Influences on Preservice Teachers' Beliefs about Family Involvement and Cultural Diversity: An Exploration of Mentoring Relationships

Open Access
Author:
Graves, Shanna L
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
September 14, 2007
Committee Members:
  • James Ewald Johnson, Committee Chair
  • James F Nolan Jr., Committee Member
  • John Daniel Marshall, Committee Member
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • mentoring
  • teacher preparation
  • teacher beliefs
Abstract:
The purpose of this collective case study was to describe the relationships between four preservice teachers and seven cooperating teachers participating in an early childhood practicum. The study examined the relation of cooperating teachers’ beliefs about family involvement and cultural diversity to preservice teachers’ beliefs about family involvement and cultural diversity. Additionally, the study explored the influence of cooperating teachers on preservice teachers’ beliefs. Multiple sources, including open-ended interviews, field observations, and reflection and dialogue journals, were employed during data collection. Data analysis included single case analyses followed by a cross-case analysis. Seven research questions guided the collective case study: (1) What is the relationship between cooperating teachers and preservice teachers during an early childhood practicum?; (2) What are cooperating teachers’ beliefs, values, attitudes, and reported practices related to family involvement?; (3) What are cooperating teachers’ beliefs, values, attitudes, and reported practices related to cultural diversity?; (4) What are preservice teachers’ beliefs, values, and attitudes related to family involvement?; (5) What are preservice teachers’ beliefs, values, and attitudes related to cultural diversity?; (6) In what ways do cooperating teachers influence preservice teachers’ beliefs, values, and attitudes related to family involvement?; and (7) In what ways do cooperating teachers influence preservice teachers’ beliefs, values, and attitudes related to cultural diversity? Data revealed a number of findings. First, the relationship between cooperating teachers and preservice teachers was, in many ways, a mentoring relationship. However, the mentoring relationships varied among the dyads. Within the mentoring relationships, positive and negative experiences occurred, regardless of gender. Furthermore, clear, explicit expectations and ongoing communication appeared to be related to positive experiences within mentoring relationships. Second, cooperating teachers’ beliefs, values, attitudes, and reported practices related to family involvement varied, but were similar in a number of ways. In general, the teachers believed that ongoing communication was essential to the relationship between teachers and families. Additionally, the teachers reported similar practices, such as soliciting parent volunteers for field trips and classroom activities, scheduling parent-teacher conferences, and keeping families informed through newsletters and verbal contact. Third, cooperating teachers’ beliefs, values, attitudes, and reported practices related to cultural diversity varied. Overall, the teachers reported that they incorporated cultural diversity into their curriculum. Furthermore, they generally believed that it was necessary for teachers to address cultural diversity mainly because it serves as a valuable learning experience for young children. Fourth, preservice teachers’ beliefs, values, and attitudes related to family involvement varied. Generally, they believed that communication between teachers and families was critical. Similarly, they believed that teachers and parents were equally responsible for family involvement. Finally, they believed that families could be involved in several ways, such as attending school events and assisting in curriculum planning or classroom activities. Fifth, preservice teacher’ beliefs, values, and attitudes related to cultural diversity varied. For the most part, they believed that an incorporation of cultural diversity into the classroom would serve as a learning experience for young children. Additionally, they believed that teachers needed to have an awareness of diversity issues in order to address cultural diversity in the classroom. Finally, preservice teachers reported that their beliefs in relation to family involvement and cultural diversity either changed somewhat, were reinforced, or remained stable. Influences on beliefs were attributed to cooperating teachers, the overall practicum experience, or both to some extent.