Category Archives: Culture and Teaching

Abdi’s research finds critical link between public school and immigrant student experience

“Public schools are the de facto experience for immigrant children to be part of this country, both to learn about and participate in the nation,” says Nimo Abdi, a faculty member in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, noting that public schools are the first place where immigrant children contact mainstream culture and learn ways to integrate.

Abdi’s research focuses on the intersectionality, or interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, as they apply to the immigrant student. She is interested in how context shapes the identities of students. And what she has found is that the impact of schooling cannot but understated for students that are new to this country.

Preconceptions Hurt Immigrant Students

Abdi is studying the Somali community in Columbus, Ohio which is very similar to the one here in the Twin Cities. She sees Somali students face the obstacle of preconceived notions based on their background in the Columbus public schools. “Teachers and school administrators and students have certain concepts of what it means to be a Somali,” Abdi says.

As a science teacher in Columbus, Abdi noticed that students were treated differently based on their appearance. Russian immigrant students were mainstreamed into regular classes even if they needed the help of an ESL class. However, second-generation Somali students were still being placed in ESL classes even if they were proficient.

“Those things tend to mark and label students in a certain way—being visible, being black and Muslim, and also being Somali,” Abdi finds in her experience and research.

Caught Between Two Cultures

Somalis students deal with the dual pressure of having to fit into their schools and into their home communities by changing their identities in different contexts. “In urban settings, some Somali students appropriate hip-hop culture to be part of the black youth culture,” says Abdi, noting that they are not necessarily accepted completely not do they see themselves as such.

“One boy told me that sometimes he identified as Somali, sometimes as African-American. It all depends on the context. “

Trying to fit into the school and home community is especially difficult for girls. “Girls come to school completely covered, and in literally less than ten minutes they take everything off and look completely different,” Abdi says that “the tricky thing about the whole notion of dress code is it could have completely different meanings in different settings. Covering is appreciated in the Somali context as a show of modesty but it has the opposite effect in mainstream culture. It’s a very difficult for young children to navigate that.”

Creating Spaces for Immigrant Students

In order to help immigrant students thrive in the educational system, Abdi believes that schools need to create spaces for all children, by educating students about different religions and offering options for students who don’t conform to the majority religion. She believes that a culturally responsive pedagogy could go a long way towards helping to integrate immigrant children and their communities.

“Social categories have real-life consequences in people’s lives. Being labelled in a certain way, has real meaning for children and how they see themselves,” Abdi reveals the main finding of her research: “The context of our education shapes who we are and how we see the world.”

Find about more about teacher education programs designed to support immigrant students in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

 

C&I’s Bic Ngo receives $1.75 million grant to increase opportunities and services for Asian American students

Bic Ngo, Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction is co-leading a grant to provide increased access and educational opportunities to Asian American students.
Bic Ngo, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, is co-leading a grant to provide increased access and educational opportunities to Asian American students.

Bic Ngo, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, and Josephine Lee of the College of Liberal Arts received a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase services for Asian American students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMTC) campus. The $1.75 million grant is specifically aimed at providing “assistance to Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions to enable such institutions to improve and expand their capacity to serve Asian Americans and Native American Pacific Islanders and low-income individuals,” according to the award letter.

“The project seeks to provide our Asian American students with culturally relevant learning environments and programs in ways that nurture cultural integrity and academic success,” said Ngo.

The implementation of the grant at UMTC will be called the “Asian American College Excellence (AACE) Project.”

Ngo and Lee plan to roll out the AACE Project via several avenues, including a resource center (with computer lab and tutoring space), a teaching and learning library, an increased number of Asian American Studies classes, a speaker series, a youth summit, a teaching pathways program, and a tutoring and mentoring program among others.

One of the major tasks for the first year of the grant is to establish the resource center that will provide a place for many of the project activities as well as a dedicated space for the students to study, hang out, and build community.

Dr. Ngo is committed to analyzing issues relating to educational equity and cultural identity in immigrant students’ education. She teaches in the Ph.D. program for Culture & Teaching.

