‘‘I Don't Feel Comfortable Reading Those Books in my Classroom’’: A Qualitative Study of the Impact of Cultural and Political Vignettes in a Teacher Education Course

Sep. 01, 2011

Source: The Teacher Educator, 46(4):274–298, 2011
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current paper reports on a qualitative study of the impact of a pedagogical practice called cultural and political vignettes (CPVs) on graduate students enrolled in a teacher education course.

What are CPVs?

CPVs are cultural and political ‘‘situations’’ that are presented to preservice and inservice teachers, so that they can practice first-hand the decision-making skills that they will use in the diverse classrooms of New York City public schools.

The CPVS first presented in a written format and later in the form of situated performances. CPVs deal with sensitive cultural and political issues, such as race, class, gender, ethnicity, school politics, etc.
CPVs are designed to get teachers to reflect upon their values, ideologies, biases and educational philosophies.

The research design of this study was qualitative and included written reflections from the students at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester.
Additional procedures included videotaping the situated performances as they were being conducted in class and the class discussions that followed. Ethnographic observations were made in the form of observational notes, and interviews with the participants.

The participants were 17 students enrolled to the course called Teaching Content in Multilingual Classrooms in the fall 2007 semester.
All the participants were female elementary-school teachers.


Several common themes emerged from the findings.

Teachers’ Increased Awareness
The first theme to clearly emerge from the data was labeled Teachers’ Increased Awareness.
This theme included several sub-themes.

The first sub-theme about which teachers reported increasing their awareness concerned the ways in which students are actually affected by culturally and politically sensitive issues in the classroom.

Another sub-theme related to increased awareness had to do with teachers’ increasing their knowledge about the complex relationships between culture and identity and how their own cultures come into play in the classroom, including stereotypes that others (parents, colleagues, administrators) may have about them.
Many of the participants expressed an increased awareness of the need for teachers to think more carefully before reacting to culturally and politically sensitive situations in their classrooms and school communities.

Teachers’ Fears and Concerns
A second theme that emerged common to the interview responses of the 17 participants, was labeled Teachers’ Fears and Concerns.
This theme was related to teachers’ fears and concerns about both the research study itself and repercussions against untenured teachers by administrators, parents, and colleagues for addressing/discussing culturally and politically sensitive issues with students.
Two concerns that the participants expressed that related to the study itself involved responding to the CPVs in particular ways because they did not know how the researcher and other participants would perceive them and expressing their opinions about the CPVs when they knew their views went against those of the majority.

Teachers’ Perceived Benefits of CPVs
The third and fourth themes to emerge from the data related to the teachers’ perceived benefits of engaging in the CPV activities.

Teachers’ Perceived Drawbacks/Limitations of CPVs
In addition, there were also several drawbacks that were identified by the participants.
They were labeled Teachers’ Perceived Drawbacks/Limitations of engaging in the CPV activities.

How Interactions With CPVs Influenced Participants’ Decision Making

In their exit interviews, 12 of the 17 participants were able to provide concrete, specific examples of how working with the CPVs influenced their decision-making processes in their classrooms and school communities.

The author concludes that the preliminary findings of this qualitative inquiry indicate that responding to, creating, exchanging, and engaging in situated performances of CPVs provide teachers with occasions to practice their written, verbal, and nonverbal communication skills in a supportive classroom environment where they can discuss cultural and political issues that are rarely addressed in teacher preparation courses.

Updated: Oct. 16, 2013