Walking a Mile in Their Shoes: Understanding Students in Poverty

Walking a Mile in Their Shoes: Understanding Students in Poverty

Queen Ogbomo
Copyright: © 2024 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3940-8.ch005
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This study examined the impact of a poverty simulation project, an experiential learning procedure on preservice teachers' perception of elementary students living in poverty. Thirty undergraduate preservice teachers from two cohorts in a public university in the southern part of the United States were asked to participate in a poverty simulation activity to expose them to the lived experiences of people living in poverty. An early analysis of the debriefing session after the simulation project showed that students viewed this simulation project as an engaging learning experience. Means and standard deviations of scores in relation to pre-test and post-test personal bias toward poverty, understanding individuals in poverty, effort in teaching students living in poverty, and responsibility for students living in poverty were obtained. While there was no significant difference from the paired sample t-tests, there was a slight difference in three of the four areas measured.
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The Poverty Simulation Project

The poverty simulation project is the brainchild of the Missouri Association for Community Action Network (Missouri Community Action Network, 2018). This poverty simulation is an engaging experiential activity that allows participants to step into or assume the role of families facing poverty. It can also be seen as a learning tool to increase the awareness of what people living in poverty go through every day. The goal of this simulation project is to provide opportunities for pre-service teachers to challenge any misconceptions or erroneous thoughts that they may have about people living in poverty. It is also to explore whether participating in the simulation activity would change PSTs instructional plans to meet the needs of students living in poverty as they embark on their teaching practical journey.

Some critics have questioned the validity and effectiveness of the use of simulations in the classroom and wondered if simulations as a learning tool enhance students learning (Gosen & Washburn, 2004; Shellman & Turan, 2006). For example, Shellman and Turan (2006) suggested that “there is little evidence that active learning exercises facilitate learning” (p.2). Gosen and Washbush (2004) asserted that only tentative conclusions can be drawn regarding simulations as valid learning techniques. They further propose that simulations require more testing and evaluation of techniques to show their effectiveness. However, proponents of simulations see its potential as a well-established learning tool in many disciplines. Kaufman and Ireland (2016) posited that “simulations can strengthen critical aspects of teacher preparation as programs look for ways to better equip their graduates for future challenges” (p. 260). Furthermore, simulations afford students with real life opportunities to reduce multifaceted situations and provide environments to practice intricate skills (Chernikova et al., 2020). Simulation is a great learning experience that provide PSTs, the opportunity to be actively engage and encounter real-world, problem-based situations and learn to come up with solutions for these problems.

Before going on with the description of the simulation, it is important to take a look at the history of the Missouri CAN. Since 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty and signed the Economic Opportunity Act into law, many community action agencies have continued to provide services to low income families around the U.S. (Missouri CAN, 2018). The Missouri Community Action Network is one of such agencies, whose goals include educating communities about the realities of poverty.

I first learned about this specific simulation from a National Social Studies conference and a nursing school simulation I attended, which led to my participation in their training. To afford the cost of the training, I wrote a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Curriculum Development grant, which enabled me to incorporate inquiry-based pedagogy in my social studies methods course. After obtaining the grant, I travelled to Kansas City, Missouri for the training and bought the simulation project kit. The experience was so profound because it enabled the participants to interact with people from the community who had benefited from the Missouri Community Action network. To hear them talk about their experiences and how difficult it is to navigate the system and obtain government services to survive everyday was very moving. In hindsight, I would have appreciated participating in this kind of activity instead of some of the in-service professional development activities which my school district required. Such an activity would have addressed the misconceptions I had about people living in poverty in my early experience as a teacher. The impact of engaging in such an activity would have been insightful if I had participated in it as a PST, as it would have afforded me an opportunity to examine my own biases and experiences and to really understand what it means to be poor in America.

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