Beyond Damage-Centered Teacher Education: Humanizing Pedagogy for Teacher Educators and Preservice Teachers
by Dorinda J. Carter Andrews, Tashal Brown, Bernadette M. Castillo, Davena Jackson & Vivek Vellanki - 2019
Background/Context: In our best efforts to increase preservice teachers’ critical consciousness regarding the historical and contemporary inequities in the P–12 educational system and equip them to embody pedagogies and practices that counter those inequities, teacher educators often provide curricular and field experiences that reinforce the deficit mindsets that students bring to the teacher education classroom. For many social justice-oriented teacher educators, our best intentions to create humanizing experiences for future teachers can have harmful results that negatively impact preservice teachers’ ability to successfully teach culturally diverse students in a multitude of learning contexts.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: In this article, we propose a humanizing pedagogy for teacher education that is informed by our experiences as K–12 teachers and teacher educators in a university-based teacher preparation program. We focus on the general questions, How can university-based teacher preparation programs embody and enact a humanizing pedagogy? and What role can curriculum play in advancing a humanizing pedagogy in university-based teacher preparation programs?
Research Design: In this conceptual article, we theorize a humanizing pedagogy for teacher education and propose a process of becoming asset-, equity-, and social justice-oriented teachers. This humanizing pedagogy represents a strengths-based approach to teaching and learning in the teacher preparation classroom.
Conclusions/Recommendations: We propose core tenets of a humanizing pedagogy for teacher education that represent an individual and collective effort toward critical consciousness for preservice teachers and also for teacher educators. If university-based teacher education programs are committed to cultivating the development of asset-, equity-, and social justice-oriented preservice teachers, the commitments to critical self-reflection, resisting binaries, and enacting ontological and epistemological plurality need to be foundational to program structure, curricula alignment, and instructional practice.
As I sat grading the final assignment of the semester, I came across Jacks paper. As I scrolled through, I paused. I was alarmed by his unapologetic reinforcement of the deficit narratives we challenged throughout the course. He wrote:
I would honestly say that my time in this course has strengthened some of my stereotypes. While this sounds terrible, I simply havent seen or read anything to challenge my previous assumptions. One example is the reading we were assigned that said teachers need to check their own stereotypical thoughts about their students. The article said that black girls in schools were disproportionately punished for being aggressive. Even though I went to a high school with a small number of Black students, they were never unfairly or severely punished. In my high school classrooms, there were Black girls disrespecting the teacher and fellow students. Despite close numbers of girls and boys in the classes, the girls showed much less obedience as a whole. As wrong as it feels, I cannot believe my assumptions to be false when I have experienced it throughout my schooling.
After several years of teaching this course, I was used to reading one or two responses like this. I fluctuated between feeling like an utter failure as a teacher educator and questioning the design of the course. In hindsight, I know that the answer lies somewhere in the middle and that a 16-week course can only create a small dent in my students 18+ years of socialization in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal society. As I reread his paper, this time more slowly, trying to follow his argument, I realized that Jack was trying to justify the punitive actions of the teacher. He failed to realize that the teacher needed no justification; schools are built on the premise that the bodies of Black students need to be controlled, policed, and disciplined. At no point did he question himself or reflect more deeply on what he was noticingwhat has been the relationship of Black students to the school community, to their teachers, to their peers, etc.? He articulated, defended, and reiterated the racist, sexist, and problematic ideas that the course tried to challenge. I imagined that I created an airtight syllabus, replete with readings and materials that would show Jack the injustice, pain, and marginalization experienced by minoritized communities. I was left wondering about the ethical and pedagogical choice of using the pain and suffering of Brown and Black youth as the primary way to convince Jack of these injustices. I still wonder what I could have done differently. I remain with the question: How do we foster a humanizing teacher educationone that centers the desires of the young Black girls and at the same time creates space for Jack to engage in a process of reflection, (un)learning, and embracing a humanizing approach to education?
As teacher educators currently teaching in a university-based teacher preparation program (TPP), we are familiar with the challenges of helping preservice teachers (PSTs) unlearn many of the biases, stereotypes, and assumptions they harbor about historically disenfranchised and marginalized communities. The composite narrative that we use to begin this article is partially real and partially fictional, constructed by bringing together our collective experiences as teacher educators working to cultivate students critical mindsets in an undergraduate teacher preparation course on human diversity, power, and opportunity in education and other social institutions. Our students are primarily White middle-class women from racially and socioeconomically homogenous Midwestern communities. At the beginning of each semester, we focus on community-building activities that allow us to glean a deeper understanding of students worldviews and life experiences with people and communities that differ from how they see and understand themselves.
Through these activities, we often hear deficit and other problematic viewpoints that are harmful and can ultimately prevent our teacher candidates from effectively meeting the academic, social, emotional, and psychological needs of children in schools. We often attribute our students limited understandings about societal and educational inequities to the ways in which their homes, schools, and communities have socialized them to understand culture, power, and difference. At the young ages of 17, 18, and 19, many of these aspiring teachers have had limited opportunities through formal schooling to examine how their social identities (e.g., race, ethnicity, social class, gender, sexuality, religion) inform their thoughts about teaching and learning and whom they will be teaching. In essence, the PreK12 educational system has mis-educated (Woodson, 1933) them about their cultural history and that of other peoples, rendering many of our students colorblind (unwilling/unable to acknowledge race and/or ethnicity as significant to teaching, learning, and student access and outcomes), colormute (unwilling/unable to engage in conversations about race and ethnicity in schools) (Pollock, 2004), and culturally incompetent in terms of their consciousness about the roles of power and privilege in teaching and learning.1 Although these challenges of cultural incompetency are largely evidenced by our mainstream students, we do not assume that our students from marginalized racial, ethnic, and social class backgrounds come to our courses with heightened sociopolitical consciousness or devoid of oppressive perspectives. They too have been socialized and educated in systems that normalize and perpetuate white supremacy and settler colonialist ideologies and practices (Kohli, 2014). Thus, in our teacher education classrooms, we strive to model humanizing pedagogy for our students, understanding that through this process, we all become more fully human (Freire, 1970). Further, we hope these PSTs embody and enact humanizing pedagogies and practices in their future classrooms.
