Preparing teacher-researchers for local-global, multicultural classrooms: prospects for postcritical and feminist qualitative methodologies.

Author:Sprecher, Katharine

Student populations in the U.S. are becoming increasingly diverse, as global migration and immigration bring greater numbers of people from around the world to our already multicultural communities and schools (Banks, 2008,2009; Brown & Kysilka, 2002; Spring, 2008a). In this sense, U.S. classrooms are local-global environments, in which children from widely varied ethnic, socio-cultural, national, and linguistic backgrounds interact daily. Such student interactions mirror the local-global dynamics of a world in transition, in which globalization rapidly instigates myriad interconnections among peoples and systems--economic, environmental, cultural, epistemological, and political--on local and global levels (De Lissovoy, 2010; Spariosu, 2004). The local-global microcosms of classrooms, schools, and communities therefore serve as preparatory environments, in which students learn and practice the art of intercultural communications, understanding, and co-existence.

Nevertheless, the local-global introduces new complexities to social environments that, if not addressed with appropriate praxes, may exacerbate tensions and misunderstandings among students from different backgrounds (Banks, 2008). Such learning outcomes could radically under-prepare students for futures in local-global societies marred by inequities, exploitations, and social and ecological crises. Additionally, diverse student bodies bring multiple epistemologies, communication styles, and cultural assumptions, experiences, and expectations to teaching and learning that must be attended to pedagogically (Nieto, 1996; Sleeter & Grant, 2003). These circumstances are further complicated by the disconnection between student positionalities and those of the majority of U.S. teachers, who are predominantly White and middle-class (Brown & Kysilka, 2002).

These realities beg changes in educational policy, practice, and teacher preparation that prioritize social justice-oriented, local-global learning. This includes a re-emphasis on multicultural educations that are adaptive to the unique and evolving dynamics of classroom environments. Sprecher (2011) argued that the demands of contemporary schooling call for reflexive frameworks that draw from inclusive, social reconstructionist (Banks & Banks, 2005; Gay, 2000; Nieto, 1996; Sleeter & Grant, 2003) and critical multiculturalism (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1997; McLaren, 1995) and global (Banks, 2008, 2009; Hicks & Holden, 2007; Noddings, 2005; Spariosu, 2004) and decolonial educational approaches (Canella & Viruru, 2004; De Lissovoy, 2009,2010; Tejeda, Espinoza, & Gutierrez, 2003; Villenas, 2006). (1) In this article, I argue that such a framework would greatly benefit from targeted skill-building among educators in qualitative methodologies that embrace postcritical and feminist philosophical insights for emancipatory learning (Hesse-Biber, 2007; Lather, 1991, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007; Noblit, Flores, & Murillo, 2004; Oleson, 2011; Weiner, 1994).

I therefore propose a post/critical, local-global educational framework that integrates elements of the aforementioned theoretical, pedagogical, and methodological approaches. This framework would recognize and re-emphasize the role of teacher-researcher to inform both localized practices and cross-regional considerations. Due to the complex nature of student learning, the multiplicity and reflexivity inherent in local-global classrooms, and the potential interference of hegemonic power and inequities, I believe postcritical ethnography and feminist praxis-based methodologies may offer especially useful tools for post/critical, localglobal schooling. As I will demonstrate, these approaches integrate emancipatory epistemological orientations with methods for knowledge production that embrace and respond to diversity.

For too long, educational research has been shaped by political trends rooted in positivism and conservatism that exclude teachers from the research process (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004; Lankshear & Knobel, 2004). Furthermore, an over-emphasis on quantitative studies has oriented research as a tool for comparison, reward, and punishment rather than as a means to assess and immediately inform future directions and strategies for pedagogy in various and unique locales (Darling-Hammond, 2007b; Karp, 2003; Lankshear & Knobel, 2004; Neill, 2006). Teachers are logically situated as trained observers and first responders in their classrooms. Thus, the role of teacher-researcher is wasted if policymakers fail to see the value in teachers' work as they observe, interact with, and report on their students on both daily and long-term bases (Lankshear & Knobel, 2004).

