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Study Examines How Asset-Based Pedagogy Affects Latino Students’ Ethnic, Achievement Identities

Have you seen the JTE Insider blog managed by the Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) editorial team? Check out the following interview with an author of a recent article.

In the interview below, Francesca A. López of the University of Arizona provides some insight behind her research for the article, “Altering the Trajectory of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Asset-Based Pedagogy and Classroom Dynamics.” The article, published in the March/April issue of the journal, is summarized in the following abstract:

Prior research has contributed to our understanding about the ways teachers communicate their expectations to students, how students perceive differential teacher behaviors, and their effect on students’ own perceptions of ability and achievement. Despite more than half a century of this work, historically marginalized students continue to be underrepresented in a vast array of achievement outcomes. Scholars have argued that asset-based pedagogy is essential to effective teaching, but reviews of research repeatedly point to a need for empirical evidence. This article describes a study wherein asset-based practices are applied to a classroom dynamics framework to examine how teachers’ asset-based pedagogy beliefs and behaviors are associated with Latino students’ ethnic and reading achievement identity. Analyses revealed that teachers’ critical awareness moderates their expectancy, resulting in higher achievement; and teachers’ critical awareness and expectancy beliefs were found to be directly associated with teachers’ behaviors, which were in turn related to students’ ethnic and achievement identities. Implications for teacher education are discussed.

Q: Were there any specific external events (political, social, economic) that influenced your decision to engage in this research study?

A: I have a salient memory of the day the news broke that Arizona had banned bilingual education. I was a bilingual teacher in Texas at the time, and several of my colleagues and I were stunned that the ignorance of such a policy was possible. Several years later, I ended up pursuing graduate study in Arizona. My location influenced my interest to examine how different policies shape the ways Latino youth view themselves, and how this is related to their achievement. The particular study reflected in the manuscript was further informed by subsequent policies in Arizona that banned Mexican American Studies. The study is the result of my professional and research experiences examining policies, teacher preparation, teacher beliefs, and teacher behaviors in a context that represents the opposite of what so many scholars have argued is in the best interest of youth. My goal was to link the literature on asset-based practices with the literature on teacher expectations and effectiveness to more forcefully influence policy.

Q: What were some difficulties you encountered with the research?

A: Recruiting teachers for the research tends to be quite difficult. I think that the reason for that is, at least in part, today’s climate that is so disparaging of teachers. Asking teachers to participate in activities that add on to their already incredibly busy schedules is understandably hard. Because my research focuses on youth, that adds a layer of difficulty. Recruiting and gaining parental permission is difficult, particularly in a context where Latino parents have every reason to more heavily scrutinize anything that involves their children. All that said, I was very welcomed by the district and teachers. This research has led to an incredible partnership that I am very grateful for.

Q: What advice would you give to new scholars in teacher education?

A: The key piece of advice I would give to scholars who research teacher education is to make sure they give back to the communities where they carried out research. It is imperative that when we ask teachers, school leaders, and parents to participate in work that informs teacher education that we reciprocate. I would also recommend that scholars investigate the historical context of the settings where they carry out research. There is much more than meets the eye when we ask schools to take part in a research study that will inform the findings.

Francesca A. López is associate professor in the Educational Policy Studies and Practice Department of the College of Education at the University of Arizona.

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