Back to blogs

5 Key Steps to Taking a Second Look at Your PD Through an Intersectional Lens 

5 Key Steps to Taking a Second Look at Your PD Through an Intersectional Lens 

Written by Destiny Clarke 

In The Urgency of Intersectionality, a law professor at Columbia and UCLA, Kimberle Crenshaw discusses the reality of racial and gender bias and how they often intersect with other identities as well and cause more harm. She says, “We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts”.  

Using the framework of intersectionality is a great way to ensure that educators are providing equity for their adult learners when developing professional development. Let’s discuss what that means and how it can be applied to your learning environment: 



What is Intersectionality? 

Intersectionality is a framework used to describe the intersection and overlap of people’s layered social identities in the face of inequality. She describes it as a “lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects”.  

Intersectionality acknowledges that people can experience both privilege and oppression through their multi-layered identities. It recognizes that inequalities exist within multiple facets of life and that some are experiencing inequalities in several different ways. People can experience inequalities based on race, gender*, sexual orientation, immigration status, socio-economic environment, disabilities, and more. Please refer to The Wheel of Power and Privilege to see and understand more identities and their intersections of power, privilege, and oppression.

Why it’s Important to Apply Intersectionality to Pedagogy 

There are many benefits to an intersectional pedagogy. The number one benefit is that this framework provides equity for all learners. This approach gives educators a research-based, instructional framework that provides an understanding of how to be inclusive of multiple identities and perspectives. 

Becoming more aware of the multiple identities that people hold, the better those educators can create enriched and equitable learning environments. Intersectional pedagogy allows for the teacher to better assess the course materials, tools, and resources they provide for their learners.  

5 Key Steps to Taking a Second Look at Your PD Through an Intersectional Lens 

When you are creating learning materials for learners (adults or students) being intersectional in your approach to your curriculum, language, and resources is necessary. Here are some key steps to taking a second look at your professional development through an intersectional lens:  

  1. Conceptualize Intersectionality and How it Relates to Your PD

In order to apply the concepts of intersectionality to your professional development, you must first conceptualize and learn more about it. You can’t apply concepts that you are unfamiliar with. You are already taking the first step by reading, learning, and gathering information that will help you ultimately be more equitable in the way that you construct your professional development and how you are able to provide for your adult learners. Continue to learn more and honor the multi-layered identities that people bring with their perspectives.  

  1. Use Gender-Neutral and Inclusive Language – Including Pronouns

When creating the resources, videos, and materials for your professional development, try your best to present your language in a gender-neutral and inclusive way. Language is a powerful tool that can be used to become more inclusive as educators. For example, when greeting your learners, start with a gender-neutral greeting like “Hello, everyone” or “Hey, y’all” instead of “Hello, ladies and gentlemen”.  

Here are some more common language swaps that will help you become more inclusive and gender neutral:  

  • Instead of “Mom and Dad”, try “Adults” or “Grown-ups”  
  • Instead of  “Brother and Sister”, try “Siblings”
  • Instead of “Wife” or “Husband”, try “Spouse” or “Partner” 
  • When giving an example, try using “they” instead of “he” or “she” for an author, fictitious character, etc. 

Using inclusive language also includes an opportunity to share pronouns in your learning environment. An easy way to show your participants that it is safe to share pronouns is by modeling what that looks like. For example, “Hi, my name is Alissa. I use she/her pronouns”. This does two very important things: it tells your participants that you will not assume their gender and allows for others to not misgender you. 

Here are some other places you can include pronouns in your professional development session:

  • Email signatures and other forms of communication
  • In your feedback or intake forms 
  • In the bio of your social media accounts that you share with your participants 

Note: If it is an ongoing professional development, consider allowing for participants to update their pronouns as the course progresses – these can change over time. 

Normalizing our pronouns is an important part of becoming more inclusive with our language. It may seem like a simple task, but it is a necessary step in helping our society become a more affirming and inclusive space. Remember, becoming more inclusive and neutral with your language is an ongoing process that only becomes more natural with practice and time. There are going to be times where you make mistakes and say the wrong thing. Be open to being corrected, apologize, then keep going.  

  1. Provide perspectives that are inclusive of marginalized groups

When you are curating your materials for your professional development, be sure to include perspectives that are inclusive of marginalized groups.Just like when you are evaluating resources to implement into your classroom with your students, your materials should be both mirrors and windows for your adult learners too. 

By committing to being inclusive and amplifying the voices of marginalized or more vulnerable groups, you can create a safe learning environment for all learners. This inclusion creates an affirming environment where participants can share their unique experiences within their identities and show up as their authentic selves in learning. 

  1. Evaluate your personal biases, assumptions, and social identity

Everyone has personal biases. Recognizing that you have biases doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good person. In fact, it is just the opposite. When you recognize your biases and how they can limit your understanding of someone else’s perspective and experiences, you are more equipped to help others recognize prejudices and promote a more equitable world. 

Bias can be implicit or explicit. It is up to us to recognize our own biases and how they influence our thinking about specific groups of people, situations, and understanding of the world around us. Explicit bias is generally easy to recognize, but implicit bias can take many forms and often happens without intention. According to the Perception Institute, we see implicit bias when “rather than being neutral, we have a preference for (or aversion to) a person or group of people. Thus, we use the term “implicit bias” to describe when we have attitudes towards people or associate stereotypes with them without our conscious knowledge.” 

When we assume things about others, it can be exclusionary and/or harmful. For example, just because someone’s outward appearance looks like what some may consider to be feminine, doesn’t mean that their gender identity is female. A good rule of thumb is to not assume anything about someone’s social identity. This includes their gender, sexual orientation, religion, and more. When we make assumptions about someone’s identity, this can lead to harmful language and interactions, even if it is not our intention to be harmful. 

  1. Evaluate the tools and resources in your PD for access needs

Applying an intersectional lens to your professional development acknowledges that there are unique needs for each social group. You will need to take a second look at your professional development materials and resources to ensure that they are accommodating and accessible to all groups of people. 

Some relevant needs include but are not limited to: 

  • Closed Captioning
  • Translation 
  • Interpreters 
  • Image descriptions and alt text 
  • Formatting: Capitalization, Bold texts, Use of Headings, etc. 
  • Content Notices and Trigger Warnings 


If your current approach to teaching professional development needs to be refreshed with an intersectional approach, begin to implement the suggestions in this post. As educators, we know there is no ‘one way’ or ‘one size fits all’ approach to becoming more intersectional with our approach to education. With the right tools and strategies, you can get you started on your journey of becoming more equitable in your teaching and providing an inclusive learning environment for your adult learners. 

Have some tips of your own on providing equity and creating professional development for adult learners from an intersectional approach? Share them with us in the comment section below. And if you enjoyed this post, share with your teacher friends and colleagues!  


Destiny is a LGBTQ+ Inclusion Coach and Former Middle and High School English teacher. She coaches and supports K-12 educators to become better allies for their LGBTQ+ students in their classrooms, schools, and communities. She offers teaching resources, workshops, and one-on-one coaching. 
Instagram: @discoveredwithdestiny