Understanding curriculum in context: using currere to explore the perceptions, attitudes and practices of white teachers in classrooms with african american students



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As a careful look into the daily lived experiences of teachers in today?s schools, the overarching purpose of this study was to seek a clearer understanding of how race may be reflected in the construction of teachers? perceptions and practices. More specifically, the intent was to understand the relationship between the selected White teachers? perceptions of themselves as White educators, their perceptions of the African American students they teach, and their teaching practices. Further, this research also sought to explore the potential and possibilities for engaging currere, as defined in Pinar?s 1976 work, as a method of study in educational research. With this in mind, this study was not only a journey to explore the complexities in classrooms of selected White teachers and their African American students; it also became a complicated process of self-excavation and deconstruction of myself, a former White teacher of African American students. A qualitative methodology, guided by critical epistemologies was used. The researcher, acted as participant observer. The research included four components: teacher interviews, classroom observations, informal dialogue, and teacher reflection. Four significant instructional practices and interactions emerged from classroom observations that seemed to reflect the relationship between selected White teachers? perceptions of themselves and the African American students they teach. These were: (1) overcorrection and inconsistent (re)direction, (2) failure to engage, (3) isolation and dismissal, and (4) lowered expectations and lesser curriculum. While the research in education has identified similar themes and practices, when viewed in and through the context of currere, a greater complexity in classrooms with White teachers and African American students is exposed. Currere holds that each of us is a manifestation of our past and that in order to realize any semblance of meaningful, authentic progress in the future, each of us must first examine our past, our perceptions and our ways of knowing and being in the world. Currere offers us a method by which to begin this journey ? as individuals, as a collective society, and certainly as teachers.