Defining moments: Developing culturally responsive dispositions and teaching practices in early childhood preservice teachers

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  • Teaching and Teacher Education 24

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    This paper reports the results of a study that examined preservice teachers perceptions of which program experiences

    As teacher educators in an early childhood getting to know families through their stories (Kidd,

    about children and families with cultures differentfrom their own and increased their understanding of


    Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 703 993 8325;

    the social justice issues that affect children andfamilies.

    0742-051X/$ - see front matter r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    fax: +1703 993 4370.

    E-mail address: (J.K. Kidd).education (ECE) program at a university in amulticulturally and multilingually diverse area inthe United States, preparing teachers who arecompetent to work with culturally, linguistically,socio-economically, and ability diverse young chil-dren and their families is our primary goal. Despiteour dedication to this goal, we nd it is not an easytask to help preservice teachers develop the cultu-rally responsive dispositions and teaching practicesthat enable them to better support the learning of

    Sanchez, & Thorp, 2004a, 2004b, 2005), we have notuntil recently taken a systematic look at the varioustypes of program experiences that contribute topreparing preservice teachers who exhibit disposi-tions and teaching practices that are responsive tothe socio-cultural and linguistic backgrounds oftheir students. In the study we share here, weexamined preservice teachers narratives to deter-mine what types of experiences they believed openedtheir eyes and changed their attitudes and beliefswere engaged in a teacher preparation program designed to prepare teachers to work with culturally, linguistically, socio-

    economically, and ability diverse young children and their families. The ndings suggest that ve types of experiences,

    interacting with each other, were instrumental in effecting changes in dispositions and teaching practiced. The experiences

    included material resources, diverse internship experiences, interactions with diverse families, critical reection, and

    discussion and dialogue.

    r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Culturally relevant education; Culturally responsive dispositions; Diversity; Preservice teachers; Teacher education; Teacher


    1. Introduction their diverse students. Although we have documen-ted the inuence of a particular learning experience,contributed to shifts in their culturally responsive dispositions and teaching practices. At the time of the study, participantsDening moments: Developingand teaching practices in earl

    Julie K. Kidd, Sylvia Y

    College of Education and Human Development, Georg

    Received 28 July 2006; received in revis

    Abstract(2008) 316329

    lturally responsive dispositionshildhood preservice teachers

    anchez, Eva K. Thorp

    son University, MSN 4B3, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA

    rm 22 May 2007; accepted 4 June 2007

  • ARTICLE IN PRESSJ.K. Kidd et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 316329 317We know from research that preservice teachersenter teacher preparation programs with biases andassumptions about people with cultures differentfrom their own as well as with a limited under-standing of multicultural education (Kidd et al.,2004a, 2004b, 2005; Sleeter, 2001). Preserviceteachers often enter their programs lacking con-ception of, interest in, and concern about culturaland racial diversity (Milner, 2006, p. 352). Someadmit they are ignorant about their own culturesand unaware of the prejudices they hold towardother cultures (Kidd et al., 2005; Ukpokodu, 2002).Often, they do not understand the inuence culturehas on families beliefs, attitudes, and values and theeffect these have on child-rearing practices (Kiddet al., 2004a). Many are unaware of or resist the ideaof White privilege and do not recognize socialinequalities that exist based on race and ethnicity(Ukpokodu). They often view others through adecit hypothesis that either implicitly or explicitlyblames childrens environmental, sociocultural, orlinguistic background for their failure in the class-room (Minami & Ovando, 2004, p. 574). As Lesar,Cuk, and Pecek (2006) concluded, this view offamilies results in teaching practices that pass theresponsibility for the childs school results and hissocial inclusion onto the parents or the childhimself (p. 396) and contributes to teacherattitudes that exclude rather than include childrenfrom ethnic minority groups (p. 396).Recognizing that preservice teachers may have

