Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Reflected Identities: Applying Positionality and Multicultural Social Reconstructionism in Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Reflected Identities: Applying Positionality and Multicultural Social Reconstructionism in Teacher Education

Article excerpt

To better comprehend how schools of teacher education, in particular, serve as sites in which identities and social relations are negotiated, contested, and defended, this work explores how positionality and multicultural social reconstructionist (MCSR) education can be employed as analytical lenses in multicultural education coursework. Giroux (1988) has written that

   schools are places that represent forms of knowledge, language, practice,
   social relations and values that are particular selections and exclusions
   from the wider culture. As such they serve to introduce and legitimate
   particular forms of life. (p. 126)

Using action/research projects as a centerpiece, we will explore how teacher education students conceptualize their roles as teachers and how those roles are tempered and mediated by the dynamics of social class, race, and gender. This work probes teacher education students' attitudes about issues of cultural diversity and investigates the implications of those attitudes for their future lives as educators.

Central to understanding how research about schools and society is shaped by "what is taken up and what is repressed in the complex interplay among and with particular race, gender and class identities," (Maher & Tetreault, 1993, p. 118) is an understanding of who we are as educators, researchers, and scholars. We acknowledge that our positional and situated identities, educational and otherwise, have shaped and influenced the events in this work and the meanings we have derived of them. As European American, middle-class women, we recognize that we are privileged because of our ethnicity and social class but that, due to our gender, we are members of an historically marginalized group. We have developed conceptual analyses of the events that occur in our classrooms as a result of our collective experiences as public school educators, teacher educators, multicultural researchers, and colleagues. Furthermore, our assumptions and ideological interpretations have been highlighted by our ability to utilize critical theoretical lenses. As we have become aware of the importance of our various positionalities, we have grown in our comprehension of how our identities influence the various pedagogical constructs and issues about which we teach and our interpretations of them. In addition, we agree with Maher and Tetreault (1994), who have noted that the viewpoints we relate in this or any work are partial truths that exist within relational matrices.

This study was conducted in a Midwestern metropolitan university with an enrollment of approximately 20,000 students. The educational foundations program this work describes is similar to those in many colleges of education throughout the United States. Other than National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or North Central Association accreditation requirements, the state and the institution have not historically given much active attention to issues of cultural diversity in teacher education programs. Although issues of diversity are present in isolated enclaves within the university in programs such as Women's and Gender Studies or Africana Studies, for the most part there has been little integration of substantive coursework that addresses a wide array of social justice issues in any comprehensive manner. Tozer (1993) has pointed out that in many institutions, the area of social foundations has been charged with addressing such issues. He has further noted the efficacy of social foundations coursework that "allows students to examine the social construction of fundamental meanings of school and society phenomena" (p. 16).

Foundations coursework has the potential to equip prospective teachers with the ability to make sense of pedagogy within the larger social context by helping them understand the ideologies that shape and inform their pedagogical choices (Tozer, Violas, & Senese, 1993). …

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