Crafting a Third Space: Teacher Beliefs and Practices in Curriculum Reform for Multicultural Education
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This qualitative case study examined South Korean elementary teachers’ beliefs about the goals of multicultural education in relation to practices and contexts within social studies instruction. The first research question examined the distinguishing features of South Korean elementary teachers’ beliefs about the goals of multicultural education. The second research question explored how individual teachers’ underlying beliefs about the goals of multicultural education interacted with the practices of classroom-based multicultural curriculum reform. A five-fold framework of teaching for social justice and complexity theory perspectives provided the theoretical bases for the study. Grounded in sociological theory, North’s (2009) framework of teaching for social justice includes five types of social justice literacies that students are expected to learn in order to promote social justice and equity. These are functional, relational, critical, democratic, and visionary literacy. Based on this framework, I assumed that teachers’ beliefs about the goals of multicultural education can be understood by analyzing how their perceptions of these five literacies are related to or interact with one another. Contextualized in the field of psychology, complexity theory contends that one’s beliefs are a system that involves interactions between implicit beliefs and explicit beliefs, and interactions with other systems such as practices and contexts. Based on complexity theory, this study regarded individual teachers’ beliefs as a complex system that includes active interactions among various beliefs, and as an open system which consistently interacts with the practices and contexts. This study used a comparative case studies method. The research settings were Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. Six elementary school teachers who engaged in classroom-based curriculum reform for multicultural education participated in this study. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews, stimulated recall interviews, classroom observations, and documents. Data analysis included a constant comparative method, and it contributed to building a substantive theory outlining teacher beliefs and practices in multicultural curriculum reform. Four major findings emerged from the data. They were • Generally, the teachers tended to identify five social justice literacies as fundamental goals of multicultural education, but at a deeper level, they were grouped into two categories according to whether or not they were committed to teaching critical literacy. • Teachers not committed to teaching critical literacy were not aware of dilemmas related to multicultural curriculum reform, and used particular contexts to justify the inappropriateness of teaching critical literacy. By comparison, teachers committed to teaching critical literacy usually faced two types of dilemmas in the classroom-based multicultural curriculum reform practices. These dilemmas were between contradictory beliefs (Type 1) and between belief and context (Type 2). •. Teachers who did not resolve the dilemmas either did not teach critical literacy at all or taught critical literacy as secondary. • A democratic school and community, and a teacher’s strategies for dealing with the contextual obstacles, helped her resolve the dilemmas, and more actively advocate for teaching critical consciousness. Based on these findings, a substantive theory outlining three stages of teachers’ beliefs and practices in classroom-based multicultural curriculum reform evolved. These stages included pre-encounter stage, encounter stage, and post-encounter stage. The findings implied that individual teachers need differentiated scaffolding to further develop their current levels of multicultural education engagement. Recommendations for future research and practices were also provided to fill the gaps between theories and actions.
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