International Field Experiences: The Impact of Class, Gender and Race on the Perceptions and Experiences of Preservice Teachers

Jan. 02, 2009

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 25, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 52-60
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors explore ways class, gender and race complicate perceptions and experiences of preservice teachers during an international field experience in Honduras.


The authors engaged in research with 39 preservice teachers who participated in the Honduras study abroad program, the majority of whom were elementary education majors at the end of their first year of college. Most had little experience in a country outside the U.S.; for some, this was the first time they had traveled outside their home state. Twenty-seven of the preservice teachers identified as female while the remaining 12 identified as male; all students identified as white, with the exception of one bi-racial white/Asian American female and one Latino American male. Eight preservice teachers identified as from a low income or working class background in assignments, course meetings, or interviews. Five students were fluent in Spanish, while another five preservice teachers had basic conversational Spanish speaking abilities. The remaining students learned to speak select Spanish phrases over the span of the program but otherwise had to rely upon translators or English speaking members of the host community in order to engage in linguistic exchanges. Preservice teachers were traditional college students who ranged in age from 18 to 21.

Data were collected over 5 years through observations, group discussions, course assignments, and on-site focus group interviews and post-trip individual interviews. An inductive approach combined with cross-comparative analysis reveal diverse ways class, gender and race shaped and re-shaped preservice teachers' perceptions of self, peers, and host community members. The authors conclude with a call for international cross-cultural experiences that encourage preservice teachers to critically examine their perspectives, positions in the host community, and learning during study abroad.

Updated: Jan. 05, 2009