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Using Film as a Multicultural Awareness Tool in TeacherEducationAudrey Smith Rorrer a & Susan Furr aa University of North Carolina at Charlotte ,Published online: 14 Aug 2009.
To cite this article: Audrey Smith Rorrer & Susan Furr (2009) Using Film as a Multicultural Awareness Tool in TeacherEducation, Multicultural Perspectives, 11:3, 162-168, DOI: 10.1080/15210960903116902
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Multicultural Perspectives, 11(3), 162168Copyright C 2009 by the National Association for Multicultural EducationISSN: 1521-0960 print / 1532-7892DOI: 10.1080/15210960903116902
Using Film as a Multicultural Awareness Tool in Teacher Education
Audrey Smith Rorrer and Susan FurrUniversity of North Carolina at Charlotte
Multicultural awareness education is an importantfirst step in preparing future teachers to becomeeffective instructors of diverse classrooms. Whereasthere are a variety of ways to develop multiculturalawareness, we have found film to be an effective andexciting teaching tool. We applied film as a meansof facilitating in-depth reflection and discussion oncultural issues in the freshman seminar course forEducation students, Film and Society, and studiedthe impact of the course on students ethnic identitydevelopment. In a pretest/posttest empirical design,students scored significantly higher on two of thefactors of the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measureat the end of the course. This article outlines thecourse rationale and design, presents the results ofour study, and discusses the implications of thesefindings.
Preparing teachers to enter multicultural environmentshas become a mantra for teacher education programs inthe 21st century. Research indicates that our schools arebecoming more diverse, yet the majority of teachers aremiddle class, white, and female (Banks & McGee-Banks,2004). It is encouraging that several states have respondedto the need for multiculturally competent teachers. Areview of state requirements for certification and/orendorsement for teaching indicates that 17 of the 50states had either a separate multicultural endorsement orcertificate, a certificate or endorsement with multiculturalcoursework embedded within Bi-Lingual or Englishas a Second Language certificate or endorsement, oruniversity programs that promote teaching within oracross cultures (Morrier, Irving, Dandy, Dmitriyev,& Ukeje, 2007). Multicultural education in teacherpreparation is widely recognized as critically important(Gollnick, 1995; Juarez, Smith, & Hayes, 2008; Locke,2005; Wasonga & Piveral, 2004).
Given the need for multicultural education for teachers,we designed a film course for first-year education
Correspondence should be sent to Audrey Smith Rorrer, Universityof North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Blvd., 241DCollege of Education, Charlotte, NC 28223. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
students to introduce film analysis within a multiculturalframework. The course goals were to teach film analysiswhile simultaneously promoting cultural awareness inan effort to facilitate students individual multiculturaldevelopment. We believe the introductory educationcourse opened the door for students exploration ofcultural diversity and future ability to teach successfullyin diverse classrooms. This article presents an overviewof approaches to multicultural teacher education and thetheoretical foundation of the film course. A description ofthe course follows, along with research results supportingour hypothesis that film is a successful tool for developingstudents multicultural awareness.
Approaches to Multicultural TeacherEducation
Approaches to enhance multicultural understandinginclude reflective journal responses (Townsend, 2002),cross-cultural simulations (Cruz & Patternson, 2005),use of multicultural literature (Jetton & Savage-Davis,2005), photography (Brown, 2005), and teaching from acritical multicultural perspective (Ukpokodu, 2003). Theimportance of field experiences with diverse populationshas been recognized (Valentin, 2006), and methods ofproviding these interactions when the local regions arelacking diverse populations have been explored (Phillion,Miller, & Lehman, 2005). Some programs have attemptedto increase awareness of multicultural issues throughrequired coursework that includes field experience(Galye-Evans & Michael, 2006), where students assumeinstructional duties in classrooms, actively applying theirknowledge while gaining practical experience.
In developing courses, it is important to note thatmulticultural education needs to be developmentallyappropriate (Jenks, Lee, & Kanpol, 2001). One of the firstareas to question is personal assumptions about self andothers, both within and outside of individual culturalframe of reference (Brown, 2005, p. 150). Brown assertsthat individuals have unconscious reactions that influencehow compatible a new value judgment is with pastexperiences. Strategies that bring these subconscious
The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education
perceptions to the surface are needed if preserviceteachers are to explore ways of thinking in ways that leadto greater development of culturally responsive attitudesand behaviors (p. 152). In addition to examining theirown values and beliefs related to cultural diversity,preservice teachers must also examine how their personalstandards impact what they do in the classroom (Valentin,2006).
Valentin (2006) proposes a four-component infusedmodel to evaluate teacher education programs on strengthsand areas that need improvement in addressing diversity.The model proposes that diversity be integrated holis-tically into teacher preparation curriculum, rather thanimplemented disparately through isolated coursework.From this point of view, multiple approaches are essentialin challenging existing belief systems (Townsend, 2002).Multicultural approaches to curriculum can take a con-tributions approach, additive approach, transformationapproach, and a social action approach (Banks, 1989). Forteacher education, the need for a transformative approachis recommended (Jenks et al., 2001).
