A Transformational Journey: Exploring Our Multicultural Identities through Self-study
Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 9, No. 2, 141–151, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The current paper reports a self-study of multicultural identities in a public high school ethnic studies class and a university multicultural education course in Hawaii, a unique multicultural setting in which no ethnic group is in the majority.
The authors wanted to explore what happened when we enacted an innovative pedagogy that valued student and teacher perspectives, challenged the norms, and addressed highly personal and deeply provocative and controversial issues.
The participants included the two authors and 89 students in a high school ethnic studies course and 28 students in a university multicultural education course.
Data came from the authors' personal reflections, discussions, and the students’ work.
Three important findings emerged from constant comparison analysis of students’ and authors’ personal multicultural narratives, reflections, and coursework.
First, a personal-constructivist-collaborative approach to self-study in an intellectually safe classroom environment provides both students and teachers with a context for challenging their socially constructed assumptions about race, culture, and ethnicity and supports the unpacking of previously held stereotypes and biases.
The second major theme to come out of the data analysis describes how the students’ stories became transformational teaching texts. At both the university and the high school, the students’ honest and articulate multicultural narratives provided dynamic course material that captured the complexities of many multicultural issues. The data showed that through the formal and informal sharing of their personal stories, the students were more thoughtful about the complexity of identities. The students also developed new understandings of their own and others’ multicultural identities through the process. They also gained a critical consciousness about the connection between self-understanding and prejudice reduction.
Third, self-study is a multicultural pedagogy that promotes social perspective taking, tolerance, and understanding of diversity through personal transformation. As a result of the self-study journey, the authors and the students gained insight into the value of students and teachers sharing their authentic stories with one another.
The authors argue that through this collaboration, they identified tensions, different points of view, and dilemmas related to teaching. They became more comfortable addressing controversial topics and students’ resistance.
This collaborative process helped the authors reframe multiculturalism as the practice of seeing with new eyes. They learned how to work together to tackle overt acts of racism and to uncover and dismantle hidden forms of institutionalized discrimination. And collectively the authors and their students became more aware of the individual barriers that were keeping them from opening their minds and hearts to other points of view.
Using aspects of self-study in their multicultural classes helped the students frame and reframe their assumptions about others by realizing that issues of equity, prejudice, racial biases, ethnocentrism, and marginalization are right in their own classrooms. Such insights broadened their thinking in terms of how the authors need to confront their biases and help their students better understand themselves and others.
In addition, self-study helped the authors and their students develop the necessary texts for unpacking their previously held stereotypes and biases so that they all could arrive at new understandings about the complexity of their multicultural identities, and develop a critical consciousness about the connection between self-knowledge and prejudice reduction. For the preservice students, these authentic multicultural texts gave them an idea of the diversity they will likely encounter in their future classrooms. And in the high school setting, the students’ narratives opened up dialogue and facilitated the transformation of their school’s culture to a place characterized by empathy, tolerance, and peace.
Incorporating aspects of self-study in the authors' classrooms challenged them to think about multicultural education differently. Clearly, reflection and self-study in the context of multicultural education need to include fostering and developing the students’ and the teachers' own analytical ability so that collectively they are better equipped to navigate the complexities of their diverse world.