Mentorship in Higher Education: Compassionate Approaches Supporting Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

By Lucey, Thomas A.; White, Elizabeth S. | Multicultural Education, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

Mentorship in Higher Education: Compassionate Approaches Supporting Culturally Responsive Pedagogy


Lucey, Thomas A., White, Elizabeth S., Multicultural Education


Introduction

The development of culturally responsive teachers who value their students for their own stories and backgrounds represents a critical pursuit. Unfortunately, new teachers report feeling unprepared for racial and ethnic diversity in the classroom and find that coursework addressing these issues provides little help in classroom practice (Castro, 2010; Public Agenda and National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, 2008).

These concerns signify systemic resistance to existent approaches to fostering justice-oriented dispositions in teachers and teacher candidates, as they may be reluctant to acknowledge the effects of social inequality because it requires them to also accept their own privilege within existing social structures (e.g., Espino & Lee, 2011). Thus, teachers and teacher candidates must experience compassionate educational environments that support the emotional framework to accept responsibility for their personal biases and privilege.

In this article we examine and describe the process of self-reflection and mentorship associated with teaching a graduate course on diversity and culturally responsive pedagogy. During this mentorship, for 16 weeks, the two authors engaged in reflective dialogue through email about teaching the course. The analysis of these emails found evidence of enhancement of professional selves as teacher educators (both the mentor and the mentee) through self-reflection and the mentorship process. Thus, we discuss how self-reflection and mentoring through reflective dialogue can support the teaching of a course on diversity and culturally responsive teaching.

This research is guided by principles of self-study (Cuenca, 2010; Dinkelman, 2003; Dinkelman, Margolis, & Sikkenga, 2006) involving "intentional and systematic inquiry into one's own practice. Included in this definition is inquiry conducted by individual teacher educators as well as groups working collaboratively to understand the problems of practice more deeply" (Dinkelman, 2003, p. 8).

In line with self-study, we frame teaching as a fluid and evolving process and seek to improve practice through reflective dialogue (Cuenca, 2010; Dinkelman, 2003). We echo Dinkelman's assertion that self-study can reveal insights into local contexts and processes, and that these insights may also be useful to other educators (Dinkelman, 2003). Thus, we discuss how self-reflection and mentoring with reflective dialogue among two faculty members can support the teaching of a course on diversity and culturally responsive teaching.

Literature Review

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Despite some progress educating a predominately White teaching force about the importance of culturally responsive pedagogy, significant challenges persist (Castro, 2010). Mills and Ballantyne (2010) developed a typology of three hierarchical stages (self-awareness/self-reflectiveness, openness, and commitment to social justice) that defines candidates' transition to diversity-responsive dispositions.

Castro (2010) reviewed research on pre-service teachers' ideas about cultural diversity, and while the studies showed an acceptance of diversity, evidence also indicated simplistic notions of multiculturalism and support of minimal multicultural implementation. Further, teachers and candidates struggled to accept the presence of oppressive experiences and practices by their dominant culture (Castro, 2010).

Garrett and Segall (2013) attribute White teacher candidates' resistance to critical multicultural education to avoidance of acknowledging the truth of social accounts provided by those who are oppressed. In other words, excuses of ignorance represent deliberate efforts to avoid responsibility for culturally oppressive conditions. Similarly, resistance represents an attempt to change the focus of classroom conversations to preserve a sense of pride for social accomplishments and blaming the victims for their circumstances. …

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