Riding la Bestia: Preservice Teachers’ Responses to Documentary Counter- Stories of U.S. Immigration

December, 2016

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 76(5), 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study investigated the responses of preservice teachers to the acclaimed documentary "Which Way Home", a film that profiles unaccompanied adolescents who hitchhiked the train system of Central America and Mexico en route to the United States.

The participants were 82 preservice teachers enrolled in elementary and middle grades social studies methods courses at one mid-sized public university in the southeastern United States.

Data were collected through pre- and post-surveys and focus group interviews, conducted with 13 participants.

The findings illustrated the efficacy and limitations of using documentary counter-stories to accomplish two important aims simultaneously: promoting content knowledge of an important social issue and challenging negative stereotypes through counter-stories.

The findings reveal that participants’ self-reported shift in being informed about immigration calls for more examination.
The authors believe that their decision to allow film discussion created a space for the preservice teachers to think aloud about the counter-stories while also deliberating the larger, more complex aspects of immigration threaded into the film.

The authors argue that evidence included in the documentary helped to expand preservice teachers’ knowledge of U.S. immigration as a social issue while also providing a medium for discussing the significance of immigration and the experiences of immigrant students for their teaching.
Furthermore, they argue that it is likely that the use of a pre- and post-survey prompted deeper thinking and that the post-survey helped the preservice teachers to gather their thoughts before dialoguing within their focus group.
The authors suggest that these methodological and pedagogical tools worked in tandem to elicit preservice teacher thinking and engagement with this social issue.
The authors also suggest that teacher educators could focus on how to teach immigration and the experiences of immigrants—in history, civics, current events, and literature, to name just a few.

Updated: Oct. 25, 2018