Bridging Funds of Knowledge in Learning to Teach: The Story of a Japanese Pre-service Teacher's Authentic Teaching Practicum Experience.

Author:McDevitt, Seung Eun


Many research studies argue for a more diverse teaching force in the field of education in responding to a new demographic reality where students with racially, ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse backgrounds are dramatically increasing (Capps et al., 2005; Couse & Recchia, 2016; Park, McHugh, Zong, & Batalova, 2015). Within the field of education, early childhood education and care (ECEC) has been in the forefront of setting the effort to increase diversity in its teaching force. Now nearly one fifth of the overall ECEC workforce are foreign-born, often immigrants from various countries around the globe, and there is no doubt that their cultural and linguistic identities play a vital role in providing high quality early education and care (Park et al., 2015). Little is known about how they become teachers or caregivers in the field and what experiences and knowledge they bring to the field to educate and care for our youngest children (Adair, 2011; Cruickshank, 2004; Gupta, 2006; Hedges, 2012; Hwang, Baek, & Vrongistinos, 2005; Griess & Keat, 2014; Monzo & Rueda, 2003). Moreover, there is a dearth of research conducted on their teacher preparation processes to learn about who they are and what their experiences are like in learning to provide education and care (Adair, 2011; Pailliotet, 1997; Su, 1996).

In looking closely at teacher preparation programs for pre-service teachers with racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse backgrounds, scholars argue that their stories must be part of the curriculum of teacher education in order for it to become more "student-centered" (Goodwin, 1997; Rodrigues, 2013). Just as a teacher in the classroom can pick and choose what children can bring to the classroom from their lives, teacher educators can allow pre-service teachers to bring certain knowledge from their lived experiences into the university classroom. However, many teacher education programs pay little attention to the differences among pre-service teachers' experiences, cultural backgrounds, and needs, and to how those differences can be utilized as valuable resources for learning in their teacher education courses (Gupta, 2006).

Recchia and Loizou's (2002) study on early childhood pre-service teachers in their practicum course illuminates the need for space in teacher preparation programs to allow pre-service teachers with diverse backgrounds to bring their personal histories and dispositions to their learning to become teachers. Garavuso (2016) also asserted that there needs to be a reimagination for teacher education in the field of early childhood education to meet the diverse needs of pre-service teachers because of the increasing diversity not only in children and families but also in the teacher population. Therefore, it is worthwhile to examine more closely who pre-service teachers with diverse backgrounds are and what their experiences are like in their preparation to teach and care for our youngest learners and to investigate their processes of reflecting on their current and past experiences to engage in more authentic teaching and learning.

Statement of Purpose

Studies on the experiences of pre-service teachers with diverse backgrounds in teacher preparation programs are largely missing in the field of teacher education (Pailliotet, 1997), and their success stories are even scarcer. Among the very few studies on pre-service teachers with diverse backgrounds, Paillotet (1997) discussed the experiences of an Asian pre-service teacher with a language minority background in her case study. She examined the cultural conflicts and hardships the pre-service teacher faced both in her teacher education program as well as her practicum site. In addition, Paillotet highlighted that though the pre-service teacher's actual teaching practice was strong, the program failed to recognize her strengths in terms of her flexibility that came with her cultural and linguistic wealth and caring practice that enabled her to connect with her students with diverse needs.

In another case study, Gupta (2006) investigated a way to incorporate pre-service teachers' childhood and personal experiences and their beliefs in the child development theory course. Conducted in an urban setting, many of her pre-service teachers had diverse backgrounds in terms of their race, ethnicity, languages, and immigration status. In this study, the author stated that by providing a formal context in the course where the pre-service teachers were encouraged to interrogate child development theories in conjunction with their own experiences and beliefs enabled a reflective and inquiry based teacher education pedagogy.

The two aforementioned studies uncovered these missing pieces about the experiences of pre-service teachers with diverse backgrounds in their teacher preparation processes. This is an area that can provide important insight to the field of teacher education; however, it is deeply under-researched. More studies are needed examining the "real" experiences of pre-service teachers with diverse backgrounds within the field, especially in their practicum settings and to better support their processes of learning to become teachers.

In our qualitative case study, we focus on a Japanese pre-service teacher and her success stories during her process of becoming an early childhood educator through exploring her personal funds of knowledge and teaching experiences while engaging in a teacher education program practicum course. Though we are aware that her story cannot possibly represent the whole, we aim to contribute to the existing literature by adding an unheard voice. We hope that listening carefully to her voice in her process of becoming a teacher will shed light on teacher educators and teacher preparation programs to gain new understandings to better support pre-service teachers with diverse backgrounds in their processes of teacher development.

Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

Building on Vygotsky's sociocultural view, this study is based on the belief that unique and rich lived experiences of an individual enrich one's processes of learning. The theoretical framework of funds of knowledge, bodies of knowledge and skills that are historically and culturally accumulated and developed for functioning of households and individuals (Moll et al., 1992), is employed in order to explore knowledges that come from the lived experiences of a pre-service teacher with a racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse background. Traditionally, the concept of funds of knowledge has focused on studying children with diverse backgrounds and their experiences in and out of school (Dermans-Sparks, 1993-1994; Moll et al., 1992; Riojas-Cortez, 2001; Villegas & Lucas, 2007). However, it has also been acknowledged that funds of knowledge of teachers with diverse backgrounds are closely intertwined with and shape their teaching and learning, considering that teaching is not simply about a particular set of teaching methods or procedures but a complex endeavor involving the whole person across his/her sociocultural contexts (Adair, 2011; Gupta, 2006; Jackson, 2006; Olsen, 2008; Sexton, 2008).

Some studies applied the framework of funds of knowledge to uncover 'in-service' teachers' funds of knowledge as resources for their instruction for children's learning (Adair, 2011; Jackson, 2006). Building on the existing studies, our study focuses on the funds of knowledge of a 'pre-service' teacher. Goodwin (2010) stated, "Prospective [pre-service] teachers' experiences and autobiographies...

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