THE NEED FOR HUMANIZING PEDAGOGY IN TEACHER EDUCATION
Schooling ideologies and teacher practices have always beenand will continue to beshaped by the continually changing sociopolitical and sociocultural landscape in a society, in addition to policies and practices that foreground particular types of oppression. Educating students in a manner that affirms and sustains their humanity and raises their critical consciousness2 about societal injustices should be normative and should provide students with a liberatory learning that contrasts oppressive policies and practices. Some readers might ask why now is the time to focus our attention on humanizing pedagogy. We posit that this particular moment in U.S. and global contexts has given rise to national leadership that cosigns particular forms of dehumanization and oppression. Individuals and groups feel empowered to speak sentiments and enact behaviors that evidence anti-Indigeneity, anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, and antiwoman ideologies (among others). K12 and higher education learning spaces are not immune to these sentiments and behaviors. Thus, teacher education programs and classrooms continue to perpetuate white supremacy (Sleeter, 2017) through various forms of violence that render them sites of extreme suffering (Dumas, 2014) for many PSTs and teacher educators. In an era of resistance movements such as Black Lives Matter, NoDAPL, and the push for immigration reform, the need for fostering educator mindsets and instructional practices that cultivate civility, empathy, cultural humility, and authentic caring should be primary.
We identify as socially just, critically conscious teacher educators. Yet, we realize that even in our best efforts to raise PSTs critical consciousness regarding the historical and contemporary inequities in the P12 educational system and equip them to embody pedagogies and practices that counter those inequities, the curricular and field experiences we provide sometimes reinforce the deficit mindsets that students bring to the teacher education classroom. We believe this may be more common than expected for teacher educators writ large. Despite social justice-oriented teacher educators best intentions of creating humanizing experiences for future teachers, such experiences can nevertheless have harmful results that negatively impact PSTs ability to successfully teach culturally diverse youth in a multitude of learning contexts. In this article, we propose a humanizing pedagogy for teacher education that can help to interrupt/reverse/refuse negative impacts. This humanizing pedagogy is informed by our experiences as K12 teachers and administrators, and teacher educators in a university-based TPP. We focus on the general questions, How can university-based teacher preparation programs embody and enact a humanizing pedagogy? and What role can curriculum play in advancing a humanizing pedagogy in university-based teacher preparation programs? In response to these questions, we theorize a process of becoming asset-, equity-, and social justice-oriented teachers. This humanizing pedagogy represents a strengths-based approach to teaching and learning in the teacher preparation classroom.
First, we define a humanizing pedagogy by building on the work of critical scholars who have thought deeply and written about the process of humanization. We then put forth the concept of damage-centered teaching to build the case for humanizing pedagogys existence in teacher education. Next, we discuss the competencies that students explore in the prerequisite social foundations of education course in our teacher education program to provide context for our programs efforts to develop asset- and social justice-oriented PSTs and to acknowledge the continual work that our TPP engages to ensure that these competencies are interrogated across the life span of the program and not in one or two courses. We then propose core tenets of a humanizing pedagogy for teacher education that represent our individual and collective thinking regarding our efforts to enhance critical consciousness for preservice teachers and, ultimately, for teacher educators as well.
HUMANIZING PEDAGOGY AND A PROCESS OF BECOMING
In their recent work, Carter Andrews and Castillo (2016) drew insights from the work of critical scholars (Bartolomé, 1994; del Carmen Salazar, 2013; Fanon, 1963/2004; Freire, 1970) to advance the concept of a humanizing pedagogy in teacher education. Bartolomé (1994) specifically provided an early definition of the concept. Carter Andrews and Castillo argued that a humanizing pedagogy is a process of becoming for teacher educators and their students. Considering becoming as an ongoing process reminds us that we can never be fully culturally competent (if culture is dynamic and not static) or fully human. The teacher educator who enacts humanizing practices in the classroom is consistently and continually working to help PSTs develop and maintain mindsets and practices that foster learning environments where the needs of whole students are considered and addressed (Carter Andrews & Castillo, 2016). In doing so, the teacher educator is working to live her or his full humanity, recognizing that this process requires ongoing self-reflection in order to model pedagogical practices that future teachers should employ. Carter Andrews and Castillo described teaching practices that operationalize two of the theoretical tenets of the process of humanization as defined by del Carmen Salazar: (a) the journey for humanization is an individual and collective effort toward critical consciousness, and (b) critical reflection can lead to actions focused on challenging inequitable structures. They posited that the use of humanizing pedagogy in teacher education is a project of humanization for the instructor and students. In this article, we collectively further expand what Carter Andrews and Castillo began and more deeply conceptualize what a humanizing pedagogy in teacher education should encompass.
We recognize that we teach in a university-based TPP that primarily graduates White women. In spring 2018, of the 940 students admitted into our TPP, student demographics were as follows: approximately 84% White; 3.3% Black; 3.3% Hispanic; 2.9% multiple races; 2.7% Asian; and 3.5% international. A total of 81% of the entrants were female, and 19% were male. Within the structures of our general TPP lies two specialized programsone focused on preparing future global educators, and another focused on preparing future urban educators. A total of 11% of the spring admits were from the Urban Educators Cohort Program (UECP), and approximately 14% of the spring admits were from the Global Educators Cohort Program (GECP). We teach students in the UECP and in the nonspecialized component of our TPP. Although students in the UECP enter our classes with an orientation toward and motivation for teaching in high-need schools with large concentrations of youth who are Black, Brown, linguistically diverse, and/or living in poverty conditions, they still have been socialized in a white-supremacist-cis-hetero-ableist society that requires their unlearning of certain norms about teaching and learning. As Ladson-Billings (1999) stated, typical teacher education students have led monocultural, ethnically encapsulated lives (p. 211). Thus, while these tenets of humanizing pedagogy emerge for us in a largely White and female general TPP, we have also come to find them foundational for our work in our specialized programs where there are more students of color (approximately 48%). Thus, we believe that our place-based conceptualization of humanizing pedagogy in teacher education has implications for TPPs with varying student demographics at the undergraduate and masters credentialing levels. We ground our initial discussion in the consideration of damage-centered teaching in teacher education.
We draw from Eve Tucks (2009) concept of damage-centered research to consider how teacher educators practice can evidence damage-centered teaching, often in its best efforts to evidence pedagogies that are affirming and liberating for preservice teachers. We think about damage-centered teaching as a pedagogical enactment of instruction that aims (intentionally or unintentionally) to use the life and school experiences of historically marginalized peoples, communities, and lands as a basis for helping primarily White, middle-class, able-bodied, cisgendered, heterosexual, native-English-speaking, Christian PSTs gain heightened critical awareness about issues of race, culture, and power in society and schools, and a heightened disposition and advocacy orientation for social justice teaching. Likened to how Tuck speaks of damage-centered research, damage-centered teaching draws from peoples pain and brokenness and often portrays communities of color, underresourced schools, and people living in poverty as defeated and broken (Tuck, 2009, p. 412). This pedagogical approach also centers community members long-term marginalization, exploitation, and subjection to micro-level (interpersonal and communal) and macro-level (systemic and institutional) mistreatment and violence as a way to shift deficit thinking and change hearts and mindsets of PSTs to focus on equity and justice in schools.
For the most critically reflective and thoughtful teacher educator who has been engaged in social justice education for a long time, falling into the trap of damage-centered teaching is always eminent. Damage-centeredness is endemic to our educational institutions, and we have typically been educated within the same institutions that promote damage-centeredness. Thus, our own socialization primes us to slip into deficit-framing, settler colonialist practices and to perpetuate white supremacist logics in our own teaching. For example, we recognize that language has power. We constantly work to be intentional about the relationship between language and framing. The use of words and phrases like minority students, achievement gap, low-income students, poor students, and poor communities is subtractive and emphasizes where individuals and communities are lacking. These terms and phrases do not implicate systems and structures for their role in creating undesirable and dehumanizing life conditions for individuals and communities.
As we seek to model the types of pedagogies that we want future teachers to employ, we have to remember to use terminologies such as: students of color, access and opportunity gap, students living in poverty conditions, disenfranchised communities, marginalized communities, and minoritized students. Although no terminology is perfect for all situations, these words and phrases help teacher educators and their students remain mindful of examining systemic and institutional oppression that thwarts individuals and communities self-preservation, upward mobility, and liberation. We have each been complicit in using the wrong language to underscore our teaching objectives related to power, privilege, and oppression. It is with continual critical reflection in our instructor team meetings that we are able to identify when we misstep and collectively name ways to rectify situations the next time. We draw from Tucks (2009) insights on framing desire-based research frameworks by arguing that a move away from damage-centered teaching allows teacher educators to engage in depathologizing the experiences of dispossessed and disenfranchised communities so that people are seen as more than broken and conquered. This is to say that even when communities are broken and conquered, they are so much more than that (p. 416).
Critical scholar Dolores Calderón (2016)whose scholarship might not typically be seen as speaking directly to teacher educatorsexamines the ways in which she has been complicit in reproducing settler colonial understandings of marginalized communities in her auto-ethnographic research of the educational trajectories of a border Mexican and indigenous high school in the Southwest. Calderón reflects on how she is charting pathways forward to challenge colonial-blind knowledge production through the use of unsettling methodological approaches. Her recognition of her own methodological shortcomings in auto-ethnographic research reminds us to consider the potential traps that teacher educators can fall into pedagogically and instructionally along the nuanced journey of becoming and cultivating (an) equity-minded and socially just educator(s). Through use of course material and activities that illuminate the oppression, pain, and/or loss of individuals and communities, teacher educators may actually further the goals of imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal, colonial agendas in order to explore and explain contemporary brokenness (Tuck, 2009, p. 413) (e.g., the overrepresentation of Black and Brown youth in special education; disproportionate discipline experienced by Black girls; the school-to-prison nexus; underrepresentation of teachers of color in the profession) of marginalized communities in society and schools. As teacher educators, we construct and use what can be considered damage-centered narratives as a strategy for raising PSTs critical consciousness regarding issues of power, privilege, and educational equity through critical self-reflection and exploration of the life and school experiences of Others. Jacks response in his paper is a manifestation of how such narratives reinforce pathologizing the experiences of those already disenfranchised (e.g., his stereotypes about Black girls based on his own socialization). Despite our best efforts as teacher educators, the course material and activities were ultimately unable to support Jack in untying the bind between damage-centered narratives and narratives of excellence, resistance, and hope that is enacted by members of marginalized communities and underresourced schools.
HUMAN DIVERSITY, POWER, AND OPPORTUNITY IN SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS
In our program, PSTs take a required course entitled, Human Diversity, Power, and Opportunity in Social Institutions (HDPO). The class focuses on the effects of social inequalities on education within a United States context. Students examine how socially constructed categories, such as race, gender, ability, sexuality, and social class, privilege some individuals and groups and marginalize others in the broad context of education. Students also explore tracking in schools and the purposes of schooling, and they examine inequities in school funding, assessment and accountability, and segregation and schooling. We ask students to consider several overarching questions in the course, including the following: (1) In what ways do schools create, perpetuate, and exacerbate social inequality? (2) How do systems of privilege impact individuals and groups opportunities for social and economic mobility? (3) Why is the acquisition of school knowledge easier for some students and more difficult for others?
A focus on the relationships between culture, power, and difference is central to understanding the course competencies. Four key themes that guide the course are understanding (a) identity and positionality; (b) opportunity and systems of power and privilege; (c) social, political, and historical contexts; and (d) structural and organizational issues in schooling. Through course readings, dialogues, and activities, we challenge students to consider their own positionality with respect to their multiple identities and how those identities shape their views and assumptions about education in the United States. The programs efforts to prioritize praxis include a semester-long service-learning inquiry in a local community-based organization or high-need or underresourced school. Placements are typically in urban communities but can sometimes be in suburban communities. We ground readings, field experiences, and assignments in analyzing power relations that exist within systems of schooling in the United States. The course requires us to engage in difficult conversations with our students, and we ask them to be comfortable with their discomfort in some of the class discussions. We do not aim to ensure that our classrooms are safe spaces in the traditional sense, but that they are courageous spaces for risk-taking and moving beyond the boundaries of ones comfortable learning zone. Students often equate safety with no disruption in the equilibrium of their emotions or the firmness of their values and belief system. Some of our students experience vulnerability, guilt, and even defensiveness in our classroom spaces, and we want them to understand that these are normal reactions to a disruption of their socialization. But it does not mean that we allow for any personal attack. The courageous atmosphere in our classrooms is shaped by students ability to sit in those emotions and grapple with what triggers them and how they move beyond those emotions to useful action for change.
As teacher educators of color, we consider how our own social identities inform the teaching and learning environment, and the reciprocity (or lack thereof) in the teacher-student relationship for recognizing and affirming intellectual, emotional, and spiritual identities of learners who possess particular experiences that represent truths in the classroom. We try to resist binary thinking and encourage students to do the same. Yet, as stated earlier, in all our best efforts, we do not always enact the type of pedagogies that allow students to speak their truth, dialogue critically, name their own pains and joys, and experience emancipatory learning in our classrooms. It is in these challenge areas where we recognize our process of becoming more fully human as ever-evolving and our efforts to enact and cultivate a humanizing pedagogy as more critical. Without real conscientious work to help PSTs dismantle their biases, stereotypes, and assumptions, and simultaneous attention to raising their critical consciousness about inequities in schooling and their own identity and positionality, we believe that teacher education programs cannot fully prepare asset-, equity-, and social justice-oriented educators.
CORE TENETS OF A HUMANIZING PEDAGOGY
Here we propose three core tenets of a humanizing pedagogy for teacher education. We arrived at these tenets based on our individual enactment of specific practices in the teacher preparation classroom and the examination of the theoretical work of earlier critical scholars discussing humanizing teaching and learning processes (Bartolomé, 1994; del Carmen Salazar, 2013; Fanon, 1963/2004; Freire, 1970). Our arrival at these three tenets is rooted in our attempts to cultivate critical consciousness in our PSTs using what feels like an imbalance of dominant negative narratives about minoritized and marginalized youth and communities in our teachings. We also learned through biweekly instructor group meetings that other course instructors were also grappling with how to cultivate critical awareness in their preservice students without bombarding them with negative stereotypical images and messages about minoritized students. We noticed that there was a damage-centered orientation to some teacher education practice, and as teacher educators of color, we came to these tenets to respond to this opportunity gap. Some of these tenets address broad approaches to teacher education and its epistemological and ontological underpinnings. These could be taken up in teacher education programs in different spaces and contexts. Our focus is for teachers from different contexts/backgrounds to take this up.
We stand firmly on the belief that these tenets should be operationalized at the programmatic, curricular, and interpersonal levels in teacher education. The process of becoming for teacher educators and PSTs does not only happen in relationships developed between faculty and students in the teaching and learning process or between students in a teacher education classroom (i.e., interpersonal). Rather, we believe, for a humanizing pedagogy to be most effective in teacher education programs, it must be evidenced at institutional and structural levels through program design and curriculum (e.g., policies and procedures, course offerings, field experiences, and other requirements). We recognize that teacher education programs have primarily functioned with a core epistemological and ontological orientation that often centers change at one of these levels. Furthermore, even when programs take an explicit stance on preparing equity-minded, asset- and social justice-oriented teachers, ideas about humanization and the work of cultivating PSTs with a certain disposition or mindset often only take a piecemeal approach by adding diversity courses to the curriculum or a single urban immersion experience. Commitments to preparing teachers who center issues of race, culture, power, and justice in their teaching require strategy at the decision-making level within a program regarding how these tenets are lived, enacted, and sometimes shifting. Although our purpose in this article does not include an explicit focus on the structure of teacher education programs, we believe it is integral and tied to the curriculum and faculty-student relationships. Program structure that exhibits and is attentive to the tenets mentioned here is central in institutionalizing humanizing pedagogy.
We do not view the tenets discussed in this article as an exhaustive list for embodying and enacting humanizing pedagogy; however, we believe that these focus areas are foundational to PSTs and teacher educators process of becoming more fully human and engaging in humanizing classroom practices, and they allow TPPs to embody and enact a humanizing pedagogy. Three foundational tenets that should be practiced in the teacher education program and classroom are: (1) engaging in sustained critical self-reflection (for the preservice teacher and teacher educator); (2) resisting binaries; and (3) enacting ontological and epistemological plurality. In the next section, we provide an overview of each tenet and an example of what it might or could look like in practice based on specific events drawn from our own work lives. We also reflect on how Jacks experiences in the course (e.g., reflective writing and other activities) could have been strengthened from consistent implementation of these tenets in the teacher education classroom space.
ENGAGING IN SUSTAINED CRITICAL SELF-REFLECTION
For teacher educators to engage preservice teachers in a process of critical self-reflection, they must be committed to engaging such a process for themselves (Cochran-Smith, 2003) and cultivating their own (and their students) critical consciousness. Freire (1970) defined critical consciousness as learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality (p. 17). The process through which critical consciousness is developed is necessary for a humanizing pedagogy. It allows teacher educators and PSTs to critically evaluate their own beliefs and engage in dialogue that challenges what cultural codes are considered normal in society and are perpetuated in schools to further marginalize large groups of students while advantaging others (Carter Andrews & Castillo, 2016).
Given the reality that teachers dispositions and biographies/positionality, and perhaps their own schooling experiences, undergird their outlook on youths educational possibilities (Britzman, 1994), teacher education programs must foster an environment in which PSTs have opportunities to unlearn many of the firmly rooted biases, stereotypes, and assumptions they harbor that prohibit them (Carter Andrews & Castillo, 2016). Preparing PSTs and educating P12 students in todays sociopolitical, national, and global climate requires explicit naming of and attention to ideologies rooted in White supremacy, anti-Blackness, settler colonialism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and other forms of systemic oppression. We do not want teacher educators or PSTs to engage in deficit practices that violate and harm youth of color (Dumas, 2014). They must learn how to become more analytical of their own teaching beliefs and behaviors (Gay & Kirkland, 2003, p. 181). Like Dumas (2014), we too believe that in many cases, teachers are unaware of how their deficit stances could endanger the bodies of their students. Similarly, some teacher educators may not be aware of their deficit stances (i.e., damage-centered teaching) and how they are endangering the bodies of their preservice teacher students. Thus, engaging in critical self-reflection is necessary to resist damage-centered teaching in schools and the teacher education classroom.
Nieto (2005) underscored what some scholars have espoused about the challenges teachers face in todays educational settings. Student populations in public schools are increasingly diverse in ethnicity, language, gender, sexuality, and ability, yet the teaching force remains largely monoracial, monolingual, and monocultural. We know firsthand how difficult it may be for some teachers to change their discourse and deficit stances about the diverse youth whom they teach. Furthermore, a lack of critical self-reflection among teachers can lead to students of color experiencing racial suffering in schools and the infliction of power on [their] racialized bodies (Dumas, 2014, p. 26) in the classroom. Despite the challenges faced teaching across cultural differences, there must be a concerted effort within teacher education programs to help teachers learn how to negotiate their teacher selves (Danielewicz, 2001) in the face of learning from and adapting to the diverse needs of youth learners. Teacher education programs that seek to cram discussions of race, power, and privilege into one course undermine the development of PSTs understanding of the complex and diverse racialized experiences of people of color and the pervasive operations of White supremacy. For instance, teacher educators who are always engaged in the process of developing their critical consciousness are able to model a level of transparency and vulnerability in teaching that helps PSTs see teaching as cultural and humane work. Thus, teacher educators and PSTs engaging in the process of critical self-reflection throughout the TPP is one avenue to resist damage-centered teaching while also facilitating the process of becoming a more justice-oriented teacher educator and P12 teacher.
Still, how do we intentionally engage PSTs in the process of critical self-reflection in a teacher education classroom in ways that support their ability to critique societal and educational inequity, privilege, power, and oppressionand ones own social status (Carter Andrews & Castillo, 2016)? We suggest Williamss (2016) idea of Radical Honesty as useful to consider to accomplish this task. Radical honesty is a critical framework for teacher educators to form relationships, shape effective practices for teaching and learning, and heighten PSTs critical consciousness. Williams (2016) described the concept of radical honesty as a truth-telling pedagogical practice to challenge racist and patriarchal institutional cultures in the academy (p. 72). Radical honesty is a crucial element of a humanizing pedagogy because it calls for honesty about our identities, practices, and dispositions. One implication of Williamss notion that may prove difficult for teacher educators is that we must first come to terms with our own identity, values, assumptions, beliefs, and stereotypes, a process often not encouraged or facilitated by our own pathways into the profession. Incidentally, we must practice critical internal reflection and question our role in the classroom. Radical honesty calls for three areas of focus: truth-telling, valuing narrative and personal experience, and acting.
In truth-telling, Williams portrayed a space where both instructors and students are honest about stereotypes and assumptions regarding identity markers such as race and ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as many others. This idea brings up an important question: How do we set the stage for students to participate in naming their identities and also the stereotypes they hold? Our first step must be to eliminate the myth of neutrality; it is a fictional operation within classrooms (Agostinone-Wilson, 2005). The teacher education classroom is often deceptively viewed as a neutral space where instructors do not allow their personal beliefs and values to influence the academic space; however, neutrality is a myth because our identity and values are illuminated in our lectures, course materials, conversations, and assignments. The classroom environment must be a place where we can actively examine and challenge assumptions and also support one another through the process. For example, in the course that we teach, we explicitly acknowledge and teach PSTs that schools are sites of socialization. We also share with students moments when our lack of awareness about social identity privilege hinders our ability to empathize with students. At times, we have intentionally/unintentionally created an exclusionary literacy space through the absence of diverse narratives in the course curriculum. In one instance, one of us was aware that students who identified as LGBTQ were members of the classroom space, yet narratives that reflected a variety of sexual identities were absent from the learning space. By unintentionally but knowingly omitting these narratives as a teacher educator, students were denied opportunities to see themselves through a multiplicity of voices. Rather, the teacher educator reified ideas of normality about certain normalized identities. In another instance, one of us recognized how deeply ingrained the idea of meritocracy is in school culture; it is a belief that many teacher educators have to unlearn based on their upbringing and socialization in schools. Consequently, our harboring meritocratic ideals in the teacher education classroom space sometimes made us less empathetic to our students. It is important to share these problematic views and practices that we once held as educators with our PSTs. Although it can be scary to openly acknowledge missteps, we have found that our experiences help illustrate the ongoing process of (un)learning socialized norms. In this way, we engage in radical honesty and truth-telling as teacher educators. As teacher educators, we know that students often position us as experts who are without fault. This can result in us feeling uniquely vulnerable in moments of truth-telling and critical self-reflection in the classroom. Yet our truth-telling provides opportunities for students to understand, interrogate, and dismantle dominant narratives about their schooling. While students like Jack have opportunities to engage in truth-telling through assignments that allow for pushback on dominant narratives and honest reflections of ones understanding about stereotypes, he should continue to have learning opportunities where he can see truth-telling and radical honesty modeled across courses as ways to engage in critical self-reflection.
The second key element, valuing narrative and personal experience, is a tool for viewing personal narratives as an opportunity to make connections to systemic issues. To accomplish this goal, teacher educators must develop classroom structures and assignments to serve as a vehicle for students to reflect on their personal experiences. Brayboy (2013) reminded us that stories are authentic data and serve as our moral and practical guideposts in life (p. 96). Thus, members of the learning community examine their personal beliefs, as well as similarities and differences with others, through sharing personal stories. We must create a space not only for students to critically reflect through storying, but also to shed light on larger systemic issues that are often overshadowed by individual stories. Accordingly, it is a difficult balance to juxtapose individual experience and systemic oppression; individuals have a stake in their personal narrative, and our students views are formed directly out of their own experience. Gay and Kirkland (2003) emphasized that it is important for classroom teachers to know themselves and the contexts where they teach. Even more critical, however, is that the teachers must engage in practices to question their own knowledge and assumptions. The challenge, then, is to raise their consciousness about a larger system at play. In raising the consciousness of PSTs, we require them to craft a schooling/cultural autobiography paper. The paper helps to highlight how they have been socialized (e.g., via home, school, and community experiences) to understand two social identity markers (such as race, language, social class, gender), how they experienced privilege and/or disadvantage in schooling based on those two identity markers, and how those experiences helped to shape their thinking, identity development, and schooling.
The final focus area of radical honesty, acting, calls for critical reflection and a move toward action, where theory informs praxis. As teacher educators, it is necessary to take an honest and critical lens to reflect on our teaching practices. Action is achievable through various processes, whether it is personal growth, broader social change, or collaborative inquiry into our curriculum, syllabus, and assignments. As instructors for HDPO, biweekly meetings proved an effective tool to engage in collaborative critical reflection. The instructor meetings served several purposes: (a) providing social-emotional support, (b) making curricular and pedagogical adjustments, and (c) updating administrative and logistical information. During meetings, we presented challenges we faced while teaching the course. Afterward, other instructors asked clarifying questions, helped to determine what type of outcome the instructor wanted in the situation, or proposed potential resources and specific suggestions. The dialogue in this process provided a space for critical reflection and an avenue toward action. Intentional spaces for honest reflection offered the opportunity to strengthen our students understanding of broader issues by facilitating pedagogical changes in direct response to their needs. In doing so, we realized that we must incorporate a multimodality-expansive approach to better connect to youths identities. Williams (2016) concept reminds us that a humanizing pedagogy is both a reflective and responsive process to meet the needs of students in the teacher education classroom. Together we build a stronger learning community, remembering that progress toward a humanizing pedagogy requires both individual and collective efforts to become critically conscious (del Carmen Salazar, 2013).
Having taught PSTs collectively for the past 16 years, we recognize that a humanizing pedagogy requires teacher educators to make epistemological and ontological shifts. These shifts are rooted in the understanding that our pedagogy signals what knowledge, ideas, and forms of expressions/ways of being are valued within a learning space. This led us to conceptualize the second tenet of a humanizing pedagogy in teacher educationresisting binaries in teaching and learning. Resisting binaries helps us expand our frames of reference to include knowledge and ways of knowing and being that are often excluded or positioned on the periphery of mainstream sociopolitical dialogue. Here we discuss three prominent binariesBlack/White, immigrant/citizen, and good/badthat remain salient in our experiences as instructors of HDPO. We provide examples of the approaches we have taken to expand and complicate the discourse around the aforementioned binaries as it pertains to matters of race, citizenship, and moral character.
In the United States, social justice/critical multicultural teacher education courses often approach conversations about race, racism, and White supremacy through a Black/White binary (Fylkesnes, 2018). Teaching and learning about power and oppression in traditional educational spaces raises tension for individuals at the personal level but also among the collective. In efforts to quell tensions or simplify the complex, the scope of these conversations can easily become narrowed to focus on a range of binaries. For instance, although it is clear that white supremacist ideology impacts the lives of people of color in similar but also distinctly different ways, it must also be acknowledged that anti-Blackness is central to the operation of White supremacy. However, solely focusing on Black/White relations evades a more nuanced analysis of race-based oppression in the context of the United States and globally. It is important for future teachers in any type of TPP to understand this, given the rapidly changing student demographics of public schools nationally.
Discourse regarding racial injustice that is couched in the Black/White binary also pushes forward other binaries (past/present, immigrant/citizen) with little regard to the intricate and ever-present operation of power. For instance, in school-based curriculum the genocide of Native Americans is situated as a faraway past, which further perpetuates the normalcy of settler colonialism in todays society (Smith, 2012) and neglects contemporary issues that impact Native communities. Eve Tuck (2012) further illustrated this point:
Unlike the version of American colonialism taught in schools, which reduces the invasion of Indigenous lands and subsequent genocide of Indigenous peoples to the unfortunate birth pangs of a new nation, or the errant sins of forefathers, the discourse of settler colonialism demands recognition that the process of colonialization is not over. It continues. Settler colonialization is not a fixed event in time, but a structure that continues to shape the lives of Indigenous peoples, settlers and other subjects of the nationstate. (p. 14)
An understanding of colonialism and settler colonialism is fundamental to historical and contemporary examinations of racial injustice and allows for a more comprehensive examination of institutional and structural oppression. Furthermore, it helps make visible the operations of White supremacy in the absence of White people and overtly racist rhetoric and actions. Such engagement in resisting the Black/White binary is central to a humanizing pedagogy in teacher education and more readily ensures that future teachers do not perpetuate settler colonialist ideologies in their future classrooms.
The continually changing demographic landscape of the United States creates the need for teacher education programs to prepare a mostly White teaching force to work with students from diverse backgrounds (Sleeter, 2001). This mission may be rooted in good intentions but can also lead to the development of learning environments where Whites and whiteness implicitly and explicitly operate as the norm to which Black and non-Black people of color are to be compared.
Binary discourses further limit PSTs capacity to examine how multiple and overlapping identities impact experiences with systems of oppression. One way this has been addressed by education scholars is through the development of theoretical frameworks like LatCrit, AsianCrit, and TribalCrit, which emphasizes the intersectionality of experience with oppression and resistance and the need to extend conversations about race and racism beyond the Black-White binary (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002, p. 39). One way that we engage our students in considering discourses beyond the Black/white binary is by engaging them in readings and discussions about the historical experiences of People of Color in U.S. schools and the connections to contemporary equity struggles that remain. Groups studied include African Americans, Indigenous Peoples, Latinxs, Asian Americans, and Arab Americans. Most of our students knowledge base about the experiences of People of Color in U.S. schools is limited to the African American experience in slavery and the Jim Crow South. It is important for future teachers to understand how settler colonialist logics and white supremacist ideologies have permeated U.S. public schooling since its inception and how those oppressive systems linger today.
Brittany Cooper and Margaret Rhee (2015) challenged the notion that we must move beyond the Black/white binary and instead called for a hacking of the Black/white binary as a conceptual retooling and a politically resistant act that moves not simply to dewire but also to rewire our current hegemonic binaristic system (para. 5). A rewiring would allow room for divergent and interconnected narratives that are often neglected in conversations about ethnicity, language, and religion, all of which play a role in how people of diverse backgrounds navigate the U.S. educational, social, and political landscape. The lack of understanding around the differences between race and ethnicity render invisible identities that do not fit neatly into existing racial categories. As instructors, we strive to push the dialogue forward by naming race as a social construction and tracing the ways in which it has been defined and refined throughout history. We also bring ethnicity into the discussion to unflatten cultural identities that have been subsumed within white supremacist racial discourses. In this way, PSTs are able to recognize and examine their own lives and those of others that lie at multiple intersecting identities (for example, Afro-Latinx, Black Muslims, South Asian Christians).
