Grounded Pedagogy: Engaging DEI Where We Live

Tuesday, March 28, 2023
11:40 AM - 12:55 PM


Center for Teaching Excellence
Thomas Cooper Library, Room L511

This session is being delivered in a face-to-face format. You'll need to come to the offices of the Center for Teaching Excellence to attend. There is not a virtual option available to attend this presentation.


Even in classes that discuss inequality and seek to center antiracism, the struggles outside our front door seem distant to some students, while others feel frustrated with pedagogy that feels disconnected from their lived experience. Grounded pedagogy seeks to provide local context to wider struggles and bridge the gap between students with disparate experiences. Grounded pedagogy involves three components: it is located in the university’s built environment, it is supported with data, and it links past and present.

You can use grounded pedagogy in the context of a law clinic that serves children charged in Family Court in Columbia, though it could be applied in any course that engages with issues of inequality and seeks to broaden students’ understanding of social justice. Grounded pedagogy guides students to understand the social context of the Columbia community without pathologizing it, which often occurs when students seek to understand clients and their cultures untethered from specificity and historical perspectives.

This context is particularly important for students who resist notions of systemic racism or oppression and in political environments that currently want to curtail discussion of those issues. In this presentation, the facilitator will draw on their experiences as a clinical law professor to demonstrate how a richer understanding of the local context of clients served can help students think beyond silos and better understand wider struggles from justice.


This is an elective session for a certificate of completion in Teaching Towards Inclusive Excellence.


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Madalyn Wasilczuk
Assistant Professor
School of Law

Madalyn K. Wasilczuk is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Her work focuses on criminal legal system issues, including policing, race, extreme sentencing, and the prosecution and incarceration of children. She directs the Juvenile Justice Clinic and teaches 8th Amendment Law & Litigation and the Juvenile Justice Seminar.

Before joining the USC faculty, Wasilczuk taught at Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center, where she directed the Juvenile Defense Clinic and taught courses on capital punishment and carceral abolition. Prior to that, she worked at the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, where she taught in the International Human Rights Clinic and Capital Punishment Clinic, and at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, where she was an Assistant Defender. She has also served as a fellow with the International Legal Foundation in Myanmar and Tunisia, where she mentored and trained local public defenders.

Wasilczuk holds a B.A. in International Studies with Honors, summa cum laude, from American University and a J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she earned the Leonard J. Schreier Memorial Prize in Ethics.