07 SES 02 C, Promoting Social Justice
As part of a larger study called “Development of sociocultural competence in secondary preservice teachers”, this paper present initial findings regarding the learning experiences of four teacher candidates in a public university. The particularity of this group is that, in addition to the regular student teaching practicum, they carry out an alternative practice in youth care centers serving the most excluded, low-income students. The purpose was to understand how this alternative practicum, in addition to traditional student teaching, made preservice teachers well equipped to address teaching from a social justice perspective. The following research questions guided the study:
- What do secondary preservice teachers learn in youth care centers that makes them develop a social justice-oriented perspective and practice?
- How participants value the contribution of the alternative practicum in contrast to traditional school placements?
As in various contexts around the world, Chile’s education system is one characterized by inequality and segregation (OECD, 2011). Thus, concepts such as teaching for diversity and social justice have gained more attention in recent years. Theoretical frameworks (e.g., Ayers, Quinn, & Stovall, 2009; Cochran-Smith et al., 2009; Gorski, 2013; Sleeter, Montecinos & Jimenez, 2016) illuminate efforts that bring discourse around teaching for social justice into classroom practices. However, there is a shortage of studies examining how the social justice perspective goes from knowledge to action in initial teacher education. Since teacher education programs in Chile have begun to adopt the language of teaching for social justice to serve populations of impoverished/vulnerable students, it is necessary to conduct research that investigates what elements, experiences, and practices are effectively equipping preservice teachers with social consciousness and skills important in teaching impoverished students.
Social Justice Teacher Education (SJTE) is an approach that pays attention to school learning, having improvement of learning and opportunities for all students as its core commitment (Cochran-Smith et al., 2009). Therefore, SJTE is not only rhetorical ideology; on the contrary, it means quality teaching for equity. SJTE is teaching preparation that promotes not only equitable, quality education, but also more democratic and collaborative practices with communities (Zeichner & Payne, 2013). It is teacher education that helps to develop cultural competence to connect future teachers with the culture of students’ families and communities.
In line with this community-oriented teaching and teacher education, recent developments on Culturally Relevant/Sustaining Pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 2014; Paris, 2012) add the importance of focusing on conceptions such as youth culture when teaching students that “maintain notions of membership (i.e., in-group versus out-group), language, art, beliefs, and so on” (Ladson-Billings, 2014, p. 75). For teacher education that focuses on marginalized student populations, this means to abandon static images of cultural histories, customs, and traditional ways of being to embrace a new approach focused on always-changing students’ diverse cultures. An important theoretical contribution for the Chilean context was recently made by Sleeter et al. (2016) who synthesized their SJTE proposal in four dimensions:
- situating families and communities within an analysis of structural inequities
- developing relationships of reciprocity with students, families, and communities
- teaching to high academic expectations by building on students’ culture, language, experience, and identity
- creating and teaching an inclusive curriculum that integrates marginalized perspectives and explicitly addresses issues of equity and power. (p. 176)
I consider global and local theoretical contributions crucial to carry out research that seek to promote better ways to address the needs of an increasingly segregated and diverse student population where poverty is one of the major factors (Gorski, 2013).
I addressed my research questions from the interpretive methodological approach using a qualitative, comparative case study. Each of four participants constitutes a different case regarding social and cultural background, education, and school placement for practicum. As Stake (2006) has stated, “In multicase study research, the single case is of interest because it belongs to a particular collection of cases” (cited by Merriam, 2009, p. 49). I used a purposeful sampling strategy (Merriam, 2009) that aimed to find information-rich cases. Regarding subject areas of the participants, my sample included History and Geography, Spanish Language, Philosophy, and Visual Arts. Participants were placed in four different urban schools located in diverse urban areas, which gave me access to similar and contrasting characteristics in preservice teachers’ experiences of the institutions and students ‘cultural backgrounds. As mentioned above, these teacher candidates were also part of additional clinical experiences in youth care centers serving students excluded from the mainstream school system due to family issues or juvenile crime. Information was collected during March and June 2017, using mainly in-depth semi-structured interviews and document review (Merriam, 2009). Numerous documents (lesson plans, class material, reflection papers, and final reports of practicum workshops) were collected to have access to participants’ teaching experiences. Since participants were in their final practicum stage (full-class responsibility), I conducted the first round of interviews at the beginning of the semester focusing on their teaching perspectives, personal backgrounds, and practicum experiences during early stages. Then, I requested participants to provide me key documents reporting their teaching and learning experiences. Lastly, towards the end of the semester, I conducted the second and final round of interviews focusing on their practicum learning experiences and based on the information provided by numerous documents. As means of triangulation, I conducted additional interviews with university supervisors of traditional and alternative clinical experiences who observed and registered their supervisory visits. Interviews lasted 80-120 minutes and were recorded using a digital device. Open and analytical codes were developed through an iterative process, as well as from bottom-up and top-down approaches. I first used open coding to identify salient themes across participants. Then, given the theoretical framework and research questions, I grouped the themes into larger cluster to identify preservice teachers’ perspectives, learning experiences, and practices regarding social justice teaching. While analyzing the data, I triangulated the preservice teachers’ perspectives with diverse documents reporting participants’ teaching performances during clinical experience.
