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Funds of Knowledge & Story as Bases for Transforming Teacher Preparation

Renee T. Clift, Kimberly S. Reinhardt , Sheri Robbins -- A summary report on Years 1 & 2 of university based teacher educators’ and district administrators’ perceptions

Renee T. Clift, Kimberly S. Reinhardt , Sheri Robbins, University of Arizona
This research was funded, in part, by a grant from the Helios Education Foundation.

Overview: CREATE (Communities as Resources for Early Childhood Teacher Education) is the early childhood teacher education program at the University of Arizona; it is in its third year of curriculum redesign. The faculty at the University of Arizona and collaborating early childhood educators, work with prospective teachers to develop practices that bring children’s rich cultural and family heritages into the classroom. The redesign is organized around four principles that guide all coursework and fieldwork:

  1. Promoting early childhood educators' understanding of the cultural knowledge and skills (Funds of Knowledge) within diverse cultural communities.
  2. Using literature and story as a base for children’s understanding of themselves and others.
  3. Involving families in literacy education for children – and for teachers.
  4. Providing prospective and practicing teachers and teacher educators with opportunities to work and reflect together in community and school settings.

In this presentation, we report on Year One and Year Two of the university based teacher educators’ and district administrators’ perceptions of the first two principles: promoting teachers’ understanding of children’s and families’ funds of knowledge and using literature and story as a means of sharing that knowledge. These principles are the conceptual base for curriculum and instruction and are most relevant to the theme of this session.

Data Sources: Interviews were conducted in May of 2011 and 2012. There were 23 participants in the first year and 33 participants in the second year. Participant role groups during the first year included: co-principal investigators, interviewers, graduate assistants, administrators, instructors, coordinators, university supervisors, and teaching assistants. Those role groups were consistently represented in the second year, with the addition of new role group: administrative assistant.

Results (as of 11/26/12): The Year One data provides insight into the way participants recognized funds of knowledge and story functioning within the curriculum. The Year Two data suggests that participants incorporated the principles into their instruction; it also shows that some participants who joined CREATE in Year One did not move beyond a general understanding of the principles, and they were unable to integrate the new conceptual base for curriculum and instruction.

Implications (as of 11/26/12):

  • CREATE is a program change, not a course change.
  • Change is arduous and some participants are less disposed to change than others, which directly affects their capacity to incorporate guiding principles into their instruction.
  • The extent of attention and time that can be devoted to the change is limited:
    ~ some role groups are discomfited that time and attention is bypassing them.
    ~ some concepts become instantiated more quickly than others.
  • Participants at the university are creating edge environments for themselves, as well as creating edge environments between the schools and the university. Neither process is easy or automatic, particularly given that this is a program change, not merely a course change.
  • Assessment and feedback, while sometime painful, are necessary.
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