    had little to no personal contact with culturesdifferent from their own, teacher educators mustprovide experiences that will develop the awarenessand insights preservice teachers need to respond tothe diversity of their students. This focus ondeveloping culturally responsive dispositions andteaching practices is especially crucial when teachersand children do not share similar cultural, linguistic,and socio-economic backgrounds. When teachersand children come from similar cultural back-grounds, it is easier to provide instruction thattakes into account childrens prior knowledge andneeds (Cochran-Smith, 1995). However, whenteachers and students have different lived experi-ences, a mismatch between home and school canresult in the marginalization of students whosehome cultures and languages differ from thecultural and language practices of their teachers(Minami & Ovando, 2004). This cultural disconti-nuity between teachers and students can lead to

    instruction that does not match the communicationor learning styles of the children and does not drawupon or support childrens cultural knowledge(Brice-Heath, 1983; Levinson, 2007).Fortunately, it is possible for teachers with

    cultures different from their students to provideeffective instruction when they approach teaching ina way that is responsive to the cultural and linguisticdiversity of their students (Au & Kawakami, 1994;Gay, 2002). Gay denes culturally responsiveteaching as using the cultural characteristics,experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diversestudents as conduits for teaching them moreeffectively (p. 106). She explains that this approachrequires developing a thorough knowledge ofspecic cultures of different ethnic groups, howthey affect learning behaviours, and how classroominteractions and instruction can be changed toembrace these differences (p. 114). If this is tohappen, teacher educators must not only teach theskills and knowledge necessary to effectively in-crease the learning of young children, but also mustprovide experiences that enable preservice teachersto examine issues of culture, linguistic diversity,poverty, and social justice in critical and meaningfulways. Further, learning opportunities must becreated that enable preservice teachers to learnfrom and share their personal life experiences and toreect on ways in which they may have benetedfrom an unjust system that privileges some andcreates injustice for others (Darling-Hammond,French, & Garcia-Lopez, 2002).Unfortunately, as Nieto (2002) notes, discus-

    sions of stratication and inequity were largelyabsent until recently in teacher education coursesand power and privilege, and how they areimplicated in language, culture, and learning, alsotypically have been invisible in school discourse (p.1). It is our hope that this is changing as teachereducators recognize the need to bring these issues tothe forefront. However, few existing studies showsignicant effects on preservice teachers knowledgeof or dispositions towards cultural diversity andsocial justice. In fact, program experiences exam-ined in recent studies had modest or uneven effectsdepending on teachers backgrounds and quality ofsupervision and facilitation (Cochran-Smith, Da-vis, & Fries, 2004, p. 957). Based on the limitedresearch in this area, we recognize there is still agreat deal of work ahead for those who are strivingto transform teacher education programs.Our previous research that examined learningfrom families through gathering their family stories

  • et al., 2004a, 2004b, 2005). We found that whenprestoroffam


    limits of social positionality and help us see

    the preservice teachers worked under the mentor-ship of a cooperating professional (CP) who was a

    ARTICLE IN PRESSJ.K. Kidd et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 316329318dominance in a clearer light (p. 39).Although our earlier research provides valuable

    insights into one type of assignment that contrib-uted to preservice teachers cultural awareness andsensitivity and understanding of issues of socialjustice, we wondered what other program experi-ences were inuencing shifts in culturally responsivedispositions and teaching practices. Therefore, inthe current study, we explored preservice teachersperceptions of the types of program experiences thatcontributed to developing awareness and under-standing of cultures different from their own andteaching practices that respond to the diversity ofthe children. Specically, we examined the followingresearch questions:

    (a) What types of program experiences did pre-service teachers cite as contributing to thedevelopment of culturally responsive disposi-tions and teaching practices?

    (b) In what ways did the preservice teachersperceive that the experiences interacted witheach other to inuence the development ofculturally responsive dispositions and teachingpractices?

