Developing Teacher Epistemological Sophistication About Multicultural Curriculum: A Case Study

Spring 2009

Source: Action in Teacher Education, v. 31 no. 1 (Spring 2009) p. 3-13.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Teachers are significant curriculum decision makers in their classrooms.
How does teachers' thinking about curriculum develop in the context of teacher education coursework?
And how might an analysis of a novice teacher's learning to think more complexly inform teacher education pedagogy?

This article presents a case study of a 2nd-year teacher who was in a graduate-level Multicultural Curriculum Design course, which was designed to develop the complexity with which teachers understand and plan curriculum.

Methodology for a Case Study

The student was a 2nd-year teacher who had moved to California from the East Coast about 2 years previously. A young White woman, she taught fifth grade in an elementary school that serves a diverse, largely low-income student population. She expressed interest in multicultural education, even though it was new to her.

Data for this study included
(1) several papers that the student completed during the course,

(2) a reflective journal

(3) classroom observation of the teacher, and

(4) a 40-minute tape-recorded interview with the student following the observations.

The data are analyzed using a rubric that differentiates novice, developing, and accomplished
teachers' thinking about multicultural curriculum.
The rubric includes four dimensions along which epistemological beliefs can be examined:
task definition, perspective taking, self-reflexivity, and locus of decision making.

Implications for Teacher Education

First, reflective discussions and writings, as embedded in teachers' classroom work, prompt thinking that can dislodge novice assumptions (Clayton, 2007; Krull et al., 2007).

Second, to facilitate development beyond novice thinking, it is essential to provide space
and support for uncertainty.

Third, teachers value opportunities to learn from peers in contexts of guided inquiry (e.g.,
Jennings & Smith, 2002).


This case study showed how one novice teacher began to question institutionalized assumptions in the context of a graduate course and how she began to think more complexly.
The case study reinforced for the author the importance of creating contexts in which teachers can examine their own backgrounds and beliefs, interact with one another, and interact with ideas that stretch them intellectually.

Clayton, C. D. (2007). Curriculum making as novice professional development: Practical risk taking as learning in high-stakes times. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(3), 216-230.

Jennings, L. B., & Smith, C. P. (2002). Examining the role of critical inquiry for transformative practices. Teachers College Record, 104(3), 456-481.

Krull, E., Oras, K., & Sisack, S. (2007). Differences in teachers' comments on classroom events as indicators of their professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(7), 1038-1050.

Updated: Nov. 18, 2009