Multiculturalize Teacher Identity: A Critical Descriptive Narrative

By Li, Xin | Multicultural Education, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Multiculturalize Teacher Identity: A Critical Descriptive Narrative


Li, Xin, Multicultural Education


Introduction

Cochran-smith, Davis, and Fries (2004) reviewed the research, practice, and policy of multicultural teacher education during the last decade of the twentieth century and the first few years of the twenty-first century, and pointed out that the field needed to include inquiries that involve the work of practitioners who are studying their own courses and programs (p. 965). As a multicultural teacher educator, I studied the autobiographical curriculum I developed while teaching multicultural teacher education classes to both pre-service and in-service teachers.

This article reports my inquiry in two parts. Part I describes the two phases of the curriculum; Part II examines student teacher's learning through the curriculum by comparing their pre-and post-multicultural autobiographies.

Part I:Descriptionof the Curriculum Development

Scholars have established autobiographical writing as an effective way for self-empowerment and self-affirmation of ethnically and culturally different individuals and groups, and for cultural identity formation of individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds (Allison, 1995; Blair, 1991; Florio-Ruane, 1994; Florio-Ruane & deTar, 1995; Gay, 2003; Greer, 1995; Hollins, 1996; Holm, 1995; hooks, 1998; Jackson, 1995; Jongeward, 1999; King, Hollins, & Hayman, 1997; Kirklighter, 1994; Ladson-Billing, 2000; Mcgovern, 2001; Ndura, 2004; Noel, 2002; Sheets, & Hollins, 1999; Vavrus; 2002, Xu, 2000).

Autobiographical and biographical research has been established as a powerful and effective way to study teacher knowledge and to understand curriculum as racial and gendered texts (Butt & Raymond, 1987; Butt, Raymond & Yamagishi, 1987; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Conle, 2000; Li, 1997, 2002, 2005; Pinar, 1974; Pinar & Grumet, 1976). Combining the traditions of narrative inquiry (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988, 1990, 1994) and currere (Pinar, 1974, 1988; Pinar & Grumet, 1976), I established an intersubjective research method-splicing-for autobiographical and biographical studies of cross-cultural identity (Li, 1997, 2002).

Splicing was powerful in promoting mutual understanding between individuals of different cultures. One of the important goals of the multicultural teacher education classes was to increase student teachers' understanding of the cultures of their pupils in urban schools. To serve this purpose, I adopted splicing as an inquiry method for the curriculum.

First Phase:A Descriptive Multicultural Narrative

Gay (2004) identified that "Frazier (1997), Gollnick and Chinn (1998), and Banks and Banks (2001) broaden the notion of multicultural education as comprehensive reform by extending the referent groups to include social class, gender, and disability, along with race and ethnicity" (p. 33). This broadened notion was introduced to student teachers through utilizing various editions of Gollnick and Chin as the course textbook in my multicultural teacher education curriculum.

Coinciding with the reading of the introductory chapter, student teachers were assigned to write a multicultural autobiography. This assignment was meant to serve three purposes: to provide both the student teachers and myself as their course instructor an access to their prior knowledge; second, to connect the largely theoretical reading texts with student teachers' experiences; and third to allow both the student teachers and myself as a researcher to use it in evaluating student learning at the end of the classes.

Concurrent with the reading of the subsequent chapters on social class, religion, race/ethnicity, gender/sexual orientation, language, exceptionality, and age, student teachers were engaged in the following activities:

1. keep a weekly reading journal, which included two components: a summary of the assigned chapters and a thick description of student teachers' own experiences relating to reading assignments from the textbooks;

2. …

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