“Reading myself between the lines”: White teachers reading, writing and talking about issues of diversity, inequality and pedagogy

Sharon Michelle Ravitch, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation uses interpretive and traditional qualitative methods to study one semester of a graduate teacher education course in which an all-white group of teachers—both pre-service and experienced—were challenged to critically reflect on and analyze their beliefs and assumptions about self, society and pedagogy. This research explores the complex nature of students' experiences of learning in a multicultural teacher education course and complicates the picture of white teachers learning about issues central to culturally responsive teaching. The analytical framework of autobiography is used to explore the complex and individualized ways that students experienced and positioned themselves in relation to material focused on issues of racism, white privilege, diversity and inequality. The study suggests that students' learning trajectories in courses such as this one should not be thought of as linear or uniform. Rather, students' learning processes are complex, dynamic and individually distinctive. This research also suggests that shifts in white teachers' beliefs and self-concepts should not be designated to one domain of development such as white racial identity development but should be understood as part of more complex learning experiences. Additionally, this study suggests that students' responses to such material should not be considered through the binary lens of “engagement” and “resistance” but rather, through an understanding that students' responses to these issues are shaped by the complex intersection between their autobiographies and their emerging understandings of issues of racism and inequality. The findings of this study focus on the conditions necessary for students to make paradigmatic shifts that lead to changes in their understanding of and approach to teaching as well as on the nature of the shifts they experience. Such findings are of interest to researchers and practitioners in the fields of teacher education, teacher research, multicultural education and to scholars and practitioners interested in research that problematizes conceptions of white teachers' identities and their experiences of learning about issues central to engaging in culturally responsive and equitable teaching.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Ravitch, Sharon Michelle, "“Reading myself between the lines”: White teachers reading, writing and talking about issues of diversity, inequality and pedagogy" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9989643.