07 SES 07 A, Displaced, Minority and Recently Immigrated Teachers
This paper reports results of a participative reflective evaluation of practice within the framework of “Basics of Educational Studies for Displaced Teachers“, a certificate program for re-qualification of refugee teachers to re-enter the teaching profession in Austria. The program was launched in 2017 at the University of Vienna following the mass migration in the year 2015 from a number of war zones to Europe, among others to Austria. It consists of a yearlong certificate course for displaced teachers as well as a research strand on the educational background and professional needs of immigrant teachers. The program is part of the R/EQUAL project, which focuses on collaboration and networking on a European level in the field of higher education activities concerning recently immigrated and refugee teachers. R/EQUAL currently supports programs at the Universities of Stockholm, Vienna, Cologne and Weingarten.
The paper is concerned about the positions, voices and representations of immigrant and refugee teachers within the Western higher education system. It raises questions on the relationships and discursive practices of Western academia with the ‘Other’ - the immigrant/refugee teacher, and seeks to open possibilities to examine the way dominant Western epistemologies relate to difference.
In recent years there has been much interest in attracting teachers with an immigrant or minority background into the teaching force. Although classrooms have become increasingly more diverse, the teaching force has remained predominantly homogeneous (Donlevy et al., 2016). Representation is known to matter in the teaching profession, and research indicates that teachers with an immigrant or minority background boost the academic performance of ethnically diverse students, enact more culturally relevant teaching, and have more positive perceptions of diverse student populations (Carter et al., 2019). Recognizing the importance of teacher demographics, special professional development programs for such teachers are increasingly offered.
In this paper I seek to reflect - as part of the academic staff of the certificate program for displaced teachers - on our own positioning as teacher educators in such re-qualification and professionalization programs. The inquiry poses unsettling questions of our own complicity as teacher educators in the reproduction of forms of hegemonic power, as we engage in the professional re-socialization of immigrants. Postcolonial theory, specifically Actionable Postcolonial Theory in Education (Andreotti, 2011) that offers a discursive strand of postcolonial theory and its operationalization in educational research and practice, shapes the theoretical framework of the paper. From this perspective, a main aspiration of postcolonial studies is to open “the possibility of theorizing a non-coercive relationship or dialogue with the excluded ‘Other’ of Western humanism” (Gandhi, 1998: 39) and to create conditions for “thinking our way through, and therefore, out of the historical imbalances and cultural inequalities produced by the colonial encounter” (176). The aim of such theorization is not to delegitimize or discard Western humanism and the legacy of European Enlightenment, but to engage with limitations they impose in an attempt to transform and pluralize epistemologies from within (Andreotti, 2011: 3). The paper also draws on Spivak’s work Can the subaltern speak (1988) as a conceptual lens to make sense of the lived experience of participating in these spaces, as (immigrant or non-immigrant) teachers and teacher educators. Spivak examines the representations of the subaltern, the positioning of migrants, and the role of education in relation to the encounter with the subaltern (Andreotti, 2011). She pointedly suggests that progressive intellectuals who benevolently intervene to support the subaltern in the struggle for greater recognition and rights, end up reproducing the same power relations that they seek to put an end to.
The methodological framework can be characterized as Researching Lived Experience for an Action-Sensitive Pedagogy (Van Manen, 1990) or a Phenomenology of Practice (van Manen, 2014) which refers to lived experience research and writing that “reflects on and in practice, and prepares for practice” (van Manen, 2014: 15, original emphasis). As a “meaning-giving method” it refers to “inquiries that address and serve the practice of professional practitioners” (van Manen, 2014: 15). The rationale for the choice of method lies in the nature of the aim and purpose of the inquiry, which is to gain access to practice as lived and experienced, and to seek a language to render the lived experience visible and articulable. The empirical data of the study consists of descriptions of lived experience in the form of anecdotal narratives or stories of episodes related by participating teacher educators and student teachers. Data was collected both in writing and through conversational interviews. Anecdotal narratives were chosen as the major source of data, because in the educational context they function as experiential case material on which reflection on practice is possible. Anecdotes are understood here as narrative accounts of incidents, situations, occurrences and episodes experienced by the interviewed teachers as they relate to the guiding question of the research (van Manen, 1990, 2014). A Critical Incident approach served to elicit anecdotal narratives. The interpretation of data entails an in-depth thematic analysis through uncovering and isolating thematic aspects of the phenomenon, creating thematic categories, and identifying recurring essential themes, according to the methodical procedures of Phenomenology of Practice (van Manen 1990, 2014).
Seeking a language to articulate sometimes unsettling experience in educational spaces of encounter with the ‘Other’, i.e. ‚displaced teacher‘, a number of concepts put forward by postcolonial scholars serve as a lens to read, reflect, and analyze lived experience, as “tools-for-thinking” (Andreotti, 2011: 7). These unsettling experiences often have to do with voices and representations of the ‘Other’ in the Western higher education system. Rather than a simple rejection of Western cultural institutions, values, positions and practices, the paper argues that people should engage in a persistent critique of hegemonic discourses and representations, as they inhabit them. This would imply that critically conscious of our privileged positions as Western academics, we continue to aspire to offer educational opportunities to establish more nuanced relationships with the ‘Other’; relationships of solidarity, rather than gestures of “charity, benevolence, or arrogant ‘progressive’ triumphalism” (Andreotti, 2011: 8). This would mean “working against the grain of our interests and prejudices by contesting the authority of the academy and knowledge centers at the same time that we continue to participate in them and to deploy that authority as teachers, researchers, administrators and theorists” (Beverly, 1999: 31).
Andreotti, V. (2011). Actionable Postcolonial Theory in Education. New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan. Beverly, J. (1999). Subalternity and representation: Arguments in cultural theory. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Carter Andrews, D. J., Castro, E., Cho, C. L., Petchauer, E., Richmond, G., & Floden, R. (2019). Changing the Narrative on Diversifying the Teaching Workforce: A Look at Historical and Contemporary Factors That Inform Recruitment and Retention of Teachers of Color. Journal of Teacher Education, 70(1), pp. 6–12 Donlevy, V., A. Meierkord and A. Rajania (2016). Study on the diversity within the teaching profession with particular focus on migrant and/or minority background: Final report – Study, European Union, Brussels, http://dx.doi.org/10.2766/873440. Gandhi, L. (1998). Postcolonial theory: A critical introduction. New York: Columbia University Press. Spivak, G.C. (1988). “Can the subaltern speak?” In: C. Nelson & L. Grossberg (Eds), Marxism and the interpretation of Culture, 271-313, Chicago. University of Illinois Press. Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching Lived Experience; Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. London, Ontario: The Althouse Press. Van Manen, M. (2014). Phenomenology of Practice: Meaning-Giving Methods in Phenomenological Research and Writing. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press
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