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Whiteness as Property in Science Teacher Education


by Felicia Moore Mensah & Iesha Jackson — 2018

Background/Context: The disparity between the race and ethnicity of teachers and students is expected to increase as our nation and classrooms continue to become more racially, ethnically, linguistically, and economically diverse. It is extremely important to think about not only the educational needs of such a diverse student population within schools but also who will teach these students. However, when looking at subject-matter specificity for the retention of Teachers of Color, such as science teachers, the picture becomes extremely serious when we understand teachers’ paths into and out of science and teaching.

Purpose: The purpose of the study is to analyze the experiences of preservice Teachers of Color (PTOC) enrolled in an elementary science methods course as they gain access to science as White property. Our analysis provides evidence that PTOC can break the perpetual cycle of alienation, exclusion, and inequity in science when they are given opportunities to engage in science as learners and teachers. In addition, we also offer insights regarding the role science teacher educators may play in preparing teachers and especially TOC for urban schools.

Setting/Research Design: The context of this study was a graduate-level preservice elementary science methods course at a large urban university in New York City. Multiple data sources included pre-post surveys, semester observation journals, final course papers, and a post-course questionnaire. Utilizing constructivist grounded during the initial phase of analysis and themes from critical race theory (CRT), our unique voices of color and positionalities allowed us to interpret the data from a CRT perspective and arrive at findings relevant to making science inclusive to PTOC.

Conclusions/Recommendations: In order to push the field of science teacher education toward social justice issues of access, opportunity, and enjoyment, efforts must focus on increasing representation of Teachers of Color in science education. The transformation of science teacher education to grant equitable learning experiences for Teachers of Color is needed. Further research on the experiences of science Teachers of Color, as well as Faculty of Color and their relationship with students, is highly encouraged. Both teacher preparation and science education must be open to interrogate and reveal structural forms of race, racism, and power that manifest through curriculum, structure, and pedagogy that cause alienation and exclusion for Teachers of Color. Therefore, we encourage science teacher educators to examine their own course curriculum, structure, and pedagogy through self-study and reflection. Overall practices in teacher preparation must empower rather than impede progress toward important goals of CRT, and this may be achieved through building stronger relationships with PTOC and Faculty of Color across teacher preparation courses in support of these goals.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 1, 2018, p. 1-
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21958, Date Accessed: 11/24/2017 9:11:46 PM

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About the Author
  • Felicia Mensah
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    FELICIA MOORE MENSAH is professor of science education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her primary research interest is science teacher education with emphasis on diversity, equity, and teacher identity. Two recent publications, positional identity as a framework to studying science teacher identity, highlights the experiences of teachers of color in science education, and in the journal Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research, focuses on the educational pathways of Black women physicists and their life stories, which was coauthored with a former doctoral student.
  • Iesha Jackson
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    IESHA JACKSON is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Teacher Preparation Division of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Her research centers on using critical race theory and culturally relevant pedagogies to understand Black and LatinX students’ schooling experiences. Recent publications include a critical race theory analysis of school-based mediation for overage, undercredited Black female students and a coauthored article on secondary educators’ collaborative approach to developing a culturally relevant schoolwide college-going culture to support Black and Latino males’ college readiness and access.
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