Learning about diversity at Springfield Elementary School
Payne, Catherine Rose
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This descriptive study focused on four main problems that the author perceived in public education: (a) the academic difficulties encountered by linguistically and culturally diverse students, (b) the lack of relevant professional development opportunities for teachers to learn effective teaching methods that integrate theory with practice, (c) the need for teachers to update their teaching methods, and (d) the alienation of linguistically and culturally diverse students in mainstream classrooms. The purpose of this dissertation study was to investigate the learning practices of teachers participating in a teacher inquiry group while they examined and reflected on their teaching relationship with students in their classes who are linguistically and culturally diverse. Each teacher participant chose a focal student whose linguistic and cultural background differed from her own and whose first language was not English. In the teacher inquiry group, the participants had opportunities to learn about and develop literacy theory and teaching practices that supported the literacy learning of their students. In addition, they tried to understand the cultural practices of the students they taught in order to build bridges between the home and school cultures. Findings are presented in 6 chapters. The first describes the nature of the inquiry group process and presents themes of discussions initiated by the participants. The next 4 chapters each focus on one participant, analyzing reported changes in that participant’s knowledge, attitude, or behavior. The final chapter analyzes similarities that occurred across the participants. This analysis focuses on changes in teacher understanding, connections to practice, connections to parents, and reflections on teaching and learning. Additionally, the author describes political issues raised and issues about staff development. She discusses the personal and social significance of the study, lists questions for further exploration, and presents suggestions for others who plan to implement a teacher inquiry group.