 

Chhuon receives National Association for Multicultural Education’s 2015 Carl A. Grant Presidential Research Award

Vichet Chhuon was recently named as the recipient of the National Association for Multicultural Education’s 2015 Carl A. Grant Presidential Research Award. This honor is awarded to an exemplary multicultural educator who has demonstrated a long-term scholarly commitment to multicultural education; whose research addresses the multiple facets of human diversity, and the ways by which complex multicultural issues manifest themselves in U.S. schools and society; and whose scholarship breaks new ground in our thinking about multiculturalism.

Previous winners of this prestigious award include Thomas Philips, H. Richard Milner IV, Luis Moll, and Gloria Ladson-Billings.

Chhuon wins 2015 Early Career Achievement Award from Association for Asian American Studies

ChhuonV-PrefAssistant professor Vichet Chhuon, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, received the 2015 Early Career Achievement Award from the Association for Asian American Studies in recognition and appreciation for his many contributions to Asian American and Pacific Islander studies, including outstanding and innovative research.

The association promotes positive social change by funding and developing programs that raise political and cultural awareness about and within the Asian American community. Chhuon will receive the award at the association’s annual conference in Evanston, Illinois, on April 25.

Hermes lectures at Dartmouth, Linguistics and Cognitive Science Program

On January 26, Mary Hermes of Curriculum and Instruction gave a lecture to the Linguistics and Cognitive Science program at Dartmouth. The title of the talk: Why Is This So Hard?: Ideologies of endangerment, passive language learning approaches and Ojibwe in the United States.

Southeast Asian studies conference brings scholars to Minnesota

About 175 scholars came to Minnesota from across the country for the fourth States of Southeast Asian American Studies conference October 2-3. Over two days, students, faculty, and community members talked about literature, culture, activism, health, and many other topics, and enjoyed arts performances. School of Social Work alumna Pa Der Vang, ’07, now coordinator for the critical Hmong studies minor at St. Catherine University, delivered the keynote, “On Being Hmong American.”

“It was a huge success,” said conference co-organizer Vichet Chhuon, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum of Instruction. “We exchanged ideas, developed partnerships, and set out new research directions.”

The next conference is scheduled to be hosted in Massachusetts in 2017.

Read more at States of Southeast Asian Studies conference.

Lensmire featured on TCR’s The Voice

Tim LensmireThis week, Timothy Lensmire, associate professor in Curriculum and Instruction discusses his paper, “White Men’s Racial Others,” on The Voice, a video series produced for the Teachers College Record. As an accompaniment to the video, Lensmire is also participating in an online discussion where he will write and respond to comments to the video. The Teachers College Record is a journal of research, analysis, and commentary in the field of education. It has been published continuously since 1900 by Teachers College, Columbia University.

Lensmire’s article examines race and whiteness in a rural community in Wisconsin. He explores how white people use people of color (both real and imagined) to produce their own white racial identities. His work responds to past conceptions of white racial identity that oversimplify whiteness and possibly undermine our critical pedagogies.

We encourage you to participate in the discussion. To watch his video and leave comments, please visit the Teachers College Record website. For more information about Tim Lensmire’s research, please visit his profile page.

Faculty and students participate in lively Pro-Seminar event on philosophical status of Data

Pro-Seminar event: What is/are data? Last Wednesday, C&I held its final Pro-Seminar of the year, “What is/are Data?” The purpose of this event was to provide graduate students with the opportunity to learn about how senior scholars think about and take up basic assumptions and orientations in their research.

C&I Professor, Tim Lensmire moderated the event. Professors Nicola Alexander (OLPD), Michael Harwell (Ed Psych), and Cynthia Lewis (C&I) prepared and shared short answers to the question “what is/are data?” followed by responses from Professors Bic Ngo (C&I) and Michael Rodriguez (Ed Psych).

After the initial presentation and responses, the audience (which numbered well over 50 attendees) and the panel engaged in a lively question and answer period. The panel did a wonderful job of sharing evocative and thoughtful answers to the session’s guiding question and to the important questions asked by the audience.

C&I Pro-seminars are short, content-rich seminars that our faculty have developed to help graduate students navigate the sometimes murky ocean of academia (e.g. conference-going, dissertations, job searches, etc.). To see videos of our recent Pro-Seminar events, please visit our Current Ph.D. Students Resource page. To stay abreast of upcoming C&I events, please see the C&I events page.

Asher receives 2014-15 Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award

Nina AsherCurriculum and Instruction professor and department chair Nina Asher is a recipient of a 2014-15 Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award (Research).  The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Each year, the Fulbright Scholar Program attracts some 800 U.S. faculty and professionals to 140 countries to lecture, teach, and conduct research.

Asher will be traveling to India to research aspects of curriculum, teaching, and teacher education in relation to globalization. She will conduct her research at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai and will also give talks at other institutions, including Azim Premji University in Bangalore. Asher plans to explore – through her research with teachers and teacher educators – the effects of India’s “economic liberalization” in terms of education. At the policy level, in the last decade, India has implemented significant national-level education legislation, including the Right to Education Act (RTE). While RTE has its advocates, it has also been criticized as an unfunded mandate and has been compared to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Asher plans to interview educators regarding the significance and implications of the RTE and other policies, especially in the context of globalization and increasing privatization of education.

“As a U.S.-based scholar, I’ve been writing about postcolonialism, and more recently globalization, consumerism, and corporatization. This study, while drawing on those discourses, will be in the context of India,” says Asher. “I want to talk with in-service teachers who are also enrolled in a master’s program and also their faculty about how they are experiencing globalization and privatization in relation to education. What are their thoughts, experiences, and analyses? What is their understanding of the implications?”

Asher’s scholarship focuses on postcolonial and feminist theory, globalization, critical perspectives on multiculturalism, and Asian American studies in relation to education. When asked about her approach, Asher explains, “I look at what structures, in terms of inequities of power, are in operation here (in the U.S.). What are the structures of power in terms of inequities in play there (in India)? What are some of the similarities between here and there, and what are the differences?”

When asked about how this new research project will connect to her other scholarship, Asher says she expects comparisons will inevitably bubble up. “I fully expect the participants will ask me questions about the schools and school systems in the U.S. For instance, one parallel is that while the legacies of colonialism still come into play in India, so do the legacies of segregation come into play here.”

To learn more about Nina Asher’s research, please visit her profile page.

C&I Student Spotlight: Lesley Yang

YangLWe recently got a chance to catch up with Ph.D. student and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction Diversity and Excellence Scholar, Lesley Yang. Read her story below to find out where she comes from and what brought her to Curriculum and Instruction.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Yuba City, California, but my story does not begin with my birth; my story begins with my parents who fled Laos after the Vietnam War. As a child, I did not realize that the average American family was not like mine. My parents were strawberry farmers who, during the harvest season, were often gone before I woke up and did not get home until late in the evenings. My siblings and I were not involved in any extracurricular activities; instead we came straight home after school and played games like niam tais, yawm txiv until my parents got home from the field. At the age of eight, my family uprooted from California to Boise, Idaho, a place that my parents hoped would provide us with better economic opportunities.
My educational experience in Idaho was drastically different than my experience in California. I went from attending a school that provided in-class support for Hmong students and a community that offered free summer school for underprivileged kids, to a school that had no support for immigrant students and a community that had no idea the struggles immigrant families face. Not only was I the only Hmong person, but I was also one of very few students of color at my school. My peers and teachers canonized me as the Asian “model minority” student. This imposed identity allowed me to navigate predominately white schools without being placed into remedial courses like ESL when English was not my first language.
My feelings of being isolated continued as I went onto college and rarely saw another Asian American student or faculty. I initially majored in business with the intent of obtaining a stable corporate job after I graduated. However, my career plans took a stark turn when I started working for the Multicultural Student Service Center on campus. I began exploring my identity as Hmong American woman, reading academic literature on race and started diving into social justice work. At the same time I was going through a personal change in my life, I was admitted into the McNair Scholars Program. I eventually changed my major to sociology and economics because I wanted to pursue graduate work that was more meaningful to me.
As a first generation college student, graduate school did not seem like it was within in my purview of realistic goals–in fact graduate school was never even a thought. I am grