Middle level preservice teachers' perceptions of their own and students' background differences and similarities
Torrence, Nicole Leigh
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Teacher knowledge and teacher beliefs are combined to form the theoretical framework for this qualitative narrative inquiry study. The study examines the question, “How do preservice teachers’ perceptions of background differences and similarities evolve in the context (prior to and during) of a middle level teacher education program?” Preservice teachers’ stories indicate that perceptions of background differences and similarities (BDS) (e.g., language, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, transience patterns, familial support, familial structure, religion, gender, culture, home localities, students with disabilities, and students with varying abilities) evolve gradually over time and often in conjunction with external prompting. Primary data are derived from three individual semi-structured interviews and one focus group interview that was also conducted in a semi-structured format. Interviews were informal and conversational in tone. Additional data sources—a preprofessional experience packet, portfolio, and application materials—are archival in nature. Participants created Venn diagrams and metaphors for teaching while engaged in the study. Four middle level preservice teachers shared stories of experiences with BDS gained through school, work, volunteer activities, family, church, and everyday occurrences. The analysis illuminates the participants’ perceptions emerging in three levels, that are awareness, acknowledgement, and action. Findings indicate that awareness occurred most often and action was rarely achieved. Characteristics of BDS, referenced most often by participants when talking about themselves, were familial structure and familial support. Socioeconomic status, ethnicity, familial support, and familial structure were the characteristics of BDS frequently discussed by participants as differences between themselves and students. Overall, participants indicated that if not directly encouraged to examine issues related to BDS, they did not consider them. Upon reflection, participants believe BDS to be a matter of utmost importance in their preservice teacher education and in their careers as teachers.