The Pronoun Go Around

A common practice in some university classrooms and community settings is called a pronoun go around. In this exercise, people share their names and which pronouns they use during the first meeting (or in subsequent meetings if participants change.)

Because class rosters may not include the preferred name a student uses, the “pronoun go around” provides students the opportunity to share with the class how they’d like to be addressed. Students may be in the process of exploring or transforming their own relationship to gender identity and may be using different names and pronouns. Because of this, students may be using certain names or pronouns in some settings (e.g. while at school) and others in different settings (e.g. while at work). Creating space in the class for students to direct how they’d like to be addressed can help ensure a respectful classroom environment is maintained.


Strategies for the “Pronoun Go Around”

The most common strategy is using the pronoun go-around during the first class. If you choose to do this, please consider the following best practices:

  1. Make pronoun sharing an option rather than a requirement for students.
  2. Model pronoun sharing by sharing your own pronoun use.
  3. Offer an option to share a name other than what is listed on the class list that they would like to use in class specifically.
  4. Inform students that names listed on online learning platforms for class may not accurately reflect names used in class.
  5. Invite students to share if they wish to have this name and pronoun used only in this class or other settings
    (e.g., with administrators, other professors, et cetera.)
  6. Make clear that people’s pronouns and name use may change, and the class will adapt to these changes when shared with the professor and/or the class.
  7. Model strategies for a respectful classroom by showing how to appropriately correct someone’s misuse of a pronoun and apologizing and self-correcting.

Alternatives to the “Pronoun Go Around”

For large classes or in classes where it may not be appropriate, other strategies could include asking students to complete a course survey online, fill out a form identifying their preferred name and pronouns for use in class, or email or meet with the professor to share pronouns. Rather than enforce pronoun self-identification in front of the entire class, the “best practice,” especially in large classes, may be to respect pronoun use when this is shared by students of their own volition or to use gender-neutral language when referring to students in class, such as “our colleague,” “your classmate,” “the person in the front.”

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Better Practices in the Classroom by Natalie Kouri-Towe and Myloe Martel-Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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