Autobiographies in Preservice Teacher Education: A Snapshot Tool for Building a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

By Gunn, AnnMarie Alberton; Bennett, Susan V. et al. | International Journal of Multicultural Education, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Autobiographies in Preservice Teacher Education: A Snapshot Tool for Building a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy


Gunn, AnnMarie Alberton, Bennett, Susan V., Evans, Linda Shuford, Peterson, Barbara J., Welsh, James L., International Journal of Multicultural Education


Theoretical Frame Methodology Findings about Question 1 Findings about Question 2 Discussion References 

Many researchers call on teacher educators to embrace a culturally responsive pedagogy in their own teaching practices based on findings of their empirical multicultural research (Gay & Kirkland, 2003; Gunn, 2011; Kleinfeld, 1998; Ladson-Billings, 2000). Illuminating this call are current statistics that describe how White students are still academically outperforming their diverse peers. Based on results of national assessments of reading and mathematics, continued achievement gaps are evident for Black and Hispanic students as compared to White peers (Hemphill & Vanneman, 2011; Vanneman, Hamilton, Baldwin Anderson, & Rahman, 2009). Examination of high school graduation rates further demonstrates the significant academic discrepancies across ethnic groups (Chapman, Laird, Ifill, & KewalRamani, 2011). The Urban Institute's report on ethnic minority graduation rates showed White and Asian American students at 75-77% and Black and Hispanic students at 50% (Swanson, 2004). Researchers have presented evidence that culturally responsive pedagogy narrows this gap as culture impacts teaching and learning (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Jordan, 1985; Ladson-Billings, 1995). Therefore, teacher educators should respond by embracing a culturally responsive practice in their own teaching to facilitate the development of preservice teachers' cultural responsiveness.

Eighty to ninety percent of preservice teachers are White, monolingual, young females, from middle class backgrounds in the United States (Lowenstein, 2009; Sleeter, 2001). These demographics contrast with the sociocultural characteristics of our K-12 students. Comparable to preservice teachers, teacher educators also are predominately White females who come from a middle class background (Lowenstein, 2009). Lowenstein (2009) states, "A more complete portrait of the demographic imperative of teacher preparation depicts a majority of white, lower middle class professors who mostly lack urban teaching experiences preparing white, lower middle class female students to be teachers" (p. 170). Therefore, it is imperative that teacher educators not only support and continually develop their own culturally responsive teaching practices, but also model this pedagogy for their preservice teachers. We suggest the utilization of brief "snapshot" autobiographies as one tool for assessing the knowledge and culture of their preservice teachers in order to design instruction that embraces a culturally responsive pedagogy.

The purpose of this manuscript is twofold. First, we propose that teacher educators engage preservice teachers in self-examination through brief written autobiographies as a vehicle for developing a culturally responsive pedagogy. Second, we discuss the use of these snapshot autobiographies as a tool for teacher educators to assess the cultural awareness and needs of their preservice teachers. This study adds to the current literature on culturally responsive research and teaching pedagogy as well as begins to address the call (He & Cooper, 2009) for pedagogical tools that teacher educators can use to foster a culturally responsive pedagogy with preservice teachers.

We first define culture and then address the importance of preservice teachers' understanding of their own culture. Next, we propose that teacher educators address this cultural mismatch by using culturally responsive pedagogy within their own practice. Finally, we present reflective writing as one tool to help develop culturally responsive pedagogy with preservice teachers.

Cultural Awareness

Culture consists of the learned language, beliefs, values, and behaviors infused into every aspect of our lives (Evans & Gunn, 2011). Banks (2006) more specifically defines culture as the many aspects of a person's identity such as race, religion, language, sexual orientation, gender, and social class (see Figure 1). …

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