By design, our course utilized films as a transformationapproach (Banks, 1989) to challenging existing beliefsystems, without directly calling into question theindividuals themselves. The transformation approach isdistinctly different from other educational approaches inthat it does not marginalize the multicultural perspective(Banks, n.d.). Instead, by viewing a range of films whosecharacters and plots represent the cultural point of viewof minority cultures, students are able to experience avariety of perspectives from multiple cultural vantagepoints.
Theoretical Foundation for Film Course
Drawing from Valentins model (2006) and thetransformation approach, the film course was designedto integrate diversity topics throughout the semester,weaving multicultural issues within the framework ofteaching in a classroom setting. The integration ofdiversity throughout each course activity and discussionenabled the creation of a continual and seamlessexamination of student belief systems. Before preserviceteachers can see how their values impact their classroomactivities, they must first develop their own consciousnessabout their cultural identity and beliefs. Self-awareness isa critical first step for preservice teachers and, as Fuertes& Gretchen (2001) pointed out, is a basic component ofdeveloping multicultural understanding. Self-awarenesscreates an opportunity to understand ones own valuesand to begin to value and appreciate diversity.
With our course focus on developing preserviceteacher self-awareness, we anticipated that film wouldserve as a catalyst for critical thinking and multicultural
awareness. Film has been utilized throughout liberalarts and science education as a medium for teachingcritical thinking skills. In developing critical thinkingskills, Bluestone (2000) points out that film is a usefultool in liberal arts education, which provides a backdropfor discussions in development psychology, identitydevelopment, multiethnic placement in social work, anda wide array of undergraduate course instruction. Wealso believed film to be a developmentally appropriatemethod of showcasing multicultural classroom issues in astimulating, challenging, and safe way for a homogenousgroup of first-year students. Films appeal to students andare an effective means of teaching to a variety of learningstyles (Gregg, Hosley, Weng, & Montemayor, 1995).The films chosen focused on cultural topics central toclassroom education and society at large.
The integration of diversitythroughout each course activityand discussion enabled thecreation of a continual andseamless examination of studentbelief systems. Before preserviceteachers can see how their valuesimpact their classroom activities,they must first develop their ownconsciousness about theircultural identity and beliefs.
The underlying challenges in teaching preserviceteachers multicultural awareness is effectively raisingdiversity issues. A major challenge for discussingdiversity in our classroom was the fact that our studentswere relatively inexperienced first-year students. Anequally challenging reality is that the topic of diversityitself can be emotionally sensitive and awkward to discusspublicly. The classroom demographic of predominantlyCaucasian, middle-class females presented the challengeof lack of diversity within our class. The vehicle offilm enabled the presentation of cultural conflicts inan objective manner, not as a personal confrontationfor each student. Bluestone (2000) noted that filmcharacters can enable students to relate to and understandthe lives and beliefs of characters with whom theyhave little in common (p. 145). Film presentation ofmulticultural issues to students is an ideal way to createwhat Belenky, Goldberger, and Tarule (1997) describe asconnected learning, an environment where students are
Multicultural Perspectives Vol. 11, No. 3
emotionally connected to topics and empowered to sharetheir own beliefs and responses to course material in anon-threatening manner.
By selecting films that were provocative in their pre-sentation of classroom and social issues, we hypothesizedthat the students cultural awareness would increase bythe end of the course. We believed that film would pro-vide a creative and stimulating mechanism for presentingchallenging subject material and enabling students todevelop critical analysis skills. We also anticipated thefilms would enable the students to personally reflect upontheir values and cultural identity while applying film plotsand character development more broadly to the classroomsetting. Film was expected to provide greater ease indiscussing multicultural issues within education becausediscussions centered on film characters and plots, not onevaluation of individual personal views. We foresaw thisas a mechanism for developing individual awareness andhopeful questioning of personal beliefs.
Film and Society Course Design
Before describing the course, it is important toconsider the instructors approach, as she operated asan instrument in the course. She sought to establish awarm and open classroom environment by conductingice-breaker activities, promoting a climate of respect,and by modeling self-disclosure. The philosophy-guidinginstruction was the understanding that each studentoperates from different personality and learning styles,which were accommodated by a variety of instructionaltechniques.
The fundamental course design was to discusseducational theories and challenges through film andtheir relevance to students as future educators. Primaryresources for the course were selected films that studentswere assigned to watch outside of class. Course objectiveswere to expand the students understanding of film designand self-awareness as individuals and future educatorsthrough watching, discussing, analyzing, creating, andwriting about films. Course goals were to increasestudents knowledge of education theories, knowledgeof film critique, and to develop increasing cognitivecomplexity in students critical thinking abilities. Alongwith film analysis, educational theories covered in thecourse were theories of personality, learning styles, andhuman growth and development. These theories wereapplied to film characters.
Strategies guiding classroom discussions includeda variety of techniques to generate active studentparticipation. Students were assigned theories to teachto the class, utilizing film characters to exemplifyhuman development, personality, and learning styles.Film segments were shown in class, from which tobase discussions and activities. To accommodate the
various styles within the class, a variety of activities wereconducted, such as staged debates, student presentations,film character role plays, and use of flash car...