Culture, Autobiography, and the Education of Literacy Teachers

CIERA Report #3-003

Susan Florio-Ruane, Michigan State University
Taffy E. Raphael, Oakland University

with Jocelyn Glazier, Mary McVee, Bette Shellhorn,
and Susan Wallace, Michigan State University

CIERA Inquiry 3: Policy and Profession
How does teacher participation in a collaborative professional setting influence views of what literacy is and how literacy is learned? What kind of influence will book discussions about multicultural autobiographies with other teachers have on the teaching of predominantly white, female teachers to an increasingly diverse classroom?

In this report, Florio-Ruane and Raphael et al. address two challenges in American teacher education: (a) the differences in background between a largely Euro-American teaching force and the diverse pupils it serves, and (b) the difficulty of teaching about literacy and culture in responsive ways. Working with a group of teachers, Florio-Ruane and Raphael used ethnic autobiographies, written by authors to illustrate cultures other than late 20th century white America, combined with a context for discussion around these books new to many teachers--"Literary Circles." This study led to changes in teachers' beliefs about literacy, schooling, and cultural identity. The authors conclude that the combined activities of reading, writing, and discussion have the potential to simultaneously foster personal and professional development.


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