The Pedagogy of Discomfort: Enhancing Reflectivity on Stereotypes and Bias

Yochay Nadan*, Marina Stark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


This article describes, analyses and conceptualises one pedagogical practice aimed at challenging social work students to reflect on the way they perceive the 'Other'-taking the online Implicit Association Test (IAT) at home and composing a non-graded reflection paper about the experience. Employing a qualitative paradigm, our analysis of eighty-three reflection papers enabled us to make three primary observations: first, that the experience caused students to leave their emotional comfort zone with regard to the discovery, identification and acknowledgement of their own biases and racist stereotypical conceptions; second, that the resulting experience of emotional discomfort led students to employ means of coping such as rejection of the test's reliability, attempts to account for the test's results and attempts to outsmart the test; and, third, that the experience provided students with personal and professional insight regarding the nature of bias and stereotypes and people's ability to change them. Our discussion proceeds in light of Boler's (1999) 'pedagogy of discomfort' and considers both the importance of enhancing critical reflectivity and the challenges that arise from pedagogical practices that stimulate discomfort.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)683-700
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author.


  • Implicit Association Test (IAT)
  • cultural competence
  • diversity
  • multiculturalism
  • reflective practice
  • social work education


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