10 SES 04 D, Research on Values, Beliefs & Understandings in Teacher Education
Cultural diversity is one of the global key phrases employed excessively in both legislative documents and curricula to depict and define modern society. Recent studies have shown that there is weak conceptual clarity regarding the term cultural diversity in teacher education (Cochran-Smith et al., 2015). In their review of intercultural competency in teacher education, Smolcic and Katunich (2017) maintain that this lack of conceptual clarity reflects a shortage of culturally relevant conceptual and theoretical knowledge. Afdal and Nerland claim conceptualizations of terms in discourses, constituted by knowledge-producing institutions, work through educational curricula and practice (Afdal & Nerland, 2014). How students understand the term cultural diversity is influenced by the different student active working methods applied in class. Student teachers encounter cultural diversity in multifaceted contexts in both theory studies and their practical experience. Hence, the present paper discusses how pre-service teachers may understand the term cultural diversity when traditional teaching methods are supplemented by student-centred learning activities. The conceptualization of the term cultural diversity is not only determined by curricula but also situated in practice. The students acquire opinions, attitudes, values and proficiency, as well as knowledge about cultural diversity. It is therefore necessary to study the practical approaches to the term. Reflective individual student narratives, students’ unscripted role-plays portraying fictitious parent-teacher conferences, and students’ post-activity plenary discussions have been carried out and are collected and analyzed with a focus on students’ comprehension of cultural diversity. In the study, an organisational translation theoretical approach was used as an intake to analyze the data collected from: the narratives, the observation of the role-plays, and the participatory observation of the plenary discussion after the role-plays had been presented. In the student narratives, the main connotations of the term cultural diversity were accounted for; the students worked individually and shared their texts on-line with their fellow students. When they created and acted out fictitious situations, in which topics involving cultural diversity were dramatized, they had little time for reflection during the actual role-play. When they prepared themselves for the roles, they used their preconceived ideas about the kind of opinions and statements the characters they played were most likely to voice. In the role-playing, they had to think and talk quickly, changing their line of argumentation based on what the students acting the other roles said. Thus, when role-playing was used to dramatize and translate the term into near real life situations, the students’ perceptions of the term were enhanced and amplified. When the students evaluated and reflected on their role-playing performance, the students discussed their reflections during and after the role-playing session. They focused on how they had to adjust their own opinions, attitudes, values and beliefs. By using students’ narrative texts, role-plays and reflective post-activity discussions, this study demonstrates how students’ comprehension of the term cultural diversity may deepen when the traditional repertoire of working methods in class is enhanced.
The focus of the qualitative single case study (Cresswell, 2013) presented here is the conceptualization that may take place during practical classroom activities. The case involves a group of student teachers of English as a second/foreign language and other foreign languages (German, French, Spanish and Russian). To select the case, purposeful sampling (Cresswell, 2013) has been applied. The data consist of the researcher’s observation of three student role-plays portraying parent-teacher conferences, a collection of nine student narratives about their understanding of the term ‘cultural diversity’, and the researcher’s participatory observation (Cresswell, 2013) of the student teachers’ plenary discussions after the role-play session. In the narrative assignment, the students wrote short narrative texts about the meaning of the term ‘cultural diversity’; subsequently they published and exchanged texts with their fellow students in the digital classroom. The present case study utilized a commercially available learning and teaching platform provided by ItsLearningFronter (https://itslearning.com/global/fronter/fronter-home/) for the text exchange in the group. The students were told to dramatize parent-teacher conferences with one teacher and one to two parents present. The topic of the role-play was simply the headline “Cultural Diversity”. The students discussed possible dilemmas and chose themes related to this term. They chose to act out parent–teacher conferences with the following cast and themes: • An ethnic Norwegian female teacher and immigrant parents – their background was not specified beyond this – discussing the pupils’ obligatory participation in different outdoor activities and practice in moving about safely in different kinds of weather. These activities require expensive gear and clothing that some parents think are unnecessary or cannot afford • An ethnic Norwegian female teacher and married, ethnic Norwegian, Christian parents discussing the representation in the teaching material of a variety of family constellations, in which the parents were focusing on how to avoid exposing the pupils to stories involving same-sex marriages • An ethnic Norwegian male teacher and a married couple, who were Muslim immigrant parents discussing swimming lessons, which are mandatory for all pupils. The discussion concerned the problems involving modesty swimwear, burkini, for female pupils, and the possibility of having separate female and male groups in swimming lessons Theatre methods (Deloney & Graham) were used to dramatize situations in which cultural diversity was thematised. The students designed role-plays, which they performed (Jacobs, 2010; Shu, 2011). In the plenary discussion after the performance, students reflected on and shared what had taken place in the role-plays (Ryan, 2013). They also discussed what could be learnt from the role-playing (Henry, 2000).
