Using Dialogue Journals to Promote Student Learning in a Multicultural Teacher Education Course

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download

Embed Size (px)


<ul><li><p> and Special Education</p><p> online version of this article can be found at:</p><p> DOI: 10.1177/074193259801900104</p><p> 1998 19: 32Remedial and Special EducationM. Arthur Garmon</p><p>Using Dialogue Journals to Promote Student Learning in a Multicultural Teacher Education Course </p><p>Published by:</p><p> Hammill Institute on Disabilities</p><p>and</p><p></p><p> can be found at:Remedial and Special EducationAdditional services and information for </p><p> Alerts: </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> What is This? </p><p>- Jan 1, 1998Version of Record &gt;&gt; </p><p> at Virginia Tech on August 26, 2014rse.sagepub.comDownloaded from at Virginia Tech on August 26, 2014rse.sagepub.comDownloaded from </p><p></p></li><li><p>Using Dialogue Journals to Promote Student Learning in a Multicultural Teacher Education Course M . A R T H U R G A R M O N </p><p>A B S T R A C T </p><p>/\l though keeping some type of journal is a com-mon requirement in many education courses, little research has been conducted on how journals are actually used to promote student learning. This study investigated the use of dialogue journals as a tool for promoting the learning of prospective teachers in a multicultural teacher education course. In this article I define dialogue journals and briefly discuss the events leading to my decision to introduce them into a course on diversity. Next, I provide a rationale for the use of dialogue journals. I then explain how I used dialogue journals as a tool for promoting student learning in the course. Finally, I discuss limita-tions of this study and present implications for future research. </p><p>\</p></li><li><p>journals. Holmes and Moulton (1995), investigating how 19 ESL teacher candidates responded to the use of dialogue journals, found that 1 of the 19 students responded nega-tively, and, thus, the authors reached the unremarkable con-clusion that dialogue journals may not be effective for all students. Finally, Roe and Stallman (1994) conducted a com-parative investigation of dialogue and response journals. The researchers found that although students considered both types of journals to be beneficial, they expressed a significantly stronger preference for dialogue journals on seven of the nine points of comparison. (There was no significant differ-ence between the two formats on the other two points.) Fur-thermore, qualitative data collected in this study indicated that students valued, in particular, the feedback they received with the dialogue journal and the opportunity to exchange ideas with their instructors. Dialogue journals represent only one of the various types of journaling that are commonly employed in teacher education programs as a means of pro-moting reflection among prospective teachers, especially during their field experiences and during their student (or intern) teaching. Despite the widespread use of journals, Ducharme and Ducharme (1996) observed that </p><p>because teacher education researchers are increas-ingly using the journals of teacher education students in their scholarly work, we can con-clude that the student journals are helpful in their research, but the broader question of how they do or do not help or otherwise affect the prospective teachers remains to be answered, (p. 1039) </p><p>In other words, although student journals are frequently used as data sources in teacher educators' research, relatively little research has focused on the journals themselves or on their benefits for prospective teachers. </p><p>BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY </p><p>It is generally recognized that the demographic composition of our country is changing, with the number of minorities being projected to increase dramatically during the next half century (Pallas, Natriello, &amp; McDill, 1989). Yet, at the same time, the teaching force is expected to remain primarily White, monolingual, and female (Grant &amp; Secada, 1990; Zeichner, 1993). Across the country, teacher education programs are responding to these two trends by requiring prospective teachers to take one or more courses on multicultural education as a means of preparing them to work with an increasingly diverse student population. At my former university, I served as a teaching assistant in one such course, which also focused on special education issues (see Trent &amp; Artiles, this issue). </p><p>My decision to implement dialogue journals in my lab section of the course grew out of my dissertation research, for which I investigated the impact of the course on students' knowledge and attitudes (Garmon, 1996). I wanted to deter-</p><p>mine whether or not students' entering racial attitudes medi-ated what they learned from the course. Specifically, I wanted to know whether students who began the course with more favorable racial attitudes responded to the course differently from students who began with less favorable racial attitudes. I also wanted to find out whether or not students' racial atti-tudes appeared to be changed by the course. At the beginning of the semester and again at the end of the semester I admin-istered a survey to all 200 students in the eight different lab sections of the course. In addition, 31 students volun-teered to be interviewed. From these 31 volunteers, I identi-fied the 7 with the most favorable racial attitudes and the 7 with the least favorable attitudes. I then interviewed these 14 students every 2-3 weeks throughout the semester. During these interviews I asked them about their perceptions of the course and about what they were learning. At one point in the final interview, I asked students whether or not they believed that their conversations with me had had any impact on their racial attitudes and beliefs. Of the 14 students I had interviewed regularly, 13 reported that the interviews had been very valuable to them. </p><p>In fact, these 13 students seemed to feel strongly that they had gotten more out of the course because of the inter-views. According to them, the primary benefit of the interviews was that they had pushed them to think more deeply about the course material and about their own beliefs. For example, one student said, "Well, it probably helped in thinking about [issues] more, 'cause I 've had to think about answers I've given or why I think that way," and another student told me, "Just through talking to you, you made me realize a lot of things about myself that I probably wouldn't have realized unless I would have talked to you." </p><p>As I analyzed these interview data, I began to wonder whether there was a way I could bring the benefits of being interviewed to a larger group of students. I realized that attempting to interview every enrolled student at 2-3 week intervals throughout the semester would be unrealistic, if not impossible. However, having had some past successful expe-riences using journals during my high school teaching, I decided to experiment with dialogue journals, believing that through their use students could potentially derive some of the same benefits that seemed to accrue from being inter-viewed. After discussing the idea with the lead professor of the