10 SES 05.5 PS, General Poster Session
General Poster Session
Research suggests that teachers’ perspectives on students significantly shape their expectations about student learning, their treatment of students, and what the students ultimately learn (Irvin, 1990; Pajares, 1993; Pang and Sablan, 1998; Villegas and Lucas, 2002). Teachers with an affirming perspective are more apt to believe that students from nondominant groups are capable learners, even when those children enter school with ways of thinking, talking, and behaving that deviate from the dominant culture’s norms (Delpit, 1995). On the other hand, teachers with limiting perspectives are more apt to make negative forecasts about such students’ potential. Dubious about those students’ ability to achieve, teachers are more likely to hold low academic expectations for them and ultimately to treat them in ways likely to stifle their learning (Nieto, 2000; Payne, 1994).
In this study I examined two Han Chinese teachers’ beliefs and attitudes of Indigenous students and uncovered the factors that that believe potentially impede or promote the success of Indigenous students in Taiwanese urban schools. Such an analysis of educators’ perspectives is critical to understanding teachers’ beliefs and attitudes and has powerful implications for teacher efficacy and student achievement (McAllister and Irvin, 2002; Pajares, 1992). In particular, I hope to contribute towards a deeper understanding of the ways teachers perceive the education of Indigenous students.
This qualitative research uses an interpretive case study approach, which is an appropriate methodology when a holistic, in-depth investigation is needed (Feagin, Orum, and Sjoberg, 1991), to understand teachers’ perspectives about urban Indigenous students. Yin (1984) points to several reasons for selecting the case study method: “case studies are the preferred strategy when how or why questions are being posed. When the investigator has little control over events, and when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenon within some real-life context” (p. 13). The case study is appropriate for this study, which seeks to delineate how teachers think about teaching Indigenous students and the meaning behind their statements. Tesch (1990) defines qualitative research as “all research not concerned with variables and their measurements” (p. 46). Yet this definition names what qualitative is not, as opposed to what it is. One of the major characteristics of this research design is that it captures the “meaning” of how teachers describe, in their own words, the personal-life experiences and events that shape their perspectives. In the research I scrupulously moved, via analytic induction, from two teachers’ stories and related experiences, the collected wisdom, to a systematic analysis of my data. After reading the two teachers’ interviews about their experiences with and perceptions of teaching Indigenous children, I identified the commonalities of their experiences and then in cross-case analysis looked across their experiences. This more inductive presentation is particularly effective in reporting research to teachers, prospective teachers, administrators, and teacher educators in multicultural societies.
A central thread in this study is that teachers’ perspectives are crucial to any and all efforts designed to improve the quality of learning and life in our schools. This is not to suggest that teachers’ perspectives are the only valid voice or the primary perspective or the one that should determine what needs to change within our schools and classrooms. However, their perspectives are important in order to understand the education of urban Indigenous students. Moreover, if one wants to imagine that teachers play a more significant role in the education of urban Indigenous students, we need to uncover the beliefs of teachers who have worked with Indigenous students. The study’s participating teachers agreed that educators needed more exposure to the realities of Indigenous life and culture. Unfortunately, in Taiwan the social structure and the geographical separation of the Indigenous community are such that most Han Chinese teachers have had little or no direct exposure to Indigenous cultures. Even the teachers of Indigenous students are likely to have little direct exposure to life in the Indigenous community. Mike and Alice took advantage of summer vacations to visit Indigenous tribes, returning with helpful materials and experiences. However, they admitted that their understanding of Indigenous cultures was superficial because “I am an outsider,” as Mike expressed it. They were raised and educated in predominantly Han communities. Their first-hand knowledge of Indigenous people, culture, and history was quite limited. The secondary sources they have received about Indigenous people from textbooks, media and friends and family were often distorted by the negative, stereotypical attitudes that are so pervasive in Han Chinese culture.
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