4.1 Gathering information about your beliefs and values, or those of other educators.
See the CIP Step 4 page for general suggestions about collecting and analyzing information about your puzzlement. This page discusses some specific issues related to collecting and analyzing information related to your beliefs and values and those of other educators.
Your beliefs and values
If you think that your own beliefs and values might be contributing to your puzzlement, you can begin to explore these in relation to the puzzling situation through one or more approaches.
One approach is by "free writing" or journaling. You might begin by free writing in response to the questions "Why is this situation puzzling to me?" and "Why do I think this situation is happening?" If you have strong feelings about the situation, you can also respond to "Why do I feel strongly about this situation?"
Then you can reread what you have written, identifying your beliefs and values. Listing them as such can be helpful. If you have trouble "seeing" your beliefs and values in what you have written, you can ask a trusted peer to look over your free writing to help identify these. For some help in identifying possible cultural influences on your practice, see Okun, Fried and Okun (1999) and Henze, Katz, Norte, Sather, & Walker (2002, chapter 1).
Having identified your beliefs and values in relation to the puzzling situation, you might then free write in response to "How might my assumptions, beliefs and values be contributing to the puzzling situation?"
Some relevant examples of teacher reflection have been published. Sharp (2003), an African American teacher of English, discussed her practice of reflection in a suburban, predominantly European American middle class high school. Paley (1979/2000), a European American teacher, reflected on her experiences over a five-year period with African American kindergarten students.
A second approach is to invite a colleague (preferably one with cultural background[s] like your focus student[s]) to observe in your classroom to help you identify your beliefs, attitudes, and values, and how those might be contributing to your puzzlement. Obidah and Teel (2001) presented an important story of how two teachers, one an African American "mentor" and the other a European American "mentee," collaborated to improve the classroom experience of African American students. At the end of their book, Obidah and Teel presented useful guidelines for those who want to develop a similar collaboration.
A third approach involves moving beyond a focus on the immediate educational setting to explore your history and biography more deeply to see how your own biography influences your attitudes, values, and behavior in culturally diverse schools. (See Spindler and Spindler, 1994b, for their discussion of "cultural therapy," which presented a model for this kind of self-reflective cultural awareness.) You could start by writing in a journal or constructing a mind map around the question "What experiences in my life have contributed to the beliefs and values that are important in this puzzling situation?" (Examples of influences include: your own school experiences; family or community values related to education; the role of school in your life; cultural values related to gender roles; the relationship between your school and community; your prior teaching experiences; and your family's experiences in culturally diverse situations.) For more suggestions see Powell, Zehm & Garcia (1996, Chs. 3 & 4) and Chang (1999). See Gorski (2000) for an example of an autobiography in which the author explored his whiteness.
If you are European American, you might find it useful to explore your experience of whiteness and white privilege--and how this might be contributing to your puzzlement. For some specific questions to guide such reflection see Milner (2003) and Howard (2003); for a workbook and readings see Helfand and Lippin (2002). For a report of a participatory action research study in which a small group of White female student teachers explored what it meant to them to be white teachers, see McIntyre (1997). See also, Obidah and Teel (2001) regarding Teel's insights into the influence of her cultural assumptions and attitudes on her teaching.
Racial identity development models may offer a structure for understanding the knowledge, attitudes, and values of yourself and others. For overviews of the literature on racial and ethnic identity, see Chavez and Guido-DeBrito (1999) or Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, and Alexander (1995). For a discussion of African American identity, see Cross (1991, 1995); for a discussion of White identity development and the "White ally" as an alternative White identity, see Tatum (1994).
Note: I have some concerns about work on racial identity development because much of it assumes a linear trajectory for individual's change over time and because much of it assumes that it knows what the endpoint is. For a critique of White racial identity development literature in particular, see Thompson (2003).
Beliefs and values of other educators
If you think the beliefs and values of other educators might be contributing to the puzzling situation, you might suggest that they explore the questions identified above. Or you might engage them in a non-threatening dialogue centered around those questions, listening carefully for their beliefs and values related to the puzzling situation, and then exploring with them how these might be contributing to the puzzling situation. Pathways to Cultural Awareness (Spindler and Spindler, 1994a) presented examples of how the cultural therapy model has been used to help teachers become more aware of their beliefs and values and of how these influence their practice. Models of racial and ethnic identity development, which are briefly discussed above, may also provide a useful framework for understanding other educators' attitudes and behavior.