What Teachers Think

Warren, S. R., Noftle, J. T., Ganley, D. D., & Quintanar, A. P. (n.d.). Preparing Urban Teachers to Partner with Families and Communities, 21(1), 95–112.

Preparing Urban Teachers to Partner with Families and Communities is a study by Warren, Noftle, Ganley & Quintanar that examines how teachers prepare to teach based on their professional knowledge, dispositions and authentic relationships with students, their families and the community. (2011)

The discussion on family, the community and the teachers relationship with it, ties into my line of inquiry for creating a partnership with the school and community.  The article addresses teachers and instructors of professional development.  It is based on examination of teachers and their perceptions and interactions with their community.  The study is grounded in the research which will “show that when schools, families, and community groups collaborate to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.” (Warren, Noftle, Ganley & Quintanar, 2011, p.96)

This research is valuable for my topic of inquiry because it regards the interaction of the school and the community. Although the research is conducted from the position of the teacher and my focus has been more from the point of view of the students, both recognize the benefits of a partnership between the school and its surrounding community.  Likewise, another study found “goals for student academic success is best achieved through the cooperation and support of schools, families, and communities” (Willems & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.10).  The study by Warren, Noftle, Ganley and Quintanar, shows how teacher and parent collaboration will encourage involvement that is beneficial to student achievement (2012).   Research by Durand and Perez also supports parent collaboration, noting that it is “an important component of children’s school success.” (2013, p.49)

The theoretical framework was developed with the plan to educate and inform teachers and change their attitudes through a “course on school, family, and community partnerships” (Warren, Noftle, Ganley and Quintanar, 2013, p.97).  The methods suggested by this work will help me to identify what is needed to guide teachers in working with parents and their own perceptions for building a community partnership.

In an effort to “prove the research hypothesis that a shift in professional attitudes will occur as a consequence of participating in the Family and Community Involvement course” (Warren, Noftle, Ganley and Quintanar, 2013, p.100) data was collected from 26 participating student teachers from two universities.  The qualitative technique for collecting the data was having teachers rate their observations of how they thought the community functioned in schools where they taught.  Data was collected twice; once on the first day and again on the last day. “Triangulation of data was accomplished through the use of three separate sources of data reflecting students’ perceptions of their experiences as family and community builders.” (Warren, Noftle, Ganley and Quintanar, 2013, p.101 – 102)  Triangulation of data has been discussed several times in class discussion and is recognized as a source of validity to research analysis and interpretations.

The findings of the study helped to show participants “valuable resources in the community that they could connect to students and their families.” (Warren, Noftle, Ganley and Quintanar, 2013, p.104)  In addition, the participants realized how their positionality could affect change in the schools relationship to the community.  Finally, their participation had confirmed the research hypothesis by realizing a shift in their attitude as a consequence of their involvement.

The framework for my topic of inquiry is when the success and support realized by the students, their parents and the community it will strengthen bonds and open doors of opportunities for them all. Warren, Noftle, Ganley and Quintanar also state a similar result of “enhanced educational opportunities for children” (2013, p. 109) but do not elaborate.  My goal for my research is currently planned to survey a wider collection of opinion and data.

In further study I would like to explore the connection between student achievement and school partnerships.  The topic of inquiry I am pursuing only supposes the benefits of student achievement in this connection and causes me to question if I should be answering another question first.  The study done by Warren, Noftle, Ganley and Quintanar was specific to result of teacher training.  I plan to conduct an information session with the teachers but nothing more.  I will have to give more consideration to the impact of teacher training or the lack of it as I proceed.  My plan is to focus on the students and how they might be used to research ways to involve the community outside the school.

In view of the implications for humanizing, access, and equitable education research, the study was “centered around the belief that communities cannot be rebuilt by focusing on their needs, problems, and deficiencies. Rather, community building starts with the process of locating the assets, skills, and capacities of residents, particularly families and local institutions.” (Warren, Noftle, Ganley and Quintanar, 2013, p.98)  This could have been a research to show or compare schools that have money and resources and those that don’t and I’m glad it wasn’t.  I appreciated the honest effort in this research to work within the means of available resources. Humanization is seeing things as they are and use them to build relationships, build partnerships and build equity.  There is a level of access that can be made available in all communities.  It is unrealistic to assume that access means that every classroom in the country will look the same.  It is more reasonable to expect that students will have access to the same knowledge and quality of instruction. Determining and assessing the inventory is the key place to start in every building project and is no exception to my topic of inquiry.


