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A Pilot Study: Understanding Teachers’ Lived Experiences with Diverse Learners: Narrative Perspectives of a Novice, Experienced, and Veteran Teacher. Romy M. Allen, Doctoral Candidate Winston Salem State University Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the

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A Pilot Study:Understanding Teachers’ Lived Experiences with Diverse Learners: Narrative Perspectives of a Novice, Experienced, and Veteran Teacher

Romy M. Allen, Doctoral Candidate

Winston Salem State University

Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the

National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems

February 8, 2007

Allen, 2007

changing schools in nc
Changing Schools in NC
  • (Veteran Teacher)

I watched the children in my classroom change over the decades. Suddenly, I look up and children from all backgrounds were sitting in front of me and for the first time I was unsure how to teach.

  • (Novice Teacher)

Why didn’t someone in my courses prepare me for the diversity I would be facing in my classroom? How was I suppose to teach students from such different backgrounds?

Allen, 2007

focus of pilot study
Focus of Pilot Study
  • Does the mainstream approach to curriculum and instruction for pre-k children work for diverse young learners?
  • What pedagogy would be beneficial to young diverse learners in preparation for kindergarten?
  • How can teachers become more culturally competent?
    • Understand home and community of students
    • Develop knowledge, skills, and dispositions of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Allen, 2007

north carolina in context
North Carolina in Context
  • 65-70% of working moms have children under the age of six. (Census Bureau, 2002)
  • NC childcare industry generates $1.5 billion annually and provides 46,000 jobs. (National Economic Development

and Law Center, 2004)

  • The NC Department of Public Instruction recently directed its attention to school readiness issues and initiatives. (NC Schools Improvement Panel, 2000)
  • Immigration rates in NC almost tripled between 1990-2000 (274%), has the largest growing immigration rate in the South, and the largest growing Latino population in the US. (Cooper & Allen, 2006)

Allen, 2007

research design methods
Research Design & Methods
  • Qualitative Paradigm
  • Narrative Inquiry Methodology
    • Three Central Piedmont Region teachers of diverse learners:
      • Novice, Experienced, Veteran
  • Data Source
    • One Question:”Tell me the story of your life experiences with diverse learners”
    • Intertextuality comparison of authentic lived experiences
    • NC statistics from Southern Center on Immigrant Realities, 2005, UNCG

Allen, 2007

conceptual framework
Conceptual Framework
  • Cultural Difference Theory
    • Culturally Relevant Pedagogy
  • Cross-Cultural Inquiries:
    • Developmentally and Culturally Appropriate Praxis
  • Black Feminist Thought
    • Addresses Social Justice Issues
      • Gives voice to the forgotten

Allen, 2007

my findings
My Findings
  • Importance of Home-School Partnerships
    • Cultural continuity
  • Belief in Children’s Abilities
    • Pro-active, strengths approach
  • Meaningful, Respectful Instruction
    • Culturally responsive practices
  • Commitment and Ethic of Care
    • Going the extra mile so students will succeed
  • Continuing as Lifelong Learners
    • Loving to learn

Allen, 2007

some data
Some Data:


  • (Novice Teacher)
  • “And, some of what popped into my mind, as far as ideas, as far as strategies – I can only describe as God-given talent. I mean there would be times where I would try different strategies and I would have no idea where I was getting it from, you know, like just calling a parent out of the blue or popping up at a parent’s house.”


  • (Experienced Teacher)
  • “We had open-topic chats each day so I could get to know them [the children] and their interpretation of their families, traditions, and celebrations. This method allowed me to gaze into their backgrounds unobtrusively and gave the children a chance to express themselves while I observed and assessed their strengths naturally. I needed to see how each child held their own ground so I could determine where to begin their concept lessons.”

Allen, 2007

more data
More Data


  • (Novice Teacher)
  • “It’s about being a good listener; it’s about having a plan; it’s about meeting the kids where they are on their terms, you know, once you get them on board, it’s about respecting their boundaries.”
  • (Experienced Teacher)
  • “Ms. CCC [name change for research] forced the pre-packaged curriculum down my throat but I just stuck it in the closet and let it gather dust. I’m not a pre-packaged, universal, standardized kind-of-person. I’m more of an eclectic type that adjusts concepts and teaching methodology according to the needs of the children.”


  • (Veteran Teacher)
  • At least I cared enough about the kids as individuals that I think that they picked up that I cared about them whether I knew what I was doing or not.

Allen, 2007

continued data
Continued Data


  • (Veteran Teacher)
  • “…what I find is most people who do this and do it well are – have been on a journey and I see myself as definitely having traveled a journey. And I’m still not there. I’m still, like I say, I feel like I’ve read and read and read and continue to read on diverse learners, but now I’m really concentrating on this poverty piece because I think it’s a key piece to our understanding what we need to do.”


  • (Novice Teacher)
  • “You can’t be an effective teacher if the parents are not on board because you borrow these kids…So you get these kids for a year and that’s it. Their parents get them for their whole life – so, who’s gonna have more influence? You? – who is in their life for a year or their parents or extended family who is in their life forever? So, you better get the parents on board – they have to respect you, they have to trust you; they have to believe you want the best for their kid…”

Allen, 2007

eight practical components for educators working with diverse young learners
Eight Practical Components for Educators Working with Diverse Young Learners:
  • Connect with families – children in context with their home culture provides a plethora of relevant information to assist in designing meaningful, engaging curriculum
  • Celebrate all differences – provide stories, materials, games, and adventures that reflect the lives of each child in the classroom and around the world
  • Nurture the parent relationship – families are your greatest asset so partner with the parents and provide frequent updates on their child’s progress
  • Utilize parents as resources – parents can provide an extensive array of resources from home, work, and community

Allen, 2007

components continued
Components Continued
  • Validate the families’ perspective – request that parents provide suggestions for classroom concepts then interweave those ideas into lesson plans
  • Create a community of learners – embrace each child’s developmental abilities and design learning activities that provide entry according to each child’s interests and strengths
  • Familiarize self with community – learn about children’s communities of support in concert with the immediate community of place; then, utilize the resources
  • Embrace lifelong learning – continue with your own learning and development while familiarizing yourself with current and diverse issues through reading,

reflection, and even more coursework if needed

Allen, 2007

implications for frameworks
Implications for Frameworks
  • Schools, curriculums, and instruction lack alignment with the influences of children’s diverse learning and development
  • Teacher preparatory programs need redesigning of course of study philosophies to better prepare pre-service students for diverse learning environments
  • Schools must connect to home/community to engage in cultural continuity

Allen, 2007

implications for practice
Implications for Practice
  • Educational systems must become culturally competent for diverse student success
  • Teachers need to be familiar with and engage in socio-cultural consciousness through self-reflection
  • Seven practical components can be utilized to guide educational leaders in becoming cultural agents in promoting quality and equitable learning environments

Allen, 2007

contact information
Contact Information

Romy M. Allen, Director

102 Child Development Center & Lab School

Winston Salem State University

Winston-Salem, NC 27110

[email protected]

(336) 750-2227w, (336) 750-2364fax

Faculty: Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education Program

Allen, 2007