in general? (Maybe how can we replace acts of critique (in scholarship, assignments, and interactions) with other acts, such as gratitude?
Are there multiple possible ways to achieve student learning outcomes?  Do students have agency in these decisions?
How do students (convey) knowledge?  Are there other ways they could do this which might be more accessible to them?
How do students know at all?  Am I valuing and offering opportunities to leverage all the ways they know?

Personal Ideology

Are my syllabus and/or pedagogy steeped in a more individualistic or collectivist worldview?  What are the implications of this?
What role might perfectionism play in the choices I make for my syllabus and pedagogy?  What does that mean?
What assumptions about universality or objectivity might I have?  And what are the implications of those?
What hierarchies do I subscribe to?  Why?  How are those affecting my syllabus, curriculum, and pedagogy?  How could I shift those?
How does my privilege affect my pedagogy?
What kind of educational role model am I?  Am I vulnerable?
When do I become defensive or resistant and why? (in student interactions, related to my pedagogical decisions?). What might this suggest?