Durand, T. M., & Perez, N. A. (2013). Continuity and Variability in the Parental Involvement and Advocacy Beliefs of Latino Families of Young Children : Finding the Potential for a Collective Voice, 23(1), 49–80.

Kladifko, R. E. (2013). Practical School Community Partnerships Leading to Successful Educational Leaders. Educational Leadership and Administration: Teaching and Program Development, 24(January), 54–61.

Willems, P. P., & Gonzalez-DeHass, A. R. (2012). School – Community Partnerships : Using Authentic Contexts to Academically Motivate Students, 22(2), 9–30.

Why Now?

This week’s readings seem to focus on how people are represented in research.  The study by Rodaldo questioned, “Why does the highly serious classic ethnographic idiom almost inevitably become parodic when used as self-description?” (Rosaldo, 200 , p. 48) Our descriptive language in ethnography used to describe things was distancing and “dehumanizing” (Rosaldo, 200 , p. 54).  We learned that, “There is no single recipe for representing other cultures” (Rosaldo, 200 , p. 61)    Similarly, there was a study done on the “peer effects to make classrooms more efficient and equal” (Pivovarova, 2014, p.2) We learned that,  parents will pay for their children to be with better performing peers but it may not really matter as much as they think (Pivovarova, 2014, p.2).  The research has shown that “Peer effect is achievement specific, the diversity of abilities in the classroom does not seem to be a factor that determines own achievement gain of a student.” (Pivovarova, 2014, p.3) In this example parents are attempting to distance their children from under achieving students.

Indigenous peoples are defined as people that still maintain and practice some of the culture and society of the people that once inhabited the country before colonization.  Evidently, researcher’s are realizing that the population of indigenous people is shrinking and with it human history.  For example, notice “the underlying processes of cultural, economic, social, and political displacement that lead to language loss- what some scholars have labeled linguistic genocide” (McCarty, 2005,p.2)  Preservation appears to be the motivation for the research and support of indigenous people.  Why else ask the question, “What does self-determination mean for the world’s 300 million Indigenous peoples?”(McCarty, 2005,p.1)  And why do we wait until now to ask this question? This is an example were people are attempting to distance themselves from the rest of society to preserve their culture.

Is there a renewed possibility for change in human activity where the dominant culture will give up on its demands for conformity?  “The coincidence of the change of circumstances and of human activity can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionizing practice.”(Lave, 2012, p.158)  People and civilizations have been making attempts to divide and conquer since history began.  Maybe it is primal instinct of self preservation/survival of the fittest that is the cause for the number of laws written and broken by people every year.  It seems that when something new or different is revealed, people must learn about it, master it and control it.  Only now are we realizing “that anthropology and anthropologists have historically been complicit in colonizing projects that have undermined Indigenous epistemologies and human rights” (McCarty, 2005,p.1).  In other ways, research has divided and sought domination by its observations where the “researched is the object/other/subject whose existence is described /prescribed by members of the dominant culture model of knowing.” (Denzin, Lincoln and Smith, 2008,  p.86) The challenge will be to find a method of change that will avoid revolution and seek cohabitation.

The International Society for Culture & Activity Research (ISCAR) is asking “what is needed for engagement in a political struggle for a different, more inclusive, just and habitable world.” (Lave, 2012, p.156) First, we must recognize “that the conduct of research is an engagement in political practice.”(Lave, 2012, p.169)  Second, “Each of us has much to learn, but together we can help ourselves and one another to understand more adequately our own political situations and struggles and those of the people whose lives we study.”(Lave, 2012, p.169)


Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous

Methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Lave, J. (2012). Changing Practice. Mind, Culture and Activity, 19(2), 156171.

McCarty, T. L. (2005). Indigenous Epistemologies and Education SelfDetermination,

Anthropology, and Human Rights. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 36(1), 17.


Pivovarova, M. (2014). Should We Track or Should We Mix Them? Mary Lou Fulton

Teachers College. Tempe: Arizona State University.


