Triggering transformation: College freshmen use childrenâ s literature to consider social justice perceptions
Updike, Lisa Stoneman
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This 3-month long, participatory-action research study with 19 college freshmen exposed students to childrenâ s literature selections hoping to initiate dialogue on social justice. The following questions guided the study: 1) How do students in a freshman writing course at a small, private liberal arts college initially perceive social justice? 2) How will critical reading of childrenâ s literature texts impact studentsâ perceptions of social justice? 3) How do students self-identified as preservice teachers differ from the remainder of class members in relation to the first 2 questions? Data included 152 short narratives, 19 long narratives, field notes of the primary researcher and the student research assistant, and a group interview transcript. Findings included the following themes: a) Students and teachers should interact dialogically on their own cultural backgrounds as they consider their social justice perceptions; b) It is possible to go beyond the â tunnelâ vision of prejudice and see â differenceâ as a positive attribute; c) All students, but particularly preservice teachers, need to wrestle with how they â fitâ into a larger world context and teacher education should provide this critical opportunity; d) Personal, critical reflection on texts and discussion within a caring, secure environment can foster change; and e) Students embrace change as they hope to avoid becoming â stagnant.â The findings serve to explicate the research theories on building caring classroom communities (Noddings,2003), transformational learning opportunities (hooks, 1994; Villegas & Lucas, 2002), the use of text to drive change (Rosenblatt, 1995; Trites, 1997; Vandergrift, 1993; Zipes, 2001), and the value of dialogue on social justice topics to preservice teachers and others (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Lowery, 2002; Marshall & Oliva, 2006).
- Doctoral Dissertations