Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
Sarah Newcomer (Washington State University)
Jennifer Elbek (Washington State University)
Martin Stevens (Washington State University-Vancouver)
In this qualitative case study (Merriam, 2009), we explore how a 3-week study abroad experience in Japan influenced professional growth for a group of six university Education/Business students (undergraduate and doctoral) and one Education professor, who collectively represented a range of diverse professional experience. When teachers have the opportunity to learn in sociocultural and linguistic contexts different from their own, placing themselves in the shoes of their culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students, they develop greater empathy and understanding for their students (Gay, 2000; Willard-Holt, 2001). We liken this phenomenon to the Japanese concept of “shoshin” or “beginner’s mind”, in which learners, whether beginners or experts, adopt an attitude of openness and eagerness, attempting to shed preconceptions.
Utilizing a narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 20) and action research approach (Bradbury, 2015), we partnered with a local Japanese school district to help teach in English language classrooms, investigating how our positionality, as teachers and learners, influenced our perspectives and understandings, reflecting on the effects of the surrounding sociocultural context. Daily experiences included teaching English language lessons, conducting mini-sociolinguistic inquiries, studying Japanese, and cultural explorations. We investigated how these experiences supported the group in developing understandings of cultural and linguistic diversity and strategies for teaching and learning language learners. By becoming language learners, ourselves, for three weeks, we reflected on this change in educational, sociocultural, and linguistic climate, and considered how to apply this experience to future teaching, particularly in relation to working with culturally and linguistically diverse students.