    2. Method

    2.1. Participants

    Participants included 19 preservice teachers en-rolled in a full-time, 2-year masters degree programownat add et al., 2002). Howard (2005) explains,uthentic engagement with the reality of thosese stories are signicantly different from ourcan allow us to transcend, to some degree, theandservice teachers were engaged in gatheringies from families, they perceived a greater senseawareness of the socio-cultural context ofilies and noticed shifts in their assumptionsbiases about cultures different from their ownsuggested that well-designed assignments and ex-periences can contribute to shifts in preserviceteachers awareness and understanding of culturesdifferent from their own and increase their profes-sional skills so that these understandings are takeninto account when planning instruction for diverseyoung children and for working with families (Kiddstate university in a large metropolitan area.teacher employed by the school or center. Thepreservice teachers gradually took on many of theirCPs responsibilities. During the third month, theystayed at their internship site full time and assumedfull responsibility for teaching. They returned tocampus to complete course work and nal projectsduring the last 2 weeks of the semester. The secondand third semesters followed a similar schedule. Thesecond focused on infants and toddlers (birth toage 3) and included an internship in a day carecenter or an early intervention program for infantsand toddlers with disabilities. The third semesteremphasized kindergarten through grade three andinvolved an internship in a kindergarten, rst-,second-, or third-grade classroom. The nal seme-ster provided preservice teachers with an opportu-nity to specialize in an area of their choice. TheyThe ECE program was designed to prepare teacherswho are willing and competent to work withculturally, linguistically, socio-economically, andability diverse children and their families. Thepreservice teachers participated as a cohort, andtherefore, proceeded through the program in asystematic manner. They attended classes and wereengaged in non-paid internships throughout theprogram. At the completion of the program, theywere eligible for three initial licenses: early child-hood (preschoolthird grade), early childhoodspecial education (birthage 5), and English forspeakers of other languages (preschool12th grade).Of the 19 preservice teachers in the cohort, 63%were White, 21% Black, 10% Asian, and 5%Latina. All were female. They ranged in age fromthe mid-20s to mid-40s.

    2.2. Context

    The ECE graduate program was designed aroundfour semesters of study. The rst semester includedcourse work focused on preschool (ages 35) and aninternship in a diverse preschool classroom. Coursesfocused on four strands: curriculum, development,assessment, and language and literacy. Studentsattended classes 4 days of a week and then were attheir internship site for 68 hours a day for the next6 days. They continued with this alternatingschedule until the third month of the semester.Throughout the rst 2 months of their internship,engaged in a full-time internship throughout the

  • ARTICLE IN PRESSJ.K. Kidd et al. / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 316329 319entire semester and attended classes two evenings aweek.

    2.3. Program experiences

    Throughout the 2 years of the program, a varietyof experiences were offered that were designed toencourage preservice teachers to learn about, reecton, and dialogue about issues of race, culture,poverty, and social justice. It was expected thatpreservice teachers would act upon the issues inways that promote social justice and equity for allchildren and their families. Through scaffoldedexperiences that included readings, course assign-ments, diverse internships, and opportunities forreection and discussion, we challenged the pre-service teachers to think about their own personalstories and cultural identities and use what theylearned about themselves to help them understandothers whose cultural backgrounds were differentfrom their own. Related assignments focused oncritical reection; home visits and interactions withfamilies; gathering family stories as a way to learnfrom and with families; and planning and imple-menting culturally responsive curriculum and in-struction.We began by focusing the preservice teachers

    attention on sharing their own personal stories andreecting on their cultural identities. Our goal wasto assist them in the examination of their owncultural lenses by helping them recognize the valuesand beliefs they bring to their interactions withothers and specically to their teaching. In addition,we wanted them to realize how their values, beliefs,and teaching practices are shaped by their culturalbackgrounds and prior experiences. We also beganemphasizing the importance of getting to knowchildren by learning from the socio-cultural contextof their families and the value of learning from thestories families share about their children.As we continued to encourage the preservice

    teachers to examine their own cultural backgroundsand stories, we required that they gather storiesfrom a focus family at their internship site. Theirassignment was to tell the familys story to theirclassmates as if it were their own. During the courseof gathering stories, we expected the preserviceteachers to spend time with the focus family andreect on similarities and differences between theirbeliefs, values, and practices and those of their focusfamily. As they learned from the family, we

    encouraged them to use the knowledge...


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