07 SES 02 A, Pre-service and Newly Qualified Teachers Addressing Diversity
The purpose of this paper is to discuss some elements of the complex process of learning how to become social justice educators in Brazil. These elements have been identified through an analysis of journal entries written by student teachers who teach in a popular education extension program (PROEJA), which has been strongly influenced by Paulo Freire’s legacy.
PROEJAis an extension program established in 1986 at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Its main goals are: 1. to offer public schooling (from literacy/elementary school to high school) for both the university staff (e.g., janitors, gardeners, cafeteria workers etc.) and people from the poor communities surrounding the campus – through after work classes in the evenings; 2. to offer a social justice student teaching experience for student teachers from different teacher education programs at UFMG; 3. to serve as a “lab school” for the development of action research on popular education.
There are three main characters at PROEJA: 1. The students are young and adult people (from 18 to 80 years old!) who either have not finished school or have never attended school. They are workers working either at formal or informal jobs, unemployed people and elders – or what Bales (1999), in the context of the current global capitalism, calls “disposable people.” 2. The teachers,who usually are younger than the students, are student teachers from different teacher education programs at UFMG who teach at most eight hours a week under a close supervision of university professors and/or teacher educators. 3. The coordinators are teacher educators (most of them from the College of Education) who do all the administrative work (always collectively), supervise the student teachers, and do action research about different aspects of the program.
The program, as a university program, helps the student teachers to act like researchers investigating their own practices, developing instructional materials and pedagogical strategies to be used in their classes, critically analyzing them and, finally, attending meetings where they can share their knowledge.
Collective planning and the collective process of making decisions are quite important characteristics of this program. There are several collective places and moments (i.e., general assemblies) where the popular education students, the student teachers, and the coordinators make collective decisions about the program.
Teacher education is another quite important dimension of this extension program. Although participating in the whole popular education extension program – planning, teaching, doing action research and so on – is what really constitutes “the teacher education program” at PROEJA, there are specific meetings, once a week, for the exchange of teachers’ experiences, collective reflection upon their teaching, getting involved with theoretical studies and reading discussions.
Therefore, several aspects related to the impact of this educational experience on these student teachers’ professional development have been revealed through the journal entry analysis: for example, acknowledging the importance of this experience in the student teachers’ personal and professional lives; realizing changes in their views and practices; and learning a “democratic teaching approach” through participating in critical, interdisciplinary activities in this program. These aspects are going to be summarized in the item – Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings – below.
In conclusion, the analysis of the journal entries allows us to state that there have been several changes in the student teachers’ teaching conceptions and practices through their involvement with PROEJA, in general, its social justice as well as critical/interdisciplinary curriculum, and their direct interaction with popular education students, in particular.
Apple, M. W. and J. A. Bean, eds. (1995). Democratic Schools. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Bardin, L. (1979). Análise de conteúdo. Lisboa: Setenta. Bales, K. (1999). Disposable people: New slavery in the global economy. Berkley: University of California Press. Freire, P. (1985). The politics of education: Culture, power and liberation. Westport/London: Bergin & Garvey. Freire, P. (1996). Letters to Cristina: Reflections on my life and work. New York/London: Routledge. Freire, P. (1997). Pedagogy of the heart. New York: Continuum. Freire, P. (1998a). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare teach. Boulder: Westview Press. Freire, P. (1998b). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. (20th-anniversary ed.). New York: Continuum. Freire, P. (2002). Education for critical consciousness. New York: Continuum. hooks, b. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York and London: Routledge, 1994. Little, J. W. (1990). The Persistence of Privacy: Autonomy and Initiative in Teachers’ Professional Relations. Teachers College Record, vol. 91, n. 4, pp. 509-536. Lortie, D. C. (1975). Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Mitchell, A. (1997). Teacher Identity: A Key to Increase Collaboration. Action in Teacher Education, v. 19, pp. 1-14. Shor, I. and Paulo Freire, A Pedagogy for Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education. Westport/London: Bergin & Garvey, 1987. Zeichner, K. M. (2009). Teacher Education and the Struggle for Social Justice. New York: Routledge.
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