Lessons Learned: Evolving into a Critical Cultural Consciousness Framework in Teacher Education



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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing disparities for students of color. Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) has been established as an effective intervention strategy to engage students of color but has not been standardized or interwoven throughout teacher education programs and does not include explicit anti-oppressive constructs. Purpose: Grounded in a critical epistemic framework, this study uses an integrated model - Critical Cultural Consciousness, which conjoins CRP with Cultural Consciousness and Reformative Justice Education. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers’ experiences with CRP in their pre-service and in-service teaching practice, as well as to investigate teachers’ perspectives about incorporating aspects from the proposed conceptual framework into teacher education programs. Methods: Six recent graduates of a teacher education program were recruited using purposeful and snowball sampling. This small exploratory case study integrated individual interviews and focus groups for data collection. Data produced from one-on-one interviews informed question protocols for the focus group. Data from the focus group was used to compare thematic analysis deduced from individual responses. A within-case analysis of one-on-one interviews was generated first to provide important details. Individual and group interviews transcripts were read several times and transcribed verbatim. The analytic process involved a constant comparative method and open-coding process in order to separate and categorize data into meaningful expressions. Results: Participants of this study reported some limited exposure to CRP in their teacher education program. Participants relied primarily on their own personal backgrounds to inform their practice. Participants expressed having minimal exposure to Cultural Consciousness and Reformative Justice domains in their program. Though it was not a focus of the teacher education program, building relationships with students was repeatedly emphasized as the most effective strategy for student engagement and underscored each aspect of participants’ pedagogical practice. The context of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted participants’ capacity to engage their students. Conclusion: Teachers need extensive training to adapt pedagogical strategies to an online environment. Results of this study indicate that while teachers are graduating from the teacher education program feeling generally prepared to teach in multicultural settings, their pedagogical confidence is a result of their own personal experiences and interactions with diverse populations. This study also reveals that teacher education programs remain situated in outdated CRP typologies. This study suggests that CRP is not enough to address underlying issues faced by a diverse body of students. A critical and compassionate framework such as Critical Cultural Consciousness should be implemented into teacher education programs to help bridge the gap between theory and practice and re-engage students.



Teacher education, Teacher education reform, Critical Cultural Consciousness, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, higher education reform, Antiracist education