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The Promise of Anonymity: An Investigation of the Practices of ELA Teachers Facilitating Discourse About LGBTQ Topics


by Sarah Schneider Kavanagh — 2016

Background/Context: As states and districts have begun adopting texts inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, debates about how LGBTQ issues should be represented in the curricular canon have emerged. While existing research investigates curricular questions that are arising as a result of LGBTQ curricular inclusion, scholarship has been slow to address the instructional questions presented by the introduction of inclusive curricula.

Purpose: This study explored how seven secondary English Language Arts teachers facilitated student engagement with LGBTQ-related topics. Analysis of data on teachers’ instructional practice and related decision-making sought to (a) determine what instructional dilemmas arose for teachers as they taught LGBTQ-inclusive content and (b) analyze the instructional decisions that teachers made to address these dilemmas.

Participants: Participants in this study were seven secondary English Language Arts teachers who (a) held strong reputations in their professional communities for supporting LGBTQ students and (b) had strong intentions to support LGBTQ students through LGBTQ curricular inclusion, reducing student prejudice, and advocating for and with LGBTQ students.

Research Design: This comparative case study was embedded in a larger qualitative study that investigated the instructional practice of LGBTQ-supportive teachers. This article reports on findings from an analysis of all data from this project that pertained to how teachers engaged students when teaching LGBTQ content. Data was collected over a six-month period and includes 22 teacher interviews, 28 observations of classroom instruction, 70 teacher log entries, and 25 teacher questionnaires.

Findings/Results: Analysis showed that participants felt a tension between a desire to make LGBTQ identity visible and a desire to offer LGBTQ students privacy. Participants employed two different approaches to navigating the visibility–privacy tension. Some created parallel engagement strategies for students, some public and some private, while others simultaneously allowed for privacy and visibility through the use of anonymity.

Conclusions/Recommendations: As conceptions of diversity expand to include sexual diversity, this study has implications for teacher preparation and professional development aimed at supporting teachers to attend to the unique needs of LGBTQ students within instructional practice.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 12, 2016, p. 1-36
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21645, Date Accessed: 10/18/2017 5:32:03 AM

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About the Author
  • Sarah Kavanagh
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    SARAH SCHNEIDER KAVANAGH is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her scholarship is centrally concerned with the relationship between teaching as a professional practice and teaching as a social justice mission. With an eye to issues of equity and justice, she studies teacher practice and practice-based designs for teacher education and professional development. Her most recent article, “Core practices and pedagogies of teacher education: A call for a common language and collective activity,” co-authored with Morva McDonald and Elham Kazemi, was published in the Journal of Teacher Education.
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