The students’ in-depth study of the term ‘cultural diversity’ took place in the writing of the narratives, in the role-playing and in the subsequent plenary discussion, in which they reflected on what had taken place in the role-plays. When the students wrote and exchanged narrative texts about cultural diversity, to explain what they understand by the term, they attained some knowledge about the term. They had the opportunity to study it more closely and work with it individually. They shared their narratives in the digital classroom and, together, discussed their own and their fellow students’ perceptions of the term. When the student teachers created and acted out role-plays, in which cultural diversity was dramatized, they did not have much time for reflection in the (somewhat heated) debates going on between ‘parents’ and ‘teachers’. When the students prepared themselves for the roles, they reported that they had to use their preconceived ideas about the kind of opinions and statements the characters they played were most likely to voice. In the role-plays, they had to think fast and change their line of argumentation based on what the students acting in the other roles said. They had to deal with emotions like frustration and even anger. “I sensed that I was angry at the ‘parents’ and that I strongly disagreed,” said one of the students acting as teacher in one of the role-plays. “At the same time, it was my responsibility to act in a professional way and to avoid amplifying the conflict with the ‘parents.” He added: “I knew that I had to accept some of their opinions, without compromising too much.” Being true to their own values regarding, e.g., equality, was seen as challenging by all students, since they wished to find solutions and compromises.
Afdal, H. W., & Nerland, M. (2014). Does teacher education matter? An analysis of relations to knowledge among Norwegian and Finnish novice teachers. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 58(3), 281-299. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/00313831.2012.726274 Banks, J. A. (2014). Cultural diversity and education: Foundations, curriculum, and teaching. Boston: Pearson. Castro, A. J. (2010). Themes in the research on preservice teachers' views of cultural diversity: Implications for researching millennial preservice teachers. Educational Researcher, 39(3), 198-210. Cochran-Smith, M., Villegas, A. M., Abrams, L., Chavez-Moreno, L., Mills, T., & Stern, R. (2015). Critiquing teacher preparation research: An overview of the field, part II. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(2), 109-121. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487114558268 Cresswell, J. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Czarniawska, B., & Sevon, G. (2005). Global ideas – how ideas, objects and practices travel in the global economy Stockholm: Liber. Deloney, L. A., & Graham, C. J. DEVELOPMENTS: Wit. Using drama to teach first-year medical students about empathy and compassion. Teaching and Learning in Medicine: An International Journal, 15, 247-251. Eriksen, A., Larsen, A. B., & Leming, T. (2015). Acting and reflecting; making connections between theory and practice in teacher education. Reflective Practice International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 16(1), 73-84. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2014.969697 Henry, M. (2000). Drama’s ways of learning, research in drama education. The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 5(1), 46-62. Jacobs, J. (2010). Teaching and live performance: Applied theatre in universities and schools. Applied Theatre Researcher/IDEA Journal, 11(1). May, S., & Sleeter, C. E. (2010). Introduction. In S. May & C. E. Sleeter (Eds.), Critical multiculturalism: Theory and praxis (pp. 1-16). New York: Routledge. Ryan, M. (2013). The pedagogical balancing act: Teaching reflection in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 18, 144-155. Sahlin, K., & Wedlin, L. (2008). Circulating ideas: Imitation, translation and editing. In R., R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, K. Sahlin, & R. Suddaby (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of organizational institutionalism. (pp. 218-242). Los Angeles/London: Sage. Shu, J. (2011). Teacher as actor: Future English teachers’ training in the natural approach using drama. Applied Theatre Researcher, IDEA Journal, 12. Smolcic, E., & Katunich, J. (2017). Teachers crossing borders: A review of the research into cultural immersion field experience for teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 62, 49-57.
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