Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Shared Journaling: A Methodology for Engaging White Preservice Students into Multicultural Education Discourse

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Shared Journaling: A Methodology for Engaging White Preservice Students into Multicultural Education Discourse

Article excerpt

Many teachers are faced with limited understanding of diverse cultures and linguistic patterns other than their own, and the possibility exists that this limitation will negatively affect their students' abilities to become successful learners (Montgomery, 2001). In order for teachers to be effective with diverse students, it is crucial that they recognize their own worldviews; only then will they be able to understand the worldviews of their students (Davidman & Davidman, 2001; McAllister & Irvine, 2000). Researchers assert that in order for teachers to interact effectively with their students, they must confront their own biases (Banks, 1994; Gillette & Boyle-Baise, 1995; Nieto & Rolon, 1995); examine issues of race, class, and gender (Pang, 1994); learn about their students' cultures, and perceive the world through diverse cultural lenses (Bennett, 1995; Pewewardy & Frey, 2002; Sleeter, 1992; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). According to Ladson-Billings (1999), teacher educators must find ways to make the study of diversity an integral part of coursework, field experience, and seminars.

In partial response to Ladson-Billings's (1999) recommendation, I have employed a classroom as-signment called "shared journaling" in an under-graduate multicultural education course to help preservice teacher education students reflexively (1) consider how interactions between privilege, oppression, and diversity will shape their future students' experiences. The assignment also provides my students with an opportunity to reflect on strategies they can use in their future classrooms to respond to the needs of all their students. Shared journaling cultivates preservice student engagement (2) with diversity by encouraging and facilitating student inter-action and learning across differences.

Shared journaling can complement structural and curricular diversity initiatives in higher education institutions by providing students with opportunities for sustained and meaningful engagement across race and other social group boundaries (Zuniga, Nagda, & Sevig, 2002). Journal writing can serve as a sounding board for students who may be reluctant to express themselves in open classroom discussions. In this article, I describe how I have used a shared journaling assignment to engage a predominantly white student body in critical conversations about issues of privilege and oppression. The purpose of the assignment is to provide students with an opportunity to participate in a written exchange of ideas with one of his or her classmates in the hope that the experience will help students to think reflexively about their own experiences and how their experiences may vary from those of their future students. Moreover, the shared journaling assignment requires a patient instructor, one who is genuinely interested in engaging preservice teacher education students in the process of self-exploration, self- discovery, and self-disclosure.

This exercise has proven helpful in building avenues to understanding by providing students with a relatively safe vehicle for reciprocal discussions of the origins of their beliefs and values. Typically, the interactive nature of the shared journaling assignment results in revelations about the partners' similarities and differences and demonstrates that the concepts of diversity and social justice (3) are more complex than students realized when they started the course. This exercise assists preservice teachers--particularly white students, who begin the course with little awareness about their own cultural identity--examine and discuss challeng-ing constructs related to multicultural education that promotes social justice.

What follows are the specific learning goals for this assignment, which are communicated to students when they are paired with their journaling partner:

* develop increased self-awareness of one's own ethnic identity and/or group membership in the context of systems of power and privilege;

* explore similarities and differences across and within ethnic group memberships;

* examine the causes of ethnic group differences that result from access to power, resources, and privilege;

* reflect on one's emerging philosophy of teaching in a multicultural society;

* foster alliances and other strategies of collaboration across differences; and,

* identify deliberate steps that actively contribute to developing culturally responsive pedagogy and social justice education. …

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