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Socially Critical Action Research for Promoting Learning About Social Justice
Unformatted Document Text:  Section I: ContentA. Statement of the Issue As a first year doctoral student in teacher education at a Research I institution, I was awarded a graduate assistantship and was assigned to teach a new course in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction entitled “Inclusion, Diversity and Professionalism in Secondary Teaching”. The course was created by the chair the summer before in anticipation of the professional accreditation review by NCATE and the State Department of Education the following year. EDCI 488B was created to illustrate explicitly to the accreditation associations that the university was fulfilling a particular piece of the accreditation criteria; addressing the issues of inclusion, diversity and professionalism in the preparation of secondary teachers. The research priorities of full-time faculty in major research institutions often translate into more responsibility on the part of graduate students as teachers of undergraduates (Boyer, 1991). Like many graduate students, I was assigned to teach undergraduate students in the College of Education with little formal preparation and supervision as I crossed into the domain of college teaching. According to the research literature and supported by my own experiences, graduate student teachers are often inadequately prepared for and unsupervised in undergraduate instruction (Darling & Dewey, 1990; Gaia, Corts, Tatum, & Allen, 2003; Nyquist, Austin, Sprague, & Wulff, 2001). Often times the training they receive is limited to a day or less at the beginning of the semester and centers on university policies and procedures (Shannon, Twale, & Moore, 1998). Another contributing factor to the inadequate training of graduate student teachers is that the culture of many graduate education programs preference the development of research competencies over teaching (Atwell, 1996; Golde & Dore, 2001; Nyquist et al., 1999). In reviewing the literature it seems that, despite considerable attention in the last decade to the training of graduate students as teachers in a variety of disciplines in undergraduate education like communications, foreign language, and physical education (Applegate, 2002; Byrnes, 2001; Gaia, Corts, Tatum, & Allen, 2003; Goodlad, 1997; Hendrix, 1995), there has been little consideration of the preparation of graduate students as teacher educators teaching preservice K-12 teachers. My own experiences as a high school history teacher illustrated to me first hand the urgency for teacher education centered on issues of diversity and social justice. Working alongside teachers seemingly ignorant of the ways in which their relationships (or lack there of) with students reproduced societal inequalities in their classrooms was a driving force for my return to graduate school. My commitments had since been reinforced by the research literature and educational statistics that further illustrate the inadequate preparation of teachers in teacher education programs as an integral part of the problem behind the poor education and low achievement of students of color in this country (Banks, 2004; Gay, 2004; Ladson-Billings, 2004). In addition, my experiences in a graduate Education program that, like many others across the nation, relies on graduate students to teach undergraduate courses with little supervision and preparation troubled me, particularly with regards to those courses designed to prepare preservice teachers for issues of diversity in classrooms. It seemed to me that before the preparation of preservice teachers for work in diverse classrooms could be tackled, the preparation of teacher educators for teaching about issues of diversity needed to be considered. Given my particular context and it’s double edged nature, myself a new doctoral student/teacher educator with little formal preparation for teaching for diversity and social justice in an era where educational inequality based on race and class is ubiquitous, engaging in teacher research is a valuable endeavor for 1) the development of my own professional practice and learning, 2) as a tool for me to investigate the ways in which my practice promotes (or fails to promote) learning about social justice among my preservice teacher-students and 3) as a means to inform reform of the university’s undergraduate secondary education program in terms of addressing diversity issues.B. Literature review The changing demographics of America’s schools combined with the static demographics of its teaching population and the disproportionate achievement levels of students of color as compared to their white counterparts have contributed to a growing consensus among educational scholars that the training and preparation of teachers for teaching diverse groups of students is critical (Cochran-Smith, Davis, & Fries, 2004). As a new doctoral student/ graduate assistant charged with teaching preservice teachers 1

Authors: Ringo, Saroja.
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Section I: Content
A. Statement of the Issue
As a first year doctoral student in teacher education at a Research I institution, I was awarded a
graduate assistantship and was assigned to teach a new course in the Department of Curriculum and
Instruction entitled “Inclusion, Diversity and Professionalism in Secondary Teaching”. The course was
created by the chair the summer before in anticipation of the professional accreditation review by NCATE
and the State Department of Education the following year. EDCI 488B was created to illustrate explicitly
to the accreditation associations that the university was fulfilling a particular piece of the accreditation
criteria; addressing the issues of inclusion, diversity and professionalism in the preparation of secondary
teachers.
The research priorities of full-time faculty in major research institutions often translate into more
responsibility on the part of graduate students as teachers of undergraduates (Boyer, 1991). Like many
graduate students, I was assigned to teach undergraduate students in the College of Education with little
formal preparation and supervision as I crossed into the domain of college teaching. According to the
research literature and supported by my own experiences, graduate student teachers are often
inadequately prepared for and unsupervised in undergraduate instruction (Darling & Dewey, 1990; Gaia,
Corts, Tatum, & Allen, 2003; Nyquist, Austin, Sprague, & Wulff, 2001). Often times the training they
receive is limited to a day or less at the beginning of the semester and centers on university policies and
procedures (Shannon, Twale, & Moore, 1998). Another contributing factor to the inadequate training of
graduate student teachers is that the culture of many graduate education programs preference the
development of research competencies over teaching (Atwell, 1996; Golde & Dore, 2001; Nyquist et al.,
1999).
In reviewing the literature it seems that, despite considerable attention in the last decade to the
training of graduate students as teachers in a variety of disciplines in undergraduate education like
communications, foreign language, and physical education (Applegate, 2002; Byrnes, 2001; Gaia, Corts,
Tatum, & Allen, 2003; Goodlad, 1997; Hendrix, 1995), there has been little consideration of the
preparation of graduate students as teacher educators teaching preservice K-12 teachers. My own
experiences as a high school history teacher illustrated to me first hand the urgency for teacher education
centered on issues of diversity and social justice. Working alongside teachers seemingly ignorant of the
ways in which their relationships (or lack there of) with students reproduced societal inequalities in their
classrooms was a driving force for my return to graduate school. My commitments had since been
reinforced by the research literature and educational statistics that further illustrate the inadequate
preparation of teachers in teacher education programs as an integral part of the problem behind the poor
education and low achievement of students of color in this country (Banks, 2004; Gay, 2004; Ladson-
Billings, 2004). In addition, my experiences in a graduate Education program that, like many others
across the nation, relies on graduate students to teach undergraduate courses with little supervision and
preparation troubled me, particularly with regards to those courses designed to prepare preservice
teachers for issues of diversity in classrooms. It seemed to me that before the preparation of preservice
teachers for work in diverse classrooms could be tackled, the preparation of teacher educators for
teaching about issues of diversity needed to be considered.
Given my particular context and it’s double edged nature, myself a new doctoral student/teacher
educator with little formal preparation for teaching for diversity and social justice in an era where
educational inequality based on race and class is ubiquitous, engaging in teacher research is a valuable
endeavor for 1) the development of my own professional practice and learning, 2) as a tool for me to
investigate the ways in which my practice promotes (or fails to promote) learning about social justice
among my preservice teacher-students and 3) as a means to inform reform of the university’s
undergraduate secondary education program in terms of addressing diversity issues.
B. Literature review
The changing demographics of America’s schools combined with the static demographics of its
teaching population and the disproportionate achievement levels of students of color as compared to their
white counterparts have contributed to a growing consensus among educational scholars that the training
and preparation of teachers for teaching diverse groups of students is critical (Cochran-Smith, Davis, &
Fries, 2004). As a new doctoral student/ graduate assistant charged with teaching preservice teachers
1


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