Teachers' Dissonance With Curriculum Planning for Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students

Open Access
Author:
Meidl, Tynisha Denea
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 01, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Ladislaus M Semali, Dissertation Advisor
  • Ladislaus M Semali, Committee Chair
  • Jamie Myers, Committee Member
  • Esther Susana Prins, Committee Member
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • linguistically and culturally diverse students
  • curriculum
  • dissonance
Abstract:
Historically, efforts to address the educational needs of linguistically and culturally diverse students (LCD) children have been inadequate. Currently, NCLB along with high-stakes testing, standards and objectives based education LCD students are performing below their peers (Weil, 1998). Classroom teachers, caught in the middle, are charged with the responsibility to raise test scores, plan curriculum, motivate students, and provide a welcoming learning environment for all students. Here, teachers’ beliefs about meeting the needs of LCD students amidst NCLB were explored, in relation to curriculum planning. A review of constructivist theory, curriculum theory, and culturally relevant pedagogy was provided as insight into to how teachers’ beliefs are constructed, the role of curriculum, and approaches towards meeting academic needs of LCD students. A Case Study approach guided this research, using interviews, observations, and document analysis. Data analysis included coding and categorizing the data, while looking for major themes to emerge. Participant responses along with observational field notes and documents were developed into three major themes and several subthemes. The major themes that emerged from the study were: dissonance, individualized pedagogy and redefined expectations for teaching and learning. Data from participant statements and researcher observations, illuminate the dissonance between teachers’ beliefs about district mandated pacing schedule, deficiencies in students’ prior knowledge, and pedagogical beliefs. Dissonance was defined as the discord between meeting student academic needs while adhering to the mandated curriculum and pacing guide. From this case study, dissonance led to a redefined philosophy of teaching and learning as a means to reconcile the discord or to find equilibrium. According to the data, teachers unknowingly sought out ways to resolve dissonance through a process of individualizing pedagogy. The individualized pedagogical approaches were identified as curriculum adaptation and/or curriculum integration. Due to the factors creating dissonance, teachers attempted to meet student academic needs by redefining their expectations for teaching and learning as a result of personal experiences, individual constructs teaching and learning, and the district mandated pacing schedule. The notion of redefined expectations for teaching and learning are directly linked to the influence of the pacing schedule, state and local assessments, perceptions of student social and academic needs, and their own beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers expressed a spectrum of beliefs about their role, the classroom, and meeting the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse students. The participants found the pacing guide useful but left little room for creativity and did not acknowledge the needs of their students. Often times the curriculum was not relevant and practical due to the backgrounds of the students. As a result, teachers implemented what they found to be for their students by adjusting the curriculum.