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Action in Teacher EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/uate20
Using Multicultural Children's Literatureto Address Sociocultural and PoliticalIssues in Teacher EducationPhyllis Metcalf-Turner Ph.D. a & J. Lea Smith Ph.D. aa University of Louisville , USAPublished online: 06 Jan 2012.
To cite this article: Phyllis Metcalf-Turner Ph.D. & J. Lea Smith Ph.D. (1998) Using MulticulturalChildren's Literature to Address Sociocultural and Political Issues in Teacher Education, Action inTeacher Education, 20:1, 70-87, DOI: 10.1080/01626620.1998.10462907
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01626620.1998.10462907
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Using Multicultural Children's Literature To Address Sociocultural and Political Issues in Teacher Education
Phyllis Metcalf-Turner, Ph.D. University of Louisville
J . L.ea Smith, Ph.D. University of Lousville
Stories used for discussion and analysis in teacher education courses are known as teaching cases, and the pedagogical practice that employs teaching cases in teacher education is known as case method instruction. The use of story in teacher education has emerged as an effective strategy to help teachers understand the dimensions of their role in the classroom. This process of reading, listening, questioning, and responding to a story about instructional practice can create the foundation for initiating social action in a classroom setting. The primary objective of this study was to examine the viability of using multicultural children's literature as teaching cases with K-12 teachers to support their efforts to construct a knowledge base for working effectively with children from diverse cultural, linguistic, andlor socioeconomic backgrounds.
With the demographic shifts of the past decade, the character of public school classrooms everywhere has changed significantly (Barry, 1990). Our classrooms are becoming a rich tapestry, interwoven with people from diverse cultural, ethnic and linguistic backgrounds who make-up America. The history of this nation tells us that we can trace as far back as the Native Americans who lived here first (Tiedt & Tiedt, 1990, p. 2). Later, European groups arrived from France, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain seeking freedom from religious and political persecution as well as prosperity. In more recent times, there has been a steady increase of people from China, Japan, and Latin America coming to the United States. By the end of this century, given current rates of birth and immigration, the Hispanic and Asian populations will have grown by 20 percent, the African American population by about 12 percent, and the European American by 2 percent. Projections for the year 2000, indicate that nonwhite groups will comprise one-third of all students enrolled in public schools (Hodgkinson, 1985) and by 2020, they will make-up 46 percent of the school population (Cushner, McClelland, & Safford, 1992).
The teaching force in public schools is predominantly European American and will continue to be for some time to come (Grant and Secada, 1990; 1990). Howey and Zimpher's 1989 study (in Mussington, et al, 1995) of the RATE (Research About Teacher Education) suggests a preservice teacher profile that underscores this point. The demographic profile of teacher education depicted in this research showed that traditionally, 3 out of 4 (75%) preservice students were female. This figure has increased to 93 percent more recently . The ethnic distribution of these students across all strata was 93 percent White, 3.7 percent Black, 2.2 percent Hispanic, less than one percent Asian or Pacific Islander, and less than one percent American Indian or Alaskan Native (p. 27).
The result is that the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of children in schools today are vastly dissimilar to those who teach them. The values and characteristics unique to each sociocultural
group often are unfamiliar (Goodlad, 1990). This limited perspective may lead a teacher to evaluate students using their own cultural experience as the norm which could be erroneous and useless as well as destructive (Hinchey, 1994; Purcell-Gates, 1995).
If our education system is to fulfill its obligation to teach all children and to do so effectively then teacher education programs will need to move beyond viewing multicultural education primarily as curriculum reform, which includes content about ethnic groups, women, and other cultural groups (Banks, 1993). But rather to provide teachers with extensive opportunities to examine sociocultural perspectives in order to consider, accept, and understand students unlike themselves (Liston & Zeichner, 1991). This construction of knowledge and perspectives is a long term process, which centers on personal re-education and transformation (Nieto, 1996).
Eacher educat ion programs
Schools of education, although aware of the changing demographics in public schools have done little to meet the challenges, which are natural to a diverse student population. Grant (1994) suggests that todays national social, educational, economical, and political crises are a direct result of the failure of teacher education programs to deal with the complexity of difference in todays classroom.
Yet, a review of literature in the field of multicultural education indicates that there is a debate even among proponents regarding the concept of diversity itself (Gay, 1994). The literature pertaining to equity acknowledges and suggests the need for different emphases in multicultural education. That is, multicultural education is not merely a matter of meeting cultural and language differences (Ogbu, 1992) though these differences are important (Diaz, Moll, & Mehan, 1986; McDermott & Goldman, 1983). Indeed, this focus has spawned quantities of curricular materials, much of which have trivialized culture (Erickson, 1989) and, worst yet, have led to the formation of harmful stereo- types (Cazden & Mehan, 1989; McDiarmid, 1992). Still, other researchers argue for broadening teachers content knowledge, especially their understanding of the historical relationships among different groups in our society (McDiarmid, 1992), particularly the involuntary minorities, (Ogbu, 1992), such as African-Americans, Native Americans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans -- the very groups that have traditionally not done well in school.
Purpose of the st udv .
The purpose of this study was to examine the use of multicultural childrens literature texts as teaching cases with K-12 teachers in a graduate education program. Our thinking was that by reading and reflecting on carefully chosen literature texts, which depict authentic perspectives about different cultures, our students (teachers) might be able to gain an awareness of their own attitudes and belief systems as lenses through which new concepts and applied knowledge could be acquired. Specifically, it sought to consider the use of childrens literature to construct sociocultural perspectives. The questions guiding this study were:
1. Does reading multicultural childrens literature create cognitive dissonance wherein teachers gain awareness of their own biased attitudes and tacit beliefs about diversity?
2. When the literary content does not match the teachers belief system, what, if any, attitudinal change may occur?
3. What strategies may involve teachers in constructing an awareness