Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

Using Ecological Asset Mapping to Investigate Pre-Service Teachers' Cultural Assets

Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

Using Ecological Asset Mapping to Investigate Pre-Service Teachers' Cultural Assets

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: We examined the impact of a pedagogical strategy, ecological asset mapping, on 19 pre-service teachers' self-exploration, development of respect for others, and critical examination of social injustice. Data were analyzed from participants' ecological asset maps and essays describing the experience of completing and sharing the maps. The analysis of the maps generated two themes, transitions over time and multiple identities; four themes emerged from the essays such as navigating support systems, self consciousness, process as pedagogy, and consciousness raising. Findings suggest ecological asset mapping can be a powerful pedagogical tool in supporting pre-service teachers' self-awareness, respect for others, exploration of cultural assets, and development of critical consciousness.

KEYWORDS: asset mapping, pre-service teachers, social justice

Theoretical Framework



Reflections on Ecological Asset Mapping

Discussion and Implications


Author Contact

During a recent classroom visit, a first-year teacher was walking through the room with a clipboard listing the names of "target students." These were the students her administration was requesting that she pay specific attention to, as they had been identified as "below basic" or "basic" on the most recent benchmark assessments that the school had given. These were students believed to hold the most potential to become "proficient" in time for the upcoming statewide tests. While it was not clear if the teacher had completely bought into this strategy, it was clear that this was yet another form of reductionist categorization of students. In addition to these existing labels, students are also defined by what they supposedly cannot do: "English Language Learner," "At Risk," "Emotionally Disturbed," "Speech Impaired," to name a few. We now have even broader categories determined by the bubbles that students fill in on benchmark tests designed to prepare them for the "real" test.

In this particular school, these labels reflected the larger racial chasm between students of color and White students and had many of the former placed in remediation for the majority of their school day. Yosso (2005) states that "one of the most prevalent forms of contemporary racism in US schools is deficit thinking" (p. 76) and our educational system continues to manufacture labels that lead to this way of thinking. Contrarily, Yosso's (2005) work also speaks to growing scholars who voice that we must combat this deficit narrative of students of color by developing theoretical approaches, empirical inquiry, and pedagogical strategies that foster communities' strengths and cultural wealth.

Theoretical Framework

In the current study, we seek to build upon foundational work in the study of cultural and community strengths (e.g., Camangian, 2010; Martinez, 2010; Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992; Paris, 2010; Yosso, 2005) to support this counternarrative. Specifically, using Picower's (2012) social justice curriculum as a guide for moving students towards social action, we developed, implemented, and explored the use of Ecological Asset Mapping (EAM) on pre-service teachers' examination of their own cultural assets. We believe this approach has the potential to counteract deficit assumptions about students in two meaningful ways. First, EAM may facilitate teachers' self-awareness, relationship building, sense of community, and critical consciousness. Second, as a pedagogical strategy embedded in a larger social justice curriculum, this approach encourages teachers to explore and see their own students far beyond narrow test scores and, instead, from the framework of community and cultural wealth (e.g., Duncan-Andrade, 2007; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Villegas & Lucas, 2002; Villegas, Strom, & Lucas, 2012).

Teaching for Social Justice

We seek to address the lack of research that exists between theoretical understandings and pedagogical practice as it pertains to the larger notion of cultural assets. …

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