AERA grant helps researchers train teacher education candidates to use disability-centered, culturally sustaining pedagogies

photo of Amanda Miller
Amanda Miller

Amanda L. Miller, Ph.D., assistant professor of inclusive education — along with colleagues Saili Kulkarni, Ph.D. of San José State University and Emily Nusbaum, Ph.D. of Mills College — was awarded a $7,500 American Educational Research Association Division K Re-envisioning Teaching and Teacher Education in the Shadow of the COVID-19 Pandemic small grant for “(Re)imagining Teacher Preparation During a Global Pandemic Using Disability-Centered, Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies.” Miller is co-principal investigator for the 15-month study, which was one of six projects to receive funding from more than 160 applications and seeks to reconceptualize the development of teacher candidates’ educational beliefs and practices amid the new realities presented by the global pandemic.

According to the team, the coronavirus has disproportionately affected disabled individuals, particularly those who are immuno-compromised, live in institutions such as nursing or group homes, use in-home support providers, and live in poverty or are housing insecure. In addition, COVID-19 has revealed some of the intersectional inequities that disabled people of color face. Therefore, shifting the beliefs and perspectives of educators in training is one way to address these issues.

The goal is to structure meaningful, accessible and virtual experiences for teacher candidates that center the voices, experiences, critical knowledge and expertise of disabled scholars of color by expanding upon the existing frameworks of Disability Critical Race Theory and culturally sustaining pedagogies. Teacher candidates need experiences that engage disability at the intersections of race, culture, language and class statuses especially because these identities exist in multiply-marginalized groups across P-12 education.

The team will purposefully sample 10 teacher candidates from special education, bilingual education and curriculum and instruction programs at three institutions: Wayne State University, San José State University and Mills College. They will collect qualitative data — including autobiographical artifacts — from participants and conduct three engagement sessions, three community-scholar workshops and three focus groups over Zoom. Research team members will also provide hands-on, individualized support to participants. Teacher candidates will modify and resubmit their artifacts, illustrating the new knowledge they have gained and changes, if any, in their beliefs.

This project aims to grow teachers across special, bilingual and general education who are committed to accessible disability-centered, culturally sustaining instruction. To sustain the project long-term, prior cohorts of teacher candidates will mentor newer cohorts, and the research team will collaborate with teacher education faculty at other colleges and universities. The project will also generate an open-access online repository of teaching resources to support P-12 practices that center disabled youth of color.

“We are grateful for AERA’s support of this project and see this as a starting point to collaborate across multiple sites and transform teacher education,” said Miller. “The pandemic has underscored the importance of addressing the challenges and inequities multiply-marginalized youth and their families face. Efforts to reimagine teacher education by repositioning the knowledge of community-scholars at the forefront and honoring their perspectives and experiences have never been more critical.”

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