1. First, all preservice teachers agree on stressing an essential aspect that had key impact on their teaching perspective during practicum: their personal experiences and/or out-of-school participation in institutions or activities involving community service (before entering teacher education programs). 2. Second, as the main finding, all participants stress the way program’s courses, workshops, and teacher educators help to deepen their commitment to social justice in education. Specific courses and workshops are identified as examples of a social justice-oriented pedagogy where instructors help them to reflect and problematize their teaching and develop a critical point of view regarding their practicum experiences. Remarkably, participants highlight how this program embodies the social justice perspective when offering an alternative clinical experience teaching disenfranchised childhood and youth in centers of Chile’s National Child Services. In these centers, candidates move away from traditional teaching practicum, working with marginalized children and young people living in social vulnerability or who are lawbreakers. This instance called Education in confinement (Blazich, 2007) provide participants with an extraordinary opportunity for develop and/or deepen social justice teaching. Interestingly, this community-based experience resembles some characteristics of critical service learning or justice-oriented service learning (Boyle-Baise & McIntyre, 2008; Mitchell, 2015). Among other benefits, it helps them to problematize their teaching perspective and change the way they plan and carry out their teaching both in traditional school and alternative settings. Undoubtedly, these findings have very important implications in the way teacher education programs include candidates' prior knowledge (e.g. recruitment) and develop community-based teacher preparation that better suit a segregated school system.
Ayers, W., Quinn, T., & Stovall, D. (Eds.). (2009). Handbook of social justice in education. New York: Routledge. Blazich, G. S. (2007). La educación en contextos de encierro. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación, 44, 53-60. Boyle-Baise, M. & McIntyre, D. J. (2008). What kind of experience? Preparing teachers in PDS or community settigns. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nemser, D. J. McIntyre, & Association of Teacher Educators (Eds.). Handbook of research on teacher education: Enduring questions in changing contexts. (pp. 307-329). New York: Routledge. Cochran-Smith, M., Shakman, K., Jong, C., Terrell, D. G., Barnatt, J., & McQuillan, P. (May 01, 2009). Good and Just Teaching: The Case for Social Justice in Teacher Education. American Journal of Education, 115, 3, 347-377. Gorski, P. C. (2013). Reaching and teaching students in poverty. New York: Teachers College Press. Ladson-Billings, G. (2014, June). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy 2.0: a.k.a. the Remix. Harvard Educational Review, 84, 1, 74–84. Merriam, S.B. (2009). Qualitative Research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Mitchell, T. D. (January 01, 2015). Using a Critical Service-Learning Approach to Facilitate Civic Identity Development. Theory into Practice, 54, 1, 20-28. Paris, D. (2012, April). Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy: A Needed Change in Stance, Terminology, and Practice. Educational Researcher, 41, 3, 93–97. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2011). Society at a Glance. Paris: OECD. Sleeter C., Montecinos, C., Jiménez, F. (2016). Preparing Teachers for Social Justice in the Context of Education Policies that Deepen Class Segregation in Schools: The Case of Chile. In: Lampert, J., & Burnett, B. (2016). Teacher education for high poverty schools. Switzerland: Springer. Zeichner, K. & Payne, K. (2013). Democratizing knowledge in urban teacher education. In J. Noel (Ed). Moving teacher education into urban schools and communities: Prioritizing community strengths. (pp. 3-19) New York, NY: Routledge.
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