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Pre-Service Teachers in Costa Rica: Developing Relationships with Diverse Learners and Building Cultural Responsiveness Through an International Field Experience

Laichak, Amanda J. (2019) Pre-Service Teachers in Costa Rica: Developing Relationships with Diverse Learners and Building Cultural Responsiveness Through an International Field Experience. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This case study examines six U.S. pre-service teachers’ participation in an international field experience in Costa Rica. It analyzes participants’ willingness and ability to demonstrate relationship building with students culturally and linguistically different from them, and describes and interprets the circumstances that either encourage or discourage such interaction. Results indicate that in certain contexts, program participants were both motivated and successful in establishing rapport with such learners. This implies that an international field experience may help to develop pre-service teachers’ confidence and willingness to build relationships with diverse students back home.
Because of cultural and linguistic mismatches between teachers and their students, teachers often lack the capacity to build relationships with students from diverse ethnic and racial groups and/or resist working in diverse classrooms due to their current attitudes and beliefs. This study employs the concept of “cultural responsiveness” as an analytic lens through which to examine the extent to which participants in the program were able to remedy such deficiencies and build such relationships.
Goals of this study were (a) to describe the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of participants toward serving diverse learners, (b) to understand how they enacted cultural responsiveness, and (c) to assess how cultural responsiveness is developed through an international field experience. The study employed (a) surveys of program participants before and after their overseas experience, (b) field observations over the course of four days of instruction in Costa Rica, and (c) student journal entries and post-trip reflection essays. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis, in which recurring themes and patterns of association and contrast were identified. Research questions were continuously refined over a two and a half year period of reflection and analysis.
Using cultural responsiveness as a concept to frame a discussion on developing relationship building, the significance of this study lies in its applications for: (a) schools of education as a tool to use to develop their students’ understanding of diversity and (b) youth-serving nonprofits to strengthen the bridge between the educators with whom they partner and the diverse youth they serve.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Laichak, Amanda J.ajl76@pitt.eduajl76
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGunzenhauser,
Committee MemberGarman,
Committee MemberScaglion,
Committee MemberShafiq,
Date: 30 January 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 11 October 2018
Approval Date: 30 January 2019
Submission Date: 29 January 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 235
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cultural Responsiveness; International Field Experience; Pre-Service Teachers; Relationship Building; Attitudes Towards Diverse Learners
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2019 23:15
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2019 23:15


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