Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Culturally Relevant Booktalking: Using a Mixed Reality Simulation with Preservice School Librarians

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Culturally Relevant Booktalking: Using a Mixed Reality Simulation with Preservice School Librarians

Article excerpt

Introduction

Students in United States (US) schools represent a diversity of race and ethnicities, yet a persistent gap between the teaching force and the students in US classrooms in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity has been widely discussed in the literature (e.g., Galman, Pica-Smith & Rosenberger, 2011; Spainerman et al., 2011). This diversity gap was the topic of a recent US National Education Association report (Dilworth & Coleman, 2014). Similar gaps have been identified and discussed in Australia (Mills, 2013), Europe (Humphrey et al., 2006), and the UK (Pearce, 2012). School librarians, as members of the teaching force in these contexts, reflect similar demographics and challenges in engaging students representing diverse languages and cultures. The stated mission from the American Association of School Librarians, "to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information" (AASL, 2009, p. 8) along with their common belief that "equitable access is a key component for education" (AASL, 2007, p. 2) aims to be inclusive of all students and all kinds of diversity.

A particular challenge for educators of preservice school librarians is how to promote the practice of culturally relevant pedagogy in school libraries. Bush and Jones (2010) conducted a Delphi study to understand what leaders in the field perceived were the dispositions needed by school librarians in order to meet the needs of all students. Their study was sparked by the inclusion of dispositions as learning standards in the Standards for the 21st Century Learner (AASL, 2007). One stated purpose of the Bush and Jones study was to influence the preparation of school librarians so that they could teach dispositions to students. Among the categories revealed in their study was empathy, which they defined as "compassion, honors diversity, kindness, open- mindedness, listens to all points of view, learning experiences for all" (p. 8). One way to explore the disposition of empathy is to examine culturally relevant pedagogy in school library preparation.

Culturally relevant pedagogy attempts to bridge the cultural gap between teachers and students, resting on the proposition that students can experience academic success while also developing cultural competence (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Villegas & Lucas, 2002). And while the authentic use of culturally relevant pedagogy by educators is limited (Sleeter, 2011a), the use of culturally relevant pedagogy by school librarians may be even more limited (Kumasi, 2012). Multicultural literature may be one venue for school librarians to begin to engage in culturally relevant pedagogy (Souto-Manning, 2009).

Multicultural studies are laden with varied definitions and vague descriptions of culturally relevant pedagogy (Sleeter, 2011a; Young, 2010). The term "culturally relevant pedagogy" (CRP), as popularized by Ladson-Billings (1995), is defined as teaching practices that build on the student's family dynamics, languages, ethnicities, communication discourses, value systems, and overall life experiences. Further, CRP supports academic achievement and challenges the very same educational and political system that was built around a hegemonic theory of oppression for students of color (Young, 2010; Villegas, 1991). Many of these multicultural studies cite the same limitation: that educators are unsure of what culturally relevant pedagogy looks like as a tool for social justice reform because they were never given the opportunity to learn, use, or model it (Kumasi & Hill, 2013; Sleeter, 2011a; Villegas, 1991; Young, 2010). Hill and Kumasi (2011) demonstrated that school librarians in particular do not feel their preparation programs train them to become culturally competent pedagogues. In response, this study provides a tangible example of how school librarians and other educators can increase their propensity for cultural competency and sociopolitical teaching, using the technology of virtual reality to promote what Young (2011) calls a meaningful and safe dialogue about race and other cultural differences. …

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