Making meaning of community : a multi-case study of three urban, middle-school teachers
In response to a widespread use of the term, “community,” within the field of education, and foundational use of the notion within critical, anti-deficit approaches to pedagogy, this study takes up considerations of meanings and uses of community within middle school classrooms. The following questions guide this study: 1. How do successful, urban, middle-school teachers working with students of color understand the concept of “community” in relation to their work with these students? and 2. How do these teachers approach and draw from their conceptions of “community” in their classroom practices? Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Critical Human Geography theories are brought together to form the conceptual framework. In order to investigate these questions, a qualitative multi-case study design is used and data included interviews, observations, artifacts, photography, and mapping. Three teachers, within the subject areas of math, Spanish, and science, participated in this study. Findings revealed complex, contradictory, shifting, and dynamic ways community was conceptualized and used. Rather than being simply a positive, desirable or a negative, problematic concept, community was described in ways that positioned it as both positive and negative. The teachers’ identity, particularly around language, and their intentional actions affected their ability to be part of their students’ communities. This membership status in turn affected the classroom environment and functioning. This holds implications for teacher education and development as well as school leadership and future research.