Moving away from a dichotomous understanding of citizenship allows us to interrogate our racial and ethnic identities in a way that decenters the dominant narrative that attaches the identity of citizen to whites and the identity of immigrant/noncitizen to people of color. Here, we use the term noncitizen to signify that Native Americans and African Americans are not generally positioned as immigrants but nonetheless occupy a liminal space in which their legal and social status inhabits a contradictory and elusive existence. Kevin Bruyneel (2004) described Native Americans as existing neither fully inside nor fully outside the political, legal, and cultural boundaries of the United States (p. 30). Similarly, the conditional nature of African American citizenship is reflected through discriminatory legislation and policies in housing, education, and voting (Mitchell, 2007; Rothstein, 2017; Warren, 2010).
In the U.S. sociopolitical context, whiteness affords whites the uncontested status of citizen, leaving little room for the interrogation of their racial and/or ethnic identities. In doing so, white people are seen as neutral individuals operating without attachments to racial or cultural influences (DiAngelo, 2011). Leigh Patel (2017) argued that the construction of citizenship simultaneously contains within it and obscures complex histories and logics of race and property (p. 63). This is evident in public discourses where xenophobic rhetoric is often countered with statements that uphold the United States as a nation of immigrants while simultaneously obscuring the continued project of settler colonialism that allows white immigrants to become Americans while everyone else is marked with hyphens.
Engaging PSTs in interrogations of citizenship and immigration serve as potential gateways into discussions that unveil intersections with other categories of difference and with different and overlapping histories (Lukose, 2007, p. 413). A humanizing teacher education curriculum would provide multiple opportunities for PSTs to critically explore the ways in which white supremacist agendas have shaped their racialized identities, histories, and ancestries and positioned them within constructs that name citizenry. This is important for understanding how many P12 students experience schooling in the United States.
Every semester, PSTs enter our classroom with the belief that they treat everyone equally and dont see color, and racism is a problem of the past. These beliefs often stem from their self-identification as good people. This stance hinders their willingness to critically examine their role within an unjust society. In efforts to challenge this way of thinking, we facilitate discussions through course texts, activities, and assignments that examine the operations of power and oppression at the interpersonal, institutional, and structural level. We use the work of scholars like Bobbie Harro (2000) to highlight the role of socialization in shaping our identities, our view of others, and our understanding of our place within society. We draw on Beverly Tatums (1997) analogy of the moving walkway, which she uses to describe the difference between those actively engaging in racist behaviors and those who passively participate through their silence and complacency. In addition, we explore Sensoy and DiAngelos (2017) argument that no action is required (p. 125) of White people who position racism as the belief and actions of a few bad people instead of an all-encompassing system in which they participate, even if unintentionally.
Teacher education programs designed to cater to a predominantly white PST population, like ours, can easily engage in practices of erasure by designing courses that cater to the needs and experiences of white students. Through continuous reflection on our practice, it became apparent that we often neglected to discuss the experiences of preservice and in-service teachers of color. In doing so, we missed opportunities to bring PSTs of color into a self-reflective dialogue where they could unpack their experiences with internalized racism so they do not replicate racial hierarchies in their own classrooms (Kohli, 2014, p. 368). As educators of color, we recognize the importance of the arduous work required in the process of unlearning internalized oppression.
Taken together, the intentional selection of course texts, activities, and assignments helps foster discussions that provide multiple entry points and opportunities for PSTs to engage with varying perspectives and to reflect on the totality of their experiences. Ultimately, our hope is that students will begin to see past the guise of the good/bad binary and recognize that we are all implicated. Therefore, it is important to be conscious of our actions and the ways in which we can work to disrupt the operation and normalization of oppression in our everyday lives.
A humanizing teacher education curriculum would ask PSTs to move beyond the good/bad binary in order to grapple with how they are undoubtedly implicated in systems of power and oppression. Teacher education programs committed to preparing teachers with a social justice-oriented disposition must provide PSTs of all racial and ethnic backgrounds with numerous opportunities to engage in complex conversations about white supremacy and its manifestations. These learning experiences challenge PSTs to examine their own ways of knowing, seeing, and being within an imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (hooks, 2003, p. 4). We now turn our attention to the third foundational tenet of a humanizing pedagogy in teacher education: the need to enact ontological and epistemological plurality in the teacher education classroom.
ENACTING ONTOLOGICAL AND EPISTEMOLOGICAL PLURALITY
Formal schooling has always been a site of policing particular knowledge, social, and cultural practices. The centering of Eurocentric, cis-hetero-ableist knowledge and cultural practices in schooling has meant that the embodied lifeways of communities of color and other minoritized communities have been relegated to the margins and sanctioned as illegitimate. Students from minoritized communities have been forced to leave their knowledges at the door and are often pushed into adopting dominant epistemic frameworks that perpetuate epistemicide and are at once dehumanizing and silencing. Collins and Blot (2003) offered a comprehensive history of the ways in which literacy practices have been used to include/exclude individuals from schooling as well as other social and political processes. They wrote, Schooling for the subject population entails the acquisition of the language and literacy of the colonial power (p. 122). One of the significant ways this has manifested is through the overreliance on print-based text and the written word as being the authority and closer to truth. Although we cannot trace the history of the overreliance on print-based texts here, we contend that teacher education research and practice is enmeshed in a similar bind. The dependence on print-based texts in teacher education stands in stark contrast to the lives of current PSTs and the youth with whom they will work in the future, which are increasingly mediated by multimodal spaces and texts (e.g., films, social media, online spaces, and games). In this context, it is important to ask, What kinds of artifacts, modes, and literacy are legitimated in different spaces, and what is enabled to flow and move across these spaces? (Jewitt, 2008, p. 262). The primacy of print-based texts in teacher education marginalizes, excludes, and negates alternative ways of being (ontology) and knowing (epistemology). There is a performative contradiction inherent in the use of print-based texts to introduce PSTs to diverse cultures, identities, and knowledges in teacher education programs. For the teacher educator who has been teaching for more than 15 years, enacting ontological and epistemological plurality in the teacher education classroom can be a real paradigm shift. It is crucial that todays teacher educators shift their pedagogical orientations from viewing educational research and theory as the only/primary data source by which PSTs cultivate critical consciousness related to teaching for social justice.