In the following pages, I use a methodological bricolage to present a description of these research approaches and the ways in which they may be especially useful tools for teachers utilizing post/critical, local-global frameworks. This includes an examination of conceptual elements employed by these approaches in attempts to conscientiously avoid practices that may inadvertently objectify, exoticize, marginalize, or oppress students. I begin this discussion with an explanation of my methodology and its relevance for this work, followed by a more thorough definition of the local-global and an outline of my proposed framework.


Kincheloe and Berry (2004) advocated bricolage as a methodology of rigor suited to the complexity, multiplicity, and reflexivity of educational research contexts. Bricolage employs a form of tinkering--that is, drawing from or developing research methods as they are needed--so as not to restrict knowledge production to the confines or dictates of any technique or model (Berry, 2006; Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Kincheloe, 2005). A bricoleur examines many dimensions that affect educational contexts that may include the socio-historical, political, cultural, epistemological, material, and local-global (Berry, 2006). In addition, bricolage is oftentimes interdisciplinary, allowing processes of knowledge production to transcend disciplinary boundaries. Rather, bricoleurs seek a dialectical relationship among disciplines, in which overlaps and liminal spaces lead to new understandings (Kincheloe, 2001; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004). Forthis article, I conduct aliterary conversation to examine relationality among theoretical, pedagogical, and methodological discourses, as well as geopolitical events and circumstances. Thus, my dialectic goes well beyond a simple literature review to analyze the interrelationships of multiple modalities and what they may mean for education. My goal is to explore ways in which certain discourses and strategies might be integrated in local-global contexts to become useful tools for teacher-researchers and teacher educators.

Like the other discourses I discuss in this article, bricolage takes an emancipatory standpoint, and sets researchers to the task of promoting social justice through their work. Rather than simply describing, bricoleurs seek to innovate; imbuing their research with creativity and imagination for what could be (Kincheloe, 2005; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004). This mirrors my own strategy, as I attempt to develop new approaches to schooling, the professional role of teaching, and teacher education that I believe are more conducive to equity and excellence in local-global learning environments. Additionally, I adopt the bricoleur's commitment to anti-reductionism, in which the researcher makes no claims to final or universal truths. Rather, as a bricoleur, I offer my naturally partial interpretations to ongoing, collaborative conversations (Kincheloe & Berry, 2004).

Bricoleurs inform their research with theoretical and philosophical insights on human conditions, such as power, the nature of knowing, and hierarchical relations. Thus, bricolage is heavily informed by discourses such as critical theory, postmodernism, poststructuralism, and hermeneutics in order to check dominant assumptions and linguistic frameworks that shape hegemonic worldviews, including those of the researcher (Kincheloe, 2005; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004). Researcher positionality is under constant self examination, and bricoleurs acknowledge that they, and their understandings of the world, are always embedded in the process of knowledge production (Berry, 2006; Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Kincheloe, 2005; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004). While bricolage embraces complex theoretical explorations, bricoleurs inform their projects with lived experiences, recognizing that discourses cannot ever fully describe or contain the dynamic and multi-dimensional realities of the lived world (Kincheloe, 2005; Kincheloe & Berry, 2004). My own work is responsive to and inspired by my experiences as a mentor, tutor, and teacher with children from international backgrounds and subjugated group identities.

The following section begins my dialectical exploration by discussing a synergistic educational framework for post/critical, local-global multiculturalism, to be followed by a section on postcritical ethnography and feminist praxis-based methodologies as potential tools for teacher-researchers employing such a framework.

Defining the Local-Global

Far from a binary construct, the local-global implies complex interrelationships in which the attitudes and actions of peoples in diverse locations affect and are affected by each other (De Lissovoy, 2009, 2010; Spariosu, 2004). Examples abound. The export of jobs from the U.S. has contributed to higher national unemployment and incarceration, while overseas labor exploitation of unprotected workers has been fed by consumerism without conscience (Bigelow & Peterson, 2002; De Lissovoy, 2009; The National Labor Committee, n.d.; 2003). Uninformed U.S. citizens have supported or ignored aggressive U.S. military activities in South America and the Middle East, resulting in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in these regions...

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