Rosaldo, R. (1994). Culture and Truth: The remaking of social analysis. Boston, MA: Beacon

Revolutionary Change

This week’s readings seem to focus on how people are represented in research.  The study by Rodaldo he examines how in an effort to sound objective research “fails to grasp significant variations in the tone of cultural events.”(Rosaldo, 1993, p.50)  Descriptive language used to describe social activities can be distancing and even “dehumanizing” (Rosaldo, 1993, p. 54).    Research needs to be put in terms used  in everyday life or by adhering to “the highly serious classic ethnographic idiom almost inevitably become parodic when used as self-description?” (Rosaldo, 1993, p. 48)  Accuracy and interpretation of events observed may be improved by including personal accounts of the participants to close the distance in understanding.   This is an experience I witness in parents all too often as I review student’s Individual Education Plans (IEP).  The technical jargon that is contained in legal documents like the IEP is supposedly written in concise language that is specific to the child’s needs.  Furthermore, parents are given and even bigger legal document that outlines the rights and procedures of team members.  The result is, parents are not as tuned in to what the documents say as they are about conversations, in plain words, about how their student is performing. “What does self-determination mean for the world’s 300 million Indigenous peoples?”(McCarty, 2005,p.1)  The same questions educators ask about self determination for students with IEPs are very similar to the questions asked of indigenous people.  They both represent a small population that is caught in the demands of conformity.  The pathways they have to travel for equality in view of the rest of society are very different. Researchers and educators know that, short of a revolution, change is slow and the dominant culture demands conformity. “The coincidence of the change of circumstances and of human activity can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionizing practice.”(Lave, 2012, p.158) I believe it goes back to nature’s battle for survival or self preservation.  People and civilizations have been making attempts to divide and conquer since history began.  The irony is that there is just as much to learn from the conquered people as the victors.  Now we notice “the underlying processes of cultural, economic, social, and political displacement that lead to language loss- what some scholars have labeled linguistic genocide” (McCarty, 2005,p.2) and human history with it.  The challenge will be to find a method of change that will find a way to preserve and seek cohabitation. The International Society for Culture & Activity Research (ISCAR) is working to create change with the question, “what is needed for engagement in a political struggle for a different, more inclusive, just and habitable world?” (Lave, 2012, p.156) My inquiry engages the school and its local community in the struggle to make a difference by closing the gap through education and self-determination.   As business professionals, community leaders, and politicians reach out to form school partnerships they plant the seeds to inspire students to set goals for their education.  Change is slow and if one seed is planted as a result of my inquiry, it will be worth the struggle.  “Each of us has much to learn, but together we can help ourselves and one another to understand more adequately our own political situations and struggles and those of the people whose lives we study.”(Lave, 2012, p.169)   References: Lave, J. (2012). Changing Practice. Mind, Culture and Activity, 19(2), 156171. McCarty, T. L. (2005). Indigenous Epistemologies and Education SelfDetermination, Anthropology, and Human Rights. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 36(1), 17.   Rosaldo, R. (1994). Culture and Truth: The remaking of social analysis. Boston, MA: Beacon

Authentically Motivating Students

Willems, P. P., & Gonzalez-DeHass, A. R. (n.d.). School – Community Partnerships : Using Authentic Contexts to Academically Motivate Students, 22(2), 9–30.

School-Community Partnerships: Using Authentic Contexts to Academically Motivate Students by Patrica Willems and Alyssa Gonzalez-DeHass discusses ways which the school and community can work together to form a partnership where students can learn by engaging in relevant learning activities.  They ideas are supported with research from three different models; authentic instruction, problem-based learning and service learning, that provide students with an environment with real, interactive life examples for learning and allows them the opportunity to participate in the learning made possible by community partnerships.

The research is very well organized and is separated by headings and subheadings. The writing and lay out is plain and easy enough to follow that it could function as a How To book on building school-community partnerships.


The content of study by Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass is a windfall of information that contributes to the field of research that I am interested.  This is exactly the type of research I imagined prior to starting classes. As it relates to what was discussed in class, this is the narrowing of resources in the midst of the breadth of material we’ve covered so far.  There are several factors I have yet to explore. For example, “which methodologies have the best chance of addressing teachers’ needs to meet significant curricular objectives amidst pressure for accountability and time demands associated with statewide standardized testing?”(Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.25) There is also “limited time to meet, identify, and contact community members” (Hands, 2005, p.71) not to mention the   There is still more to uncover and that will require an even more narrow focus but this is an excellent start on my journey to gathering resources and gaining perspective.


The theoretical framework, “student academic success is best achieved through the cooperation and support of schools, families, and communities” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.9) aligns perfectly with my topic of inquiry.  I want to bring the school where I work and its local community together for the benefit of student motivation.  I’d like for the community to witness results like the Problem Based Learners who had “higher levels of intrinsic goal orientation, task value, use of elaborative learning strategies, critical thinking, and metacognitive self-regulation in comparison to students instructed in a more traditional teacher/textbook-centered fashion” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.21). I believe this research is timely, which will carry  weight in attempting to create change.  Its relevance is demonstrated by the service learning model, which is “increasing in popularity, with some estimates showing that approximately 30% of all public schools and 50% of high schools include service learning as part of their curriculum.” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.23)


The study by Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass did not discuss their own collection of data.  Instead, they were informed by a collection of research from a variety of sources. To begin, the discussion connected and fit together references to “the literature that address the social contexts of learning, including that of situated learning, social constructivism, and learner-centered education.” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.10)  Next, Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass provided a section titled, “Suggestions for School-Community Partnerships” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.13) which revealed some of the pitfalls and necessities of establishing partnerships.  Finally, three different models; “authentic instruction, problem-based learning and service learning” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.9) were discussed which actually inspired me to make notes and begin planning some details for my own innovation that I may otherwise have over looked.  I have a model now of how I will communicate my intentions to the stakeholders which will be invaluable for coordinating their efforts.


Some of the examples that are compelling are the ones that teach students through doing instead of observing through the words in a textbook.  The advantage is that students have the school to support their access to areas of the community that would otherwise be unavailable. As students in the youth participatory action research “by learning what resources and opportunities other schools offered, the school visits gave them a context to understand their own schooling experience” (Bautista, Bertrand, Morrell, Scorza, & Matthews, 2013, p.9), it will be my goal to provide similar experiences at my workplace for similar results. In view of equitable education there is no text books required.  Students will have real world tools at their disposal. Lastly, the impact a program like this will have on the students is beyond measure. There is a benefit in every aspect of the program. First, students will be more intrinsically motivated from their experience and exposure to achievable possibilities. And “By including students in identifying genuine needs in the community, they are more likely to see their involvement as making a significant difference even as they further their own academic learning” (Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.24).   Second, students will get to experience a variety of opportunities to help them to define their interests. More importantly, “infusing these opportunities for contextualized learning into academic activities will help students begin to see the meaningfulness of academic subject matter and its relevance beyond the classroom setting.”(Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.25)


The study by Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass did not conclude with any result to reflect on.  They make a very reasonable case to move towards building partnerships. The final comments are proposals for future work that will need to be done “that will require ongoing discussion and reflection in the educational community.”(Willems and Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.25)  Some new ideas that I will have to consider will be how to present this innovation to the district office level.  While brainstorming ideas I suspect that their primary concern will be the expenses involved, and what the implications are on testing and student achievement.




Bautista, M.A., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D., & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory action research and city youth: Methodological insights from the council of youth research UCLA, 115(100303), 1–23.

Hands, C. (n.d.). It ’ s Who You Know and What You Know :  e Process of Creating Partnerships Between Schools and Communities, 63–84.

Powers of Perception

Watching a video demonstrates how our eyes can fool us through our interpretation of visual data we gather from the familiar world. The video shows a man who walks into a room with a very simple scene. The room contains a chair, a table with two tea cups and saucers sitting on top, and a hanging portrait on the wall behind him. What we don’t realize from our perspective is that the room is much different than it appears. The first object the man interacts with is the tea cup and saucer closest to him, which proves to be of normal size. Next, the man walks towards the camera and within a foot of the camera picks up what is now a miniature size chair and sets it beside the teacup and saucer. As he then walks toward the back of the room, it becomes plain that it is farther back than first assumed. We now see that the second tea cup is as large as a basketball and the saucer is as round as a serving platter. The final deception is revealed as he again approaches the camera to remove the hanging portrait which sits no further than an inch from the lens and is the size of a lady bug. I describe this scene because it exemplifies how “Data do not tell us a story. We use data to craft a story that comports with our understanding of the world.” (Bonilla-Silva and Zuberi, 2008) It seems that every crime show like CSI I’ve ever watched, someone says to let the evidence tell the story. I think it would be better to say we have evidence to support the story we’re telling and be aware that we’re not totally objective. The truth of research is never without some dependence on our individual learned perception.

Despite the failures to be objective it is important to have a positive approach to research. I connected our perceptions to the idea that is the background of my topic of inquiry; “exploiting the strengths of Communities of Color”(Yosso, 2005). The whole effort to explain why students of color do not progress at the same rate as whites (Yosso, 2005) may be addressed by the methods schools use for instruction. Not all students and communities learn the same way and it may be possible that the methods of instruction can be learned from within the community. I don’t think there is anyone who would not agree that our education system needs a face lift. I question if communities will ever collectively have the force of will to break the mold by abandoning the models of instruction that have used for over 100 years.

Smith brings up a good point on behalf of indigenous people. Academic writing does not support or even talk about the indigenous people’s way of life and therefore is giving the impression that it isn’t important.  As a result indigenous history effectively being replaced by another history “about the powerful and how they became powerful”(Smith, 2006).  I fear the indigenous Maori efforts “to carry out research which recovers histories, reclaims lands and resources and restores justice, hardly seems possible.”(Smith, 2006) Perception changes things. First, it doesn’t seem possible to recover what is now history without having experienced it. It’s like watching a movie, where historical events become modern interpretations. Consequently, all of the Maori efforts to recover history will probably lead to a lot of uncertainty. Second, the idea of reclaiming land is a contradiction. The whole idea of owning and claiming land is imperialistic in nature. In truth, what rights do any of us have to land?

Acknowledge that research and knowledge begin with an inquiry and the answers are going to be different with everyone you ask. No one perceives things with an identical interpretation. Therefore, all we’re left with is more uncertainty. However, take comfort, while uncertainty is an “individual endeavor, managing it is a social endeavor” (Jordan and McDaniel, 2014) so you’re not alone.



Jordan, M. E., & McDaniel, R. R. (2010). Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams : The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 00(2002), 1–47.


Power of Perspective – Mind Tricks Illusion. Retrieved 06, 2014, from  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z1fhClypjg


Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous peoples. New York: University of Otago Press


Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, (8)1, 69-91.


Zuberi, T. (2008). White logic, white methods: racism and methodology. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Education Starts in the Community

Grothaus, T., & Cole, R. (2010). Meeting the Challenges Together: School Counselors Collaborating With Students and Families With Low Income Tim Grothaus and Rebekah Cole Old Dominion University. In the article, Meeting the Challenges Together: School Counselors Collaborating with Students and Families with Low Income by Tim Grothaus and Rebekah Cole, examine how school counselors work with members of the community to raise student achievement and provide them more opportunity and availability to resources. In addition, school counselors are exploring ways of informing community members. Grothaus and Cole’s purpose for their study is given right up front; “culturally responsive school counselor advocacy and collaboration with low income students and their families is essential to successfully address the pernicious achievement and access gaps pervasive in U.S. schools” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010,p.3). This article was very well organized.  Ideas were clustered and headings were used throughout to make the argument very easy to follow.   I chose this article for its insights that parallel my topic of inquiry, of “school counselor roles in challenging biases, educating stakeholders, and engaging in advocacy for these students and families” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.12). The theoretical framework for the research is set around “the prevalence of youth from families with low income and the distressing inequities in the educational data associated with family income level merits attention.” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010,p.3) I found the research was vague about how data was collected.  Much of the data used was referenced through other sources. However, it seemed that there was relevant data that was not included that would in my view support their analysis. For example, how many of the youth are first generation immigrants, how new are they to the school and how often do they move?  Answers to these are questions would help to transition the reader to the broad findings such as, “Data indicate that low income students have not been afforded equitable educational experiences”. (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.3)   Is this data speaking for all low-income students, and what if one compares data for equitable educational experience with geographic location?  For example, a student who lives near Washington D.C. will have better opportunities and exposure for learning about government than a student from Texas or Arizona.  Likewise, students in Arizona and Texas will have more opportunities on topics such as SB1070 and boarder security.  Are those geographic experience factors calculated as equitable educational experiences?  It seems difficult to accurately support the data that says “students from families with low income often lack the resources and teacher expertise of more affluent schools.” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010,p.3)  Is teacher expertise measured at these low income areas based on student achievement?  Teacher evaluation is a point of controversy that is still being debated.  In the interest of duplicating the findings, I would like to see the article define things like educational experiences and teacher expertise. One example could be where researchers pull teachers from an affluent locale and a low income locale and let them trade for a period of 4 to 5 years, then return with data that shows the disparity in teacher expertise.  The research that shows “low-come families tend to be less involved in their children’s academic lives than middle-class families” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.4) is data is more convincing for the differences in student achievement. “Students who are eligible for free lunches are about two years of learning behind the average student of the same age from non-eligible families”. (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.4)  What troubles me is the focus on what I see as supporting details to the core of a bigger problem.  I can’t see how to separate the school from the problems of the rest of the community. The authors offer all of these facts that basically amount to a list of citations strung together and then turn the corner with an example of a school that is beating the odds. However, many schools are “proving that race and poverty are not destiny”. (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.6) “One seemingly robust factor in many of the success stories is school and family collaboration”. (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.6) This is the data that is of the most interest to my own topic of inquiry. “Research over the last few decades confirms that family involvement in their children’s education enhances the potential for students’ success- specifically with high achievement, increased rates of attendance, fewer disciplinary referrals, better homework completion, more course credits accumulated, and increased likelihood of high school graduation and college attendance.” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.6) The larger community is a combination of business, government, civic services, like police, fire, power, water and sewer, and schools.  All of these elements of the larger community move in and are created to serve the people of the community.  Conversely, the larger community depends on the people of the community to buy and spend their money for its support.  It’s simple economics.  Low income is linked to people with little education working in low paying jobs which translates to longer hours and results in the larger community receives less money. The problem in low-income communities is that there is less money.  The solution is to increase the earning potential of the people.  The implied and obvious choice to quickly increase earning potential is through education.  Therefore, it benefits the community and the people of the community if they invest in ways of supporting education.  “A number of schools and their boards are arriving at the same conclusion- that collaboration is an avenue through which students’ needs may be met and achievement promoted.” (Hands, 2005, p.64) The question that requires further study is how the community and the people in it can support education?  A good starting point is by “identifying goals, defining the focus of the partnerships, and selecting potential community partners” (Hands, 2005, p.67). Grothaus and Cole point out that school and family collaboration needs to also “examine school personnel biases about families with low income and challenging colleagues to change their views and practices.” (2010, p.7) I don’t think focusing on teachers’ biases effectively contributes to establishing collaboration.  “Unnecessarily alienating school personnel through strident advocacy may be less effective than respectfully but firmly challenging biases and building coalitions for change based on shared principles.” (Grothaus & Coles, 2010, p.8) “School – family partnerships benefit schools and families in a variety of ways, including families’ feelings of acceptance into the school community” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.10). Collaboration will build up channels of communication to ensure the school and the community are “empowered and equipped with the resources they need to support their children.” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.10). Just as Grothaus and Cole found in their conclusion, “School counselors can advocate for these partnerships via challenging bias, training school personnel, engaging in outreach to families, conducting research to ascertain effective practices, and promoting the benefits involved in collaborative problem solving and accessing student and family strengths.” (Grothaus & Cole, 2010, p.13)  The solution should start with the community and partner up with the schools in the process. References: Hands, C. (2005). It ’ s Who You Know and What You Know : Process of Creating Partnerships Between Schools and Communities, 63–84.

Original way of knowing

Epistomology is “ones way of knowing” and all of the authors this week seem to address it. Christopher Dunbar Jr. explores the influence shared life experiences have on research (Denzin, Lincoln, Smith, 2008).  Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013) also explores how youth participatory action research (YPAR) compares to traditional methods of research. Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008) provide commentary on methods of research. In Wenger description of the community of practice she also addresses epistemology with the goal of finding ways in which people can work together to affect change. This is a great place to being my inquiry as my focus will be to join my school in a partnership (or a community of practice) with the community’s businesses to increase student achievement. As a researcher I am making an investment of myself and my time, to be in the know with the community and to identify what it means to belong to that community. Therefore, it is important that before I begin, I have a purpose. Likewise, before reading someone else’s research I want to know their purpose. “Knowing, learning, and sharing knowledge are not abstract things we do for their own sake. They are part of belonging.”(Wenger, 2000, p.227)  When I do research I am coming to know the people I interview and the situations they deal with.  As a teacher at my school, I am also a part of the school community but still I do not claim to belong to the community which is made up of the students, parents and local business owners. I think my role may be described more accurately as a “broker” (Wenger, 2000, p.235) between communities. As an insider, in the context of my school community, I feel the community will value this partnership more because it is starting from grassroots.  Liou, Antrop-González, and Cooper’s finding “confirms the values of a grassroots approach to improving schools through learning from key resources in students’ communities” (2009, p.535).   Many of the research methods discussed from the above authors are a grassroots approach. YPAR and community of practice are different ways of knowing. I think about what epistemology we practice most.  There must be several ways of knowing that we practice in an average day, just as there are several communities of practice.  I am curious about the role media plays in our way of knowing.  Media has such a powerful influence over people and what they know.  I imagine a group of students at home in front of their online, first person shooter, video game. As they’re playing they’re wired in with headsets that allow them to communicate vocally. “Communities of practice are the basic building blocks of a social learning system because they are the social ‘containers’ of the competences that make up such a system.”(Wenger, 2000, p.229) A competence is defined by three criteria. One “understand the enterprise well enough to be able to contribute to it”, two; “engage with the community and be trusted as a partner in these interactions” and three; “produce a shared repertoire of communal resources – language, routines, sensibilities, artifacts”, etc. (Wenger, 2000, p.230)    Now imagine the student playing the game.  It seems that he meets the criteria, he contributes in game role play i.e. shooting the enemy, he doesn’t shoot his own players and has learned the maps, names of the enemies and tools of the game. Our surrender to what the media teaches is a connection I worry about because we are not able to direct the media.

Bautista, M., Bertrand, M., Morrell, E., Scorza, D. & Matthews, C. (2013). Participatory Action Research and City Youth: Methodological Insights From the Council of Youth Research. Teachers College Record, 115(100303), 123.
Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. & Tuhiwai Smith, L. (2008). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Liou, D., AntropGonzález, R. & Cooper, R. (2009). Unveiling the Promise of Community Cultural Wealth to Sustaining Latina/o Students’ CollegeGoing Information Networks. Educational Studies, (45), 534555.
Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225246.

Building Partnerships: Communities and Schools

Hands, C. (2005). It ’ s Who You Know and What You Know : Process of Creating Partnerships Between Schools and Communities, 63–84.

The journal article, It’s Who You Know “and” What You Know: The Process of Creating Partnerships between Schools and Communities by Catherine Hands is a guide to research in forming school partnerships with its community. Two schools were examined for their success in forming partnerships. The perspective of community members, teachers, parents and principals were collected and discussed. Hands explains the necessary components of forming a partnership and the pitfalls that may challenge a partnership from becoming successful. There are many benefits to be had by both the school and the community member which is fully discussed. Furthermore, Hands goes on to describe some of the unintended benefits. Throughout the article parallels are made that relate the elements of ecology to elements of forming a partnership and how they are each interdependent. Hands organization is excellent. She makes use of bold and headings to lead the reader sequentially through the steps of forming a partnership. Beginning with the introduction she describes how the need for her research is adjoined to the needs of schools that “are finding it increasingly difficult to create educational programs to address the diverse needs of the students” (Hands, 2005, p.64). In my own experience I see a greater need for change because of the rapidly expanding and diverse population. Schools are working on a paradigm designed over a hundred years ago for a population one quarter the size and even less diverse. Simply stated, schools today are not equipped to effectively engage students or supply their needs required to be successful in the world. Next, Hands outlines the problem and poses questions to the reader. This technique of using questions gives the reader a purpose to focus on as he/she reads. The questions also highlight what is important in the article. Finally, it supplies the opportunity for repetition of concepts. Hands continues by defining essential terms and ideas, followed by describing the framework of the partnering process. The reader is never left to figure out what she means. This topic is identical to what I intend to research. I don’t know whether to be happy someone else has thought of it or if I should be sad because my idea is not as original as I thought. The upside is that I plan to take it a step or two further. I want to investigate how the community partnership affects the school community and student achievement. Currently I notice “students see many academic tasks in terms of short-term learning necessary to secure a grad and do not grasp the learning’s utility in the real world beyond the classroom.” (Willems & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.10). Hands research is easy to read because of how organizes it visually and through her use of anecdotes. She takes two pages to discuss her methodology. She makes use of an easy to read graphic organizer. She reiterates the goals of her research and then discusses her findings and more data collection. The article is so well organized; I compare it to following a street map. Hands makes use of repetition which is a valuable tool to help the reader digest the material without having to go back to recall a concept. During a recent class, our guest speaker from ASU, Dr. Audrey Amrein-Beardsley just briefly mentioned qualitative versus quantitative research in her discussion. I understand what each of those two types of research mean but I work better when I have examples. I have some familiarity with quantitative research after having taken a statistics class where we worked with numbers and values to support our findings. Now this article offers an excellent example of qualitative research. I see how data collected by interviews and relationships that work or fail. Data is collected by the success of “feedback loops resulting from communication within the networks and resultant maintenance or changes made to the relationships” (Hands, 2005, p.66). Hands breaks down the components and mechanics of how to build partnerships” with another researcher’s theory on partnership, “the relationship between systems such as schools and communities. The theory posits that there is a flow of information and resources across the permeable boarders of open systems in a way that is not hierarchical; this flow is bi-directional across the borders” (Hands, 2005, p.66). The flow of information is the communication between the school and the community. The resources are the agreed upon services that will help to accomplish a certain goal. The goal agreed on between the school and the community was that “the needs of the students were the focus and the basis for all partnership efforts.” (Hands, 2005, p.70) The next component is initiating partnerships and the first question to be answered from the community would be “”Well, what’s in this for me?” So, rather than waste people’s time, you have to present it like, ‘This is a situation which will benefit us both.’ So, yeah, I think there has to be some reciprocation. And it has to be obvious”(Hands, 2005, p.71). The schools Hands interviewed made clear that forming partnerships required a measured and well thought out approach. Businesses, organizations and social services have time pressures just like teachers so it’s important to know the needs of the community. It’s a lot like sales. I plan on selling the community with the idea that, in the classroom teachers give grades as a measure of performance and students receive them as payment for work completed. However, the rewards will be much greater when students see the work from a partnership of community and school side by side. “Children learn through a variety of social and educational contexts, and the goals for student academic success are best achieved through the cooperation and support of schools, families, and communities” (Willems & Gonzalez-DeHass, 2012, p.9) My concern is that students do not have the role models or the exposure to the opportunities with-in and outside their communities. There are so many variables to consider in helping students to be college or career ready. Many students have not been outside of their neighborhood. In further study of how community partnership will benefit students I hope to describe how students explore career opportunities, how to involve parents in partnering with the school and community, how to encourage businesses to create scholarships or apprenticeships, and how schools can help businesses to grow.

References: Willems, P. P., & Gonzalez-dehass, A. R. (2012). School – Community Partnerships : Using Authentic Contexts to Academically Motivate Students, 22(2), 9–30.

Critical Teacher Reflection

Howard, T.C. (2003). Culturally relevant pedagogy: Ingredients for critical teacher reflection. Theory Into Practice, 42(3), 195-202.

This past weekend I went to see my niece’s graduation in Colorado. There were 270 students (predominantly white) in her class and I was amazed when approximately 25 students were recognized with GPAs above 4.0 and above all 4 years. The  first student to be recognized for his rank at the top of the class was a student who had entered the country from Mexico, during junior high, not knowing any English.  As I listened, I reflected on the school where I teach. The teacher population is similar to my niece’s school, nearly all white. However, Glendale High School has approximately twice the number of students and over half are Latino or African American. I looked up how many students were graduating, and found that the numbers were very similar (25 – 30 students) with GPAs 4.0 and above. The obvious differences I was able to observe were socio-economic and race.  African American and Latino students, the “two groups constitute the largest ethnic minority groups in U.S schools. Yet the academic underachievement of many African American and Latino students has been abysmal for decades” (Howard, 2003, p.195). I observe the struggle of these students daily, which has become the inspiration for my inquiry. The increasing number of failures by racially diverse students Howard says, begs the question, “What, if anything, does race and culture have to do with widespread underachievement of nonmainstream students?” (Howard, 2013, p.196)  My inquiry is focused on the student population at Glendale High School and how involving the local community support will motivate and inform students. As individual teachers, we are constantly searching for ways to improve our students’ achievement and in doing so I find Howard’s concern relevant on a scale I had not yet considered. As a nation, our education system needs to account more for the increasing number of immigrants and adapt its methods accordingly.  Our ability to connect with our students is dependent on critical teacher reflection, where teachers consider their own positionality.  As teachers we must be aware of how where we came from and who we are influences how we teach.  We need to realize that inevitably, “we teach who we are” (Howard, 2013, p.198).  Recognizing and making the separation from ones personal views “is why critical teacher reflection is important  to develop culturally relevant pedagogy”(Howard, 2013, p.198).   Through reflection, teachers  are “examining their actions and constantly modifying them accordingly”(Howard, 2013, p.197). just as they do when they monitor and adjust to ensure the success of a lesson. In my research I perceive myself better positioned to make a connection with the school community.  However, the more I read the more I learn what I don’t know.  There are norms that I have yet to learn and understand as I attempt to make connections with the community.  Garcia and Ortiz pose a question that will help me focus, “How has my professional socialization positioned me to conduct research in culturally and linguistically diverse schools and communities?”(2013, p. 37)  I think now about how similar the school and environment where I grew up were more similar to my niece’s school than the school where I teach. The flaw I perceive in my action research will come from one obvious place and that is by my own “cultural bias”(Garcia and Ortiz, 2013, p.43).  My approach to the problem is as I perceive it and expect that my initial understanding may not be completely informed.  However that may be and lead to frustration, I hope my innovation and research will ultimately lead to greater student achievement.

Garcia, S.B. & Ortiz, A.A. (2013).  Intersectionality as a framework for transformative research to special education.  Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 13(2), 32-47.