course, I implemented dialogue journals on an experimen-tal basis in my section of the course during the fall semester of the following year. </p><p>Of major interest to me was how the written dialogue might influence students' thinking about race. Although the course dealt with a broad range of diversity issues, including issues of individuals with special needs, I limited my analysis to issues of race. I contend that this limited focus is germane for educators of prospective special and general education teachers because of the purported overrepresentation of minority students in special education programs. For example, Mclntyre and Pernell (1985) argued that White teachers' expectations of Black male students are a primary reason that </p><p>R E M E D I A L A N D S P E C I A L E D U C A T I O N </p><p>Volume 19, Number 1, January/February 1998 </p><p> at Virginia Tech on August 26, 2014rse.sagepub.comDownloaded from </p><p></p></li><li><p>Black male students are disproportionately referred for spe-cial education placement. The authors asserted that these teachers' professional preparation failed to prepare them "to value, understand, accept, and adequately teach students who do not typify the majority culture" (p. 66). More recently, Artiles and Trent (1994), in proposing solutions for the overrepresentation of minorities in special education classes, echoed the call for more attention to multicultural education in the professional preparation of special education teachers as a means of increasing their cultural sensitivity and their ability to work effectively with learners of different racial backgrounds. </p><p>THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR USING DIALOGUE JOURNALS </p><p>My use of dialogue journals as a tool for promoting student learning in a multicultural education course is grounded in constructivist learning theory (Brooks &amp; Brooks, 1993; Kroll &amp; Black, 1993; von Glaserfeld, 1987) and in Vygotsky's (1978) sociocultural perspective. In constructivist learning theory, learning is construed as an active process of con-structing meaning rather than a passive process of absorbing information. In other words, meanings are not put into learn-ers; rather, learners construct their own meanings in response to new information and experiences. Because doing reflective writing can provide students with the opportunity to grapple with the ideas being presented to them in a class, to make connections to their personal experiences and beliefs, and then to construct their own understandings (meanings), it can serve not only to promote students' learning but also to enhance their self-knowledge and self-understanding (Emig, 1977; Fulwiler, 1997; Kelly, 1995; Mayher, Lester, &amp; Pradl, 1983; McMahon, 1997; Staton, 1987). However, it should be emphasized that students' learning and growth from writing are not automatic, as Hoover (1994) observed: "While research and theory concerning language conceptually sup-port writing as a means of promoting higher level thinking, written reflection does not necessarily lead to more analyti-cal thought about the process of teaching and learning . . . " (pp. 90-91). </p><p>From her research, Hoover concluded that written reflec-tion is most effective for prospective teachers when it is given appropriate direction or focus. She expressly recommended the use of dialogue journals as a means of challenging pros-pective teachers to think more critically. Similarly, Schmidt and Davison (1983), although not recommending the use of dialogue journals specifically, argued that teachers could use journals to push their students to higher levels of cogni-tive development "by virtue of the challenges provided via the instructor's written comments" (p. 566). This notion of teachers' pushing students' thinking through appropriately challenging their ideas seems consistent with Vygotsky's conception of the zone of proximal development, which may </p><p>be defined as the area in which a learner can accomplish a particular task if given appropriate support (Tudge, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978). Vygotsky believed that the learner is led by a more knowledgeable other beyond where he or she is able to function without help. The more knowledgeable other facili-tates the learner's growth by identifying the learner's current level of functioning and then providing appropriate guidance and support to help move him or her along toward higher levels of knowledge and understanding. Additionally, Shor and Freire (1987) have argued that dialogue between teacher and student is central to good teaching. They have asserted that "dialogue is the sealing together of the teacher and the students in the joint act of knowing and re-knowing the object of study. Then, instead of transferring the knowledge stati-cally, as a fixed possession of the teacher, dialogue demands a dynamic approximation towards the object" (p. 14). </p><p>Dialogue journals enable teachers to engage in an indi-vidual dialogue with each student and, therefore, serve as a means whereby teachers can assist the student in developing greater understanding and in moving to higher levels of men-tal functioning. Thus, the idea of promoting dialogue between teacher and student is congruent with Vygotsky's views on the role of language and social interaction in learning (Gallimore &amp; Tharp, 1990; Gavelek, 1986; Vygotsky, 1978). In addition to this theoretical basis for the use of dialogue journals as a means of facilitating student learning, some research (Garmon, 1997; Holten &amp; Brinton, 1995; Staton, 1988; Staton &amp; Peyton, 1988; Zulich, Bean, &amp; Herrick, 1992) suggests that, in actual use, they have proved to be an excellent tool for helping teachers both to identify the level at which their students are functioning and to provide the appropriate support to promote their continued learning. The purpose of this study was to take a close look at the process of using dialogue journals to promote student learning. Specifically, the research question guiding the study was, How can the dialogue journal be used to promote students' learning about racial issues in a multi-cultural teacher education course? </p><p>METHOD </p><p>Data Collection The context for this study was the multicultural education course described by Trent and Artiles (this issue). During the semester of this study, I introduced the dialogue journal require-ment during the first class session. I told students that the journals would be used for reflecting on what they were learning in the course and for expressing their personal reac-tions to the lectures and class activities. I also stressed that the journal was to be a vehicle for engaging in a dialogue with me on the issues being studied. Toward this end, I told students that I would respond to questions they asked me in their journals, and they would be expected to respond to mine. Initially, students were required to submit two journal entries each week, one on Tuesday and one on Friday. However, </p><p>R E M E D I A L A N D S P E C I A L E D U C A T I O N </p><p>Volume 19, Number 1, January/February 1998 </p><p> at Virginia Tech on August 26, 2014rse.sagepub.comDownloaded from </p><p></p></li><li><p>after the 6th week, because I was finding it difficult to respond to all of the journals at the level...</p></li></ul>