Negotiating Pedagogy in the Current Policy Context

Lucinda Pease-Alvarez
University of California - Santa Cruz

Cindy Pease-Alvarez

This website was developed by Lucinda Pease-Alvarez as part of the Goldman-Carnegie Quest Project, and can be accessed at the following URL:

Enter Site

(this link was valid on 9/20/06)

Initially, I saw involving my students with the Quest websites as an important venue through which they would gain insights into practical enactments of pedagogical perspectives that conceive of learners' experiences and needs as resources for learning and teaching. In the planning work that I did in the summer of 2005 I described this pedagogical vision as dialogue and I crafted a set of very general questions guiding my inquiry. Then I developed some plans for an assignment drawing on my goals and plans for data collection. I also developed some preliminary plans of what I could do to connect teacher education students to the communities in which youngsters live and learn.

Once the quarter began, I was confronted with real students beginning to negotiate much of their learning in the context of real schools and classrooms. Although my overarching commitment to moving my students toward pedagogical visions that are inclusive of the needs and experiences of youngsters remained in tact, my Carnegie plans changed. While involving my students in a preliminary assignment in which I asked them to investigate the sociopolitical landscape framing the learning and teaching of literacy in their schools and classrooms, I became much more aware of the classroom contexts in which they are learning and how they were interpreting those contexts. Many students were extremely upset by what they percieved to be a policy environment that did not draw on the resources that low-income bilingual students brought to their schools.

During class students shared what they had learned from their interviews. In addition to clarifying one another's misunderstandings about NCLB, Reading First, and Proposition 227, students voiced opinions about these initiatives. As they discussed the assignment, it also became quite evident that there was a pedagogical divide. That is, teacher education students working in classrooms and districts where European American students comprised the majority population observed that the students in their placement classrooms had access to literacy curricula that tended to be less scripted. The teachers in those classrooms utilized instructional practices that drew on the needs and interests of learners. In contrast, teacher education students assigned to student teaching placements with predominantly low-income bilingual students were working in schools and districts where teachers were required to use state adopted curriculum. In addition, because students in these classrooms did not do well on the CST, teachers working in these classrooms told student teachers that they were being pressured to teach in ways that contrasted markedly with the progressive and cirtical pedaogical approaches that teacher education students were reading about in their coursework at UCSC. My teacher education students were outraged by what they had learned via this assignment.

I decided rather than having my students peruse several websites guided by a set of questions, I would focus their attention on Jenn Myers' website because she show cased practices that many did not have access to in their placements. Although these are literacy events/practices that are emphasized in the course readings and discussion, it can be difficult for students to envision what these practices can look like in classroom settings. Moreover, Jenn was working in California albeit in a school where she is not obligated to use a specific curriculum. (Although that may be changing) Also, Jenn was a fourth year teacher around the age of many of my students. I reasoned that her relatively short time in the field would make her practice seem more accessible to my students. So I conceived of this assignment as a venue for students to see and reflect on instrutional practices that I thought were (1) promising or worthy of their attention and, (2) not widely available to them in their student teaching placements.