The expectation for PSTs to reflect on issues of identity, culture, and diversity through the written word alone disregards the embodied experiences of PSTs and often forces them to translate these (bodied) experiences into print text. Situated within this contradiction is also the expectation that PSTs will enter classrooms and be open to the epistemological and ontological plurality embodied by their students. Thus, we argue that a humanizing pedagogy includes enactment of ontological and epistemological plurality in teacher education programs and classrooms.
We see multimodality as a viable way to enact ontological and epistemological plurality in the teacher education classroom. Our discussion of multimodality is a way of situating epistemological and ontological pluralism within contemporary research and practice (Cervetti, Damico, & Pearson, 2006). The incorporation of multimodality, in our opinion, enables the teacher educator and PST to think, feel, practice, and embody different ways of knowing and being. Multimodality moves beyond the traditional understanding of literacy as learning how to read and write print text. Vasudevan (2014) argued for a view of literacies as social practices (p. 49) wherein the acts of reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and engaging in other forms of communication, are always socially situated and happen with others. A multimodal approach to teacher education breaks from the traditional modes of representation that are bounded by language and the print medium. For example, it is not enough to write and read about the hip-hop practices of youth; rather, it is necessary to engage with their music production as text itself (Love, 2014). In making this shift, diverse literacy and cultural practices that have been hitherto marginalized or deemed informal within institutional spaces find a place. This shift allows for PSTs with diverse epistemological and ontological orientations to continue learning, creating, and sharing their knowledge and cultural practices. At the same time, it introduces PSTs to the rich cultural and linguistic diversity that surrounds us all.
We do not want to suggest that multimodality is the only way to embody and adopt epistemological and ontological plurality. Adopting multimodality to encourage epistemological and ontological plurality in teacher education entails a more fundamental shift than merely incorporating multiple modes (aural, gestural, visual) and media (digital writing, recording sounds, making images) to attend to diverse literacy and cultural practices. At its core, multimodality is a shift away from verbo-centric ontologies (i.e., the domination of words in oral languages and print media). Multimodality pushes us to think about not just different forms of communicating but also different forms of knowing and being. The verbo-centric ontologies of the print medium are premised on the separation between the mind and the body, between reason and affect, between self and other. Multimodality challenges these Eurocentric binaries, inviting readers and writers to engage with and through the body. Within this ontological frame, meaning is made with, in and through the body (La Jevic & Springgay, 2008, p. 71).
A multimodal approach to teacher education performs the task of creating space for diverse cultural, literacy, and knowledge practices of communities. One of the ways in which this shift can be practiced is to adopt and incorporate multimodality in course readings, assignments, and classroom engagement. Over the past few years, we have collectively tried to incorporate multimodality within various aspects of HDPO. We briefly discuss three examples from our collective practice that convey the shift toward multimodality. First, we redesigned course assignments to reflect the ontological and epistemological plurality we wanted our students to embody. For example, in attending to the ways in which biography and memory are material, sensory, and place based, we redesigned the autobiography assignment to incorporate elements of artifactual literacies (Pahl & Rowsell, 2013). We asked PSTs to reflect on their schooling and educational experiences using an artifact of personal importance. Our attempt was to move away from autobiography as being merely descriptive of incidents and moments but also tied to things, feelings, and material realities. At the same time, this was an opportunity for PSTs to incorporate and investigate artifacts, narratives, and lifeways that had been either marginalized or completely kept outside of school. One student used his hair pick to interrogate the ways school tried to control the bodies of Black males. Therefore, interrogating schooling experiences of PSTs using artifacts connects the everyday world of the habitus, it is linked in with the sensory, embodied world of objects and can draw on a wider range of modalities in the meaning-making process (Pahl & Rowsell, 2013, p. 275).
Second, we took a more expansive approach toward required readings for the course. For example, we incorporated Sandra Cisneross House on Mango Street (1994), Teju Coles Home, Strange Home (2011), and Hasan Minhajs Homecoming King (Caputo & Hartman, 2017) as essential texts. By making these texts required rather than merely add-ons or in-class material, we wanted to signal to our students that stand-up comedy and other nonacademic genres of expression can offer a compelling take on complex issues like immigration, intergenerationality, islamophobia, and race in the United States. Throughout the course, we tried to incorporate youth-produced media and artifacts. Grow Food,3 a music video produced by youth in Minneapolis, became a focal point to discuss food deserts, urban farming, and youth resistance. The form of the text becomes as important as the message being conveyed. Our hope was that this approach would signal to PSTs that the ways of being, knowing, and expressing practiced by minoritized communities are important sources of knowledge in our vision and struggles for a just society.
Third, we encouraged students to respond in multiple ways to the texts that we read in class. We replaced the traditional written responses typically expected in undergraduate courses for a set of responses that students could choose from. This included, and was not limited to, personal responses, photo essays, illustrations, tweets, or video responses. In offering this broad range of responses, PSTs could experiment with multimodal composing themselves, exploring various ways of knowing and being. At the same time, it also allowed PSTs to engage, explore, and examine their embodied experiences and interactions with the Other.
We have attempted to articulate what we believe is a pedagogical pathway forward in teacher education. If university-based teacher education programs are committed to cultivating the development of asset-, equity-, and social justice-oriented PSTs, the commitments to critical self-reflection, truth-telling, radical honesty, resisting binaries, demonstrating activism, and enacting ontological and epistemological plurality need to be foundational to program structure, curricular alignment, and instructional practice. In thinking about a return to the composite reflection that we used to begin this article, the course should start a conversation that will, it is hoped, continue throughout Jacks tenure in his teacher education program. What opportunities will Jack have to push this conversation forward? Or will this be it? How do we communicate that the process of becoming relies on our willingness to be critically self-reflective? As teacher educators, we have not arrived. For PSTs to become the educators that we hope they become for their future students, teacher educators must understand their own humanity as intertwined with that of their preservice students. With this understanding, commitments to enacting humanizing pedagogy in teacher education will endure, and the process of becoming will be embodied across multiple levels of teacher education programs.
1. Some ideas for the introduction to this article are adapted from Carter Andrews and Castillo (2016). Early thinking regarding our conception of humanizing pedagogy in teacher education was discussed in this chapter.
2. Carter Andrews and Castillo (2016, p. 114) adopted Freires (1970) definition of critical consciousness as learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality (p. 17).
3. Grow Food music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqgU3co4vcI.
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