Learning Culturally Relevant Practices: Facing Developmental Roadblocks

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  • This article was downloaded by: [North Dakota State University]On: 17 December 2014, At: 16:59Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Learning Culturally Relevant Practices: FacingDevelopmental RoadblocksColette Gosselin a & Emily Meixner aa The College of New JerseyPublished online: 07 Feb 2013.

    To cite this article: Colette Gosselin & Emily Meixner (2013) Learning Culturally Relevant Practices: Facing DevelopmentalRoadblocks, Multicultural Perspectives, 15:1, 31-38, DOI: 10.1080/15210960.2013.754292

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  • Multicultural Perspectives, 15(1), 3138Copyright C 2013 by the National Association for Multicultural EducationISSN: 1521-0960 print / 1532-7892DOI: 10.1080/15210960.2013.754292


    Learning Culturally Relevant Practices: Facing DevelopmentalRoadblocks

    Colette Gosselin and Emily MeixnerThe College of New Jersey

    As multicultural educators who have participated in thedevelopment of a secondary education program thatstrives to prepare 21st century teachers, we are concernedwith our teacher candidates ability to understand thecultural contexts of the classrooms in which they willteach. Because they arrive at our small, Northeastern,public, liberal arts college from relatively homogeneousand mono-cultural (White, middle-class) school contextsand are among the highest performing students intheir respective high schools, our students typically lackawareness of how contextual differences result in inequityin school and familial resources, available curricula andmaterials, academic expectations, and parentteacherrelationships.

    With these considerations in mind, when our col-leges undergraduate secondary education program wasredesigned in 2004, the restructuring was organizedaround an interdisciplinary educational foundations ap-proach that examined the cultural dynamics of schooling(Conchas, 2006; Delpit & Dowdy, 2008; Lopez, 2002;Valenzuela, 1999). The new design of the program would,as recommended by Linda Darling-Hammond, providetight coherence and integration among courses andbetween course work and clinical work in schools as

    Correspondence should be sent to Colette Gosselin, The College ofNew Jersey, Department of Educational Administration and SecondaryEducation, 2000 Pennington Rd., Ewing, NJ 08628-0718. E-mail:Gosselin@tcnj.edu or to Emily Meixner, The College of New Jersey,Department of English, 2000 Pennington Rd., Ewing, NJ 08628-0718.E-mail: Meixner@tcnj.edu

    well as extensive and intensely supervised clinical workintegrated with course work using pedagogies that linktheory and practice (2006, p. 300). In its construction,the program would focus our students attention on:

    The dynamic relationship between teachers andstudents in various cultural contexts;

    The ways diverse contexts impact student achievement; The role of context on human learning and identity

    development; and The interconnect among local, state, and national

    government initiatives that impact teaching andlearning

    By focusing our students attention on these concerns,we anticipated that they would be able to acknowledgethat cultural differences exist and matter, reconsider theirbeliefs about the causal relationship between effort andachievement, and engage in culturally responsive teachingin their field placements; in particular, we believed thatwe would see evidence of these skills in their juniorpracticum experience (Gay, 2002; Ladson-Billings, 1994,2001).

    What we discovered after designing two case stud-ies that examine whether or not our students coulddo these things at this point in the program, was thattheir ability to simultaneously internalize and enacttheir changing beliefs was programmatically ambitiousand developmentally premature; our students could notimmediately integrate their changing beliefs about cultureand context while also learning lesson design, methods

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  • of instruction, and classroom management techniques.Therefore, as they began teaching, our students resortedto familiar deficit models of culture and context to explaintheirand their studentsperformance.

    Frustrated, we raised questions regarding programdesign and developmentally appropriate practices anddecided to investigate the literature on college studentdevelopment where we discovered a wealth of researchthat identified developmental concerns that we had notconsidered yet needed to know; we learned we wereoperating on a set of assumptions about college studentdevelopment and how this development would interfacewith the design of the program.

    In this article we seek to bring together the literature oncollege student development with best practice researchon multicultural teacher education. In doing so, weassert the need for teacher educators to cultivate a moresophisticated understanding of their preservice teachersdevelopment with respect to critical thinking, self-authorship, and social relationships. Just as preserviceteachers fall back into deficit models of culture andcontext when describing their students, so too do teachereducators unknowingly draw on deficit discourses as theyevaluate teacher candidates.

    Our discussion provides an overview of the stagesfrom three models of college student development thatbest inform our findings, highlights the data drawn fromour case studies, and maps our students reflections to thethree models. While acknowledging that our students willbe leaving our programs unfinished and that significantdevelopmental leaps may occur post-certification, we willconclude by considering ways in which teacher educationprograms can endeavor to make these leaps possible.

    Models of College Student Development

    While a robust literature exists on college studentdevelopment, the combined work of King and Kitchener(1994), Baxter-Magolda (1999) and Kegan (1994)provided the insight we needed to explain our findings.All three models describe college students as progressingthrough stages of development in which the skills ofone stage are incorporated or expanded in the next.Figure 1 suggests a model that illustrates the layering andinterconnectedness of the developmental roadblocks wehave observed in our students as they progressed throughour program.

    Beginning with the innermost component, criticalthinking, we sought to understand our students ability toevaluate ideas. King and Kitcheners (1994, p. 42) modelof reflective judgment describes seven epistemic stagesthat shape the ways college students critical thinkingdevelops as they move from accepting knowledge asgiven from authority figures to recognizing knowledge

    Figure 1. Layers of development.

    as constructed, contextual, and evidence based. Wethen wondered about the connection between ourstudents ability to think critically, voice their beliefs,and ultimately choose their own positions. Baxter-Magoldas (1999) study on self-authorship explained tous how students turn their personal development intomore sophisticated logical interpretations, choices, andactions and eventually become self-authors. Her modelconsists of four developmental stages beginning withabsolute knowers who mimic the voice of authorities tocontextual knowers who have established identities thatcan withstand the angst of conflict, are resilient in the faceof conflict, and who are therefore open to the realities ofothers. Finally, we wanted to understand how our studentsthought of themselves in relationship to others. Kegans(1982, p. 73110; 1994, p. 2936) model of humandevelopment comprised of six distinct epistemologicalstages offered insight into how college students come tounderstand themselves and make decisions within socialrelationships.

    Since early stages of the King and Kitchener andKe