Informing Teaching Through Community Engagement: A New Zealand Approach

Informing Teaching Through Community Engagement: A New Zealand Approach

Trish Lewis (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Letitia Hochstrasser Fickel (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Glynne Mackey (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) and Des Breeze (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4041-0.ch015


Preservice teacher education programs prepare teachers for a variety of educational settings that serve a diverse range of children. Research suggests that many graduates lack confidence and the capability to teach those from backgrounds different from their own, including children from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and children with additional learning needs. In the bicultural, and increasingly multicultural, New Zealand context, preservice teachers are overwhelmingly from White, middle-class, monolingual backgrounds. This chapter offers a case study of the development of a community engagement course within an initial teacher education degree program. Based on Kolb's model of experiential learning and Moll's notions of funds of knowledge and identity, the course aims to enhance preservice teachers' knowledge of the lives of children they teach, and their dispositions and cultural competence for teaching, through personal and professional interaction with the community.
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Supporting Preservice Teachers Dispositional Development And Cultural Competence Through Community-Based Service Learning

Contrary to popular opinion, teaching is complex and “unnatural” work (Ball & Forzani, 2011, p. 41). Rather than arising naturally from one’s interest in either children, or a subject matter area, teaching is reliant on specialist knowledge and proficiency in a range of disciplines related to learning, development, and subject matter. Moreover, it requires unique aptitudes, such as recognizing and using multiple perspectives, and understanding how to work with both individuals and large groups. In addition, the acquisition of skills and the ability to deconstruct knowledge and reframe it in such a way as to enable the specific learning of others is crucial (Ball & Forzani, 2011; Hashweh, 2005; Shulman, 1986, 1987). Perhaps most importantly, it demands the capacity to cultivate supportive and responsive relationships (Bishop, Ladwig, & Berryman, 2013) that enable a teacher to work with many learners, who have a diversity of life experiences and cultural backgrounds, at the same time as overseeing inclusive, safe, and productive learning environments (Ball & Forzani, 2011). Thus, a key task for teacher education is developing preservice teachers’ capacity to undertake this unnatural work as they learn to navigate the complexity of early childhood centers and classrooms.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dispositions: Personal and professional attributes, such as resilience, courage, and empathy, that are based on beliefs, attitudes and values considered essential for teachers and teaching.

Maori: The indigenous people of New Zealand and partner in the bicultural practices of New Zealand.

Primary Education: The first stage of compulsory education in New Zealand that relates to the teaching of children from 5-10 years of age.

Cultural Competence: The awareness and understanding of human diversity in its many forms, and the skills to work respectfully and effectively with people from backgrounds different from one’s own.

Pakeha: A Maori language word that means other than Maori, that is, everyone who is not Maori. It is frequently used to identify White New Zealanders.

Initial Teacher Education: New Zealand term for educational programs that provide preparation of teachers for early childhood settings and the schooling sector.

Community engagement: The intentional development of mutually beneficial relationships and ongoing partnership between universities and non-governmental agencies and formal or informal community groups.

Pasifika: A term unique to New Zealand that describes a range of peoples from the various islands of the Pacific region, who have immigrated to New Zealand and settled there.

Culturally Responsive Practice: The support and use of teaching and learning practices that engage learners in culturally appropriate ways to improve and enhance learning.

Community-Based Learning: A pedagogical approach that engages learners in planned and supported activities in varied community contexts; guided by the view that such contexts provide access to particular knowledge and understandings not otherwise captured easily in formal classroom settings.

Early Childhood Education: The teaching and care of infants, toddlers, and young children from birth to six years of age.

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