Term of Award

Summer 2005

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 1

Michael McKenna

Committee Member 2

Dee Russell

Committee Member 3

William Reynolds

Committee Member 4

John Weaver

Abstract

The study explored possibilities for change in the Early Childhood Teacher Education Program in the John H. Lounsbury School of Education at Georgia College & State University (GC&SU). Concern for the lack of diversity in the teaching population increased when the demographics for preservice teachers were examined. Reports by Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Danne Davis, and Kim Fries (2004) show that there is an overwhelming presence of whiteness in teacher education. These data show that, depending upon the institution and location, 80-93% of the students enrolled in collegiate education programs are white (Cochran-Smith, Davis, & Fries, 2004). These phenomena are represented in the enrollment of the teacher education programs at GC&SU. For this reason the study addressed issues of diversity that have implications for teacher education programs not only locally but also nationally. Nationwide, teacher education is faced with the growing challenge of not only recruiting a more diverse population of perservice teachers but also, more immediately, preparing predominately white teachers who not only understand culturally responsive pedagogy but also are well prepared to implement effective teaching strategies for children who are different from themselves. The theoretical framework for this study has two distinct strands. The first is culturally responsive teaching as it has been theorized in the work of Geneva Gay (2000). 2 The second strand is Martha Nussbaum's (1997) theory of narrative imagination, which is supported by Maxine Greene's (1995b, 1978) notion of cultivating the literary imagination to improve judgment and enhance sensitivity. This framework represents one way to explore programmatic changes that can assist in the preparation of preservice teachers who respond to the diversity found in classrooms by implementing teaching practices that are culturally responsive to the students. The study was conducted using the cross-cultural narrative method of inquiry (He, 2003). The participants included four white, middle class females who were enrolled in the senior cohort of the Early Childhood Teacher Education Program at GC&SU. Data collection methods included the school portraiture, participant profiles, autobiographies that explored the cultural roots of the participants, critical writings completed by participants, and participant interviews. Data was analyzed to determine existing stereotypes; to assess the participants' awareness of group dominance, stereotypes, racism, and/or oppression; to ascertain whether or not the experiences of the study influenced change in the personal, cultural and/or racial attitudes and beliefs of participants who will become more culturally responsive in their teaching practices. Diversity is not a choice but a way of life. Using multicultural literature to develop empathy and compassion towards others is only the first, perhaps a most appropriate, step to prepare culturally responsive teachers in an increasingly diversified society. Although my study focuses on the White middle class female population of the teaching force in predominant White and rural areas in the United States, I believe that it has implications for enhancing mutual respect and understanding, cultivating empathy and compassion, and developing culturally responsive pedagogy for all children to reach their highest potential.

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