EDUC 7620, Learning Community of Practice
Course Instructors: Phyllis Balcerzak, Theresa Coble, Thomasina Hassler, Carl Hoagland, Timothy Makubuya, Keith Miller
Course Meeting Times: Tuesdays, 9-10:15 AM Central or Wednesdays 5-6:15 PM Central via Collaborate
Optional Collaborate Discussion Sessions for Integrated Research Block (EDUC 7220, 7210, 7230, 7225):
Tuesdays, 10:30-noon Central or Wednesdays 6:30-8:00 PM Central via Collaborate
Collaborate Room Link: Heritage Leadership Ed.D. Collaborate Room
Participant Dial In: (571) 392-7703, PIN 554854330101
UMSL MyGateway: https://mygateway.umsl.edu
Zotero Sign-in: http://zotero.org
Thoughts about topics, readings, etc. – Spring 2017
March 14, 2017 at 9:21 pm #1402
Thoughts about topics, readings, etc. – Spring 2017
March 14, 2017 at 10:19 pm #1403
A Developmental Science Approach to Reducing Prejudice and Social Exclusion: Intergroup Processes, Social-Cognitive Development, and Moral Reasoning
This articles is personal to me because it relates to my areas of interest for research and academic teaching. As I was reading it, I was able to reflect on how this article also relates to the work that I do now as a school leader, and it made me dig deeper into thinking about my role as a challenger of prejudice and discriminatory feelings and thoughts. The authors mention that prejudice and discrimination is something that is formed within us as children and that it becomes more difficult (though not impossible) to change the ways in which we view others in society. It is obvious that social structures and cultural norms play a role in the ways in which children begin to manifest potential prejudicial ways of thinking. I believe that, as an educator, it is my duty to ensure that children grow up to be open-mined embracers of differences. In order to accomplish this, however, we must reach kids at extremely early ages.
Rutland and Killen mention that “young children apply basic fairness and equality norms regarding issues that arise in their small group interactions as they become toddlers and pre-school aged” (p. 124). How often do we hear children say, “That’s not fair! They have more than me…”? The authors discuss how children, without knowing the theory behind it, develop prejudicial or discriminatory thoughts and feelings that affect their intergroup dynamics which leads to social exclusion. This can certainly be psychologically detrimental to a child’s “growing up process.” How do we (as educators), though, help to shift children’s way of thinking? More specifically, this has me thinking about how we do this without being culturally insensitive.
The reason I bring this up is because where I work now, gender plays a big part in our day-to-day function. Men and boys are seen as superior and women and girls are viewed as “less than.” It has been an odd structure for me to become accustomed to, but unfortunately I have often been in situations where I have had to keep myself quiet when I disagree with something (relating to gender) simply because I am told that “this is just the way it is around here; it’s part of the culture.” One specific example that comes to mind has to do with my hiring of a male teacher to teach first grade. Some of our administrative leaders went bananas when this happened because they did not believe that a man should be teaching anyone in grade kindergarten through second grade. This is despite having female teaching assistants in each classroom. It was not until they had seen the teacher in action that they began seeing his effectiveness. From the get-go, too, even students reacted the way teachers did, and it made me quite sad.
Another example that comes to mind is when I spoke to a parent about his son needing tutoring in English so that he would be able to excel and eventually take the appropriate IGCSE British examinations. The father’s response to me was, “Yes absolutely! Do whatever you need to do to make sure he succeeds. It is very important, especially because he is a boy! If he was a girl, it would not matter to me as much.”
The last example that I think about is when I hear teachers say something along the lines of, “Oh, you know those African kids. They’re always so naughty and don’t want to learn anything. They’re just so lazy!” This is something that I have often heard in my own community in the States about black and brown children and their families. This especially hits home because teachers sometimes labeled me as the lazy child, but most of the time I had issues understanding topics (because of my English skills, especially in lower elementary years).
Rutland and Killen emphasize on the idea of social exclusion. They mention that “exclusion occurs at many levels, from dyadic to group, from interpersonal to intergroup, and reflects different types of reflections and goals” (p. 125). They go on to say that there are various levels of exclusion which can occur based upon varying personality traits, poor social relationships, and many other reasons. I would add to this that social exclusion also occurs based off of the cultural norms that one is brought up practicing and believing. A lot of my students and teachers suffer from social exclusion because of the ways in which they grow up thinking. Again, this brings me back to the question of, “How can I help shift the ways of thinking of my students while also being culturally sensitive to their values and norms (even when I disagree with them)?” I pride myself in being culturally sensitive and responsive to varying needs, and I often hit a wall when I come across a situation that is socially and culturally acceptable for others but certainly not for me.
I think that the interventions that Rutland and Killen present toward the end of their article are essential to shifting mindsets of prejudice and discrimination. From early years, students can do this through role-playing and as they grow teachers should be intentional in the ways that they group students to the honest conversations that need to be had in classes. Further, ensuing the celebration of diversity helps to also combat prejudicial ways of thinking. As mentioned in the text, “This body of research demonstrates that intergroup contact interventions within the schools can be important in promoting moral reasoning about social exclusion which is known to result in positive attitudes toward different groups” (p. 134).
I would like to explore more, however, how teachers of diverse groups do these things while also keeping in mind the values, traditions, and morals of the students and families they work with. What happens when families don’t think in the same fashion that we do? How do we challenge prejudicial ways of thinking in schools when this is the way “we do things” at home?
March 19, 2017 at 10:12 pm #1405
Towards reflexive ethnicity: Museums as sites of intercultural encounter
UNESCO’s comment regarding the role that education plays on the development of social cohesion and interactions was spot on. They mention that “in a world experiencing rapid change, and where cultural, political, economic and social upheaval challenges traditional ways of life, education has a major role to play in promoting social cohesion and peaceful coexistence” (UNESCO, 2006, p. 8). Often as educators, we find it difficult to be fully responsive to the diverse populations that make up our classrooms, schools, or sites. In other words, while we are often well-intentioned and want to ensure that we promote social justice, it often becomes difficult for us to allow time for honest learning and conversations about diversity and social issues playing a role in our communities today, especially when we are bombarded with things like teaching kids a kazillion things to prepare them for a standardized test to analyzing a ton of data to drive instruction. In the non-profit world, there could be other priorities taking the place of these conversations that most definitely should be had.
It is obvious that simply learning about social justice does not have the same impact as being immersed first-hand in issues of social justice. Walton, et al., mention that traditional pedagogical approaches just are not enough to truly get into the nitty gritty of issues surrounding race, ethnicity, and diversity as whole. Therefore it is essential to think outside of the box, especially through using arts (in particular museums) to develop experiences for people where they are able to make intercultural connections (physical and emotional, with people and with things). When coaching teachers, I often emphasize the importance of there always being some sort of “performance task” that accompanies a unit being taught. The reason for this is for students to be able to make the real-world connections to what it is that they are learning. Memorizing facts, watching a video, and writing about it just is not simply enough. Children should be able to see, feel, smell, touch what it is that they are learning about. This way of thinking, I believe, is essential to the discussions of race, privilege, ethnicity, and diversity as a whole. We often hear stories of privilege or discrimination and are often intently listening to the narratives of people who are different than us, but what kind of emotional impact does this leave us with?
Walton, et al., discuss how museums could play a role in facilitating conversations around race and ethnicity. As opposed to reading about topics in a text, the authors mention that interacting in museums “provide an opportunity to interact with people’s stories as if they were talking to or listening to a particular person rather than just ‘learning’ about someone perceived as fundamentally ‘different’ to them,” (Walton, et al., 2016, p. 878). This makes me think about instances where I have taught a lesson that I feel is extremely important and simply stop there. How much more powerful would my lesson be if I had provided students an opportunity to be able to see/hear first-hand accounts from people experiencing something we learned in class.
In the article, the authors shared students’ reflections about their experiences in museums where they were exposed to issues on ethnicity and learning about experiences of people whom they might consider to be “the other.” Walton, et al., mention that “students explained that they could relate to the stories in the exhibition because they could either recognize their own experiences reflected in the other person’s story, because it reminded them of previous experiences of other people they know or because it challenged a previous assumption they had about people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds and caused them to reflect on their own sense of self,” (2016, p. 883). This is the power behind using museums as institutions for the teaching of social justice issues (among so many other things).
Over the last few months, as I have participated in this cohort, I have been trying to figure out how formal and informal educators can work together to help protect and preserve the cultural heritage of racial and ethnic minority students. I feel like this article speaks about one way in which a collaborative partnership can be formed between formal K-12 educators and informal educators at museum sites. How much more powerful would learning be if we could provide students with first-hand experiences and open spaces for safe dialogue about critical issues affecting them, their peers, and societies in which they may or may not be exposed to? This, to me, is a critical opportunity for building culturally responsive and competent young people who can grow to continue changing the world for the better.
April 12, 2017 at 5:56 am #1423
Thoughts on Dawson text- “Not Designed for Us”: How Science Museums and Science Centers Socially Exclude Low-Income, Minority Ethnic Groups
This text was really important to me because it pushed me to reflect on my and my family’s participation in informal science education (ISE) growing up. I was raised in what most people would consider “the projects” – low income housing made up of almost 100% people of color (primarily Latinos and African Americans). I did not have much opportunity to visit informal science learning centers (museums, parks, etc.) because of a number of reasons. First, my mother worked as a house keeper from 5:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. every single day. She did not have the opportunity to take me to things that would enhance my learning. On top of this, my mother grew up in a poor, rural town in Nicaragua and only received a 1st grade education, thus making her illiterate in Spanish and English. This also played a huge part in why I would be unable to attend informal learning spaces. Lastly, we did not own a car. We could not afford one, so travelling from one place to another (unless by bus – which growing up was not the most convenient or reliable form of transportation) was extremely difficult. (Especially when there were not many bus routes from my “hood”). Obviously, from this story, one could probably gather that I was born into an inequitable environment which affected the ways that I learned and interacted with sciences and overall informal learning environments. When it comes to thinking about Informal Science Education, Dawson mentions that “Research on ISE has typically focused on the benefits experienced by existing participants. This is problematic how- ever since descriptive data from the United Kingdom, United States, and international surveys suggest that, at present, ISE institutions are not inclusive spaces. Visitors to ISE institutions come from more affluent, middle-class backgrounds, from ethnically dominant backgrounds (such as White European backgrounds in the case of the United Kingdom), live in urban areas, and visit as part of a school or family group” (2014, p. 982). After reading this article, I realized that I was far from being one of those ISE center visitors. My school, too, did not always provide us with these opportunities as it was low-income (and often required us to pay for trips ourselves).
From the four community groups that Dawson worked with to conduct his research, “participants’ prior attitudes toward ISE ranged from disinterest, to anxiety, to confusion and rejection. In terms of their behaviors and practices, few participants had visited an ISE institution before and such visits were infrequent. In every group, participants knew little about ISE institutions—where they were, what they were for, or that in London many were free to enter” (2014, p. 989). I relate to this because I don’t often remember hearing about ISE institutions that were readily available (especially for people like me, from a community like mine). Further, I would have never guessed that there would be places for FREE. If my family and I had known this, I feel like there could have been a slightly different outcome when it came to my lack of participation in informal learning environments. While there were other issues that prevented me from doing this, I am confident that my mother could have worked something out with other parents, my school, etc. to afford me the opportunity to participated in informal science educational settings.
As a Heritage Leader, I feel like there needs to be some sort of way to close this gap that we have read about in this article. There not only needs to be a way of physically getting these populations to science centers, but there needs to be a way of allowing students to connect with science centers that cater to people who are unlike them. This leads me to a question that I posed while we were in St. Louis this past January: How can informal and formal educators work together to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of young people? In this specific instance, though, I wonder how informal and formal educators could work together in a more purposeful manner to allow children (who don’t make up the demographics of the “frequent ISE visitors or experiencers”) the opportunity to participate in ISE? Dawson describes how participants from each of the groups studies were able to use their own background knowledge, language, and cultures to interpret and connect with ISE. He mentions that “participants from the Asian group recognized fish from Bangladesh, told stories about fishing as children in other countries, and shared fish recipes. Similarly, in the Latin American group, Ignacio told stories about scorpions in Colombia while looking at scorpion specimens and shared language skills with his daughters while looking at plant exhibits…” (2014, p. 998). Being able to allow visitors to connect to what they are experiencing is key to taking the idea of “teaching” to a more personal and meaningful level. Being able to allow for cross-cultural learning (and not having it seem like a bad thing) is important to reach new populations of ISE learners. When informal learning centers have a plan on how to truly engage its audience, then and only then are participants truly able to get a deep understanding of what is being discovered. I certainly would have wanted opportunities like these but know that as a Heritage Leader, I can make it happen for others like myself.
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