Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Engaging in Critical Social Dialogue with Socially Diverse Undergraduate Teacher Candidates at a California State University

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Engaging in Critical Social Dialogue with Socially Diverse Undergraduate Teacher Candidates at a California State University

Article excerpt

Introduction

Teachers' inability to address social difference perpetuates inequality and inequity in schools, given the link between teachers' effectiveness and their ability to recognize and adjust instruction to the diverse needs of students (Bergerson, 2008; Everhart & Vaughn, 2005; Song, 2006). According to Grant and Gillette (2006), "regardless of the geographic area where candidates end up teaching, (1) there is a moral mandate to prepare a diverse teaching corps of culturally relevant teachers" that will serve the purposes of public education and social justice (p. 293). Teacher education programs play a crucial role in these aims by providing "an intellectual framework for organizing their observations" that will provide "support to interpret what they see in schools in philosophical terms (Grant & Gillette, 2006, p. 295) ... [as well as] build commitment and understanding across lines of ethnicity, gender, ability, socioeconomic status, language, and sexual orientation." (p. 297).

Post-baccalaureate credential and teacher education masters programs offer this intellectual framework through multicultural education courses and social justice pedagogies and techniques that develop preservice candidates' awareness of one's social positions, others' social groups, and the relation between the two. These courses have had mixed success, as beginning teachers demonstrate unpreparedness to address the student diversity in the classroom (Amobi, 2007; Mastrilli & Sardo-Brown, 2002). Discussions and self-reflection about social difference in response to relevant scholarship and reflection on service-learning or community experience are the current trend (Chizhik, 2003; Farnsworth, 2010; Lake & Jones, 2008; Milner, 2006; Ryan & Callahan, 2002; Sleeter, 2004; Whitaker, McDonald & Markowitz, 2005). Few pedagogies or techniques, however, exist for the effective facilitation of these discussions (Briscoe, Arriazza, & Henze, 2009; Garcia & Hoelscher, 2008; Harris, 2003; Jakubowski, 2001; Okum, 2006; Singleton & Linton, 2006), and less is said about the process and expected outcomes of these discussions.

As a teacher educator of candidates in a liberal arts department, few resources exist that pedagogically direct how one develops teacher persona in light of the undergraduate intellectual and ethical development (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Likewise, I had to manage these dialogues within a socially diverse student population (40% Latino, 35% White, 14% Asian American), contrary to the predominantly White classrooms that are studied. Faced with this educational context, I framed my facilitation using Critical Liberal Education (CLE) (Chavez-Reyes, 2010), which uses "the humanizing factor of both liberal education and critical pedagogy to create an environment where students can encounter, question, evaluate and reconsider the nature of our society.[by] teach[ing] about human societies and humanity (liberal education) to position the need for social justice as an ethical and socially responsible approach in an inclusive democracy (critical pedagogy)" (p. 302). The facilitation of discussions of difference grounded in CLE, what I call critical social dialogue (CSD), is the process of problem posing, facilitating personal stories through silence and multimodal assignments, and positioning them for students to re-examine and re-evaluate their understanding of systems of social difference, the beginnings of a multicultural and social justice intellectual frame for pre-service teachers.

Using data from an evaluation of an interdisciplinary educational foundations course, this article focuses on the process of CSD in a mixed race and ethnicity sample of undergraduate teacher candidates at a California state university. First, I discuss the literature on race talk in the college classroom, as the predominant social issue discussed and studied, interspersing relevant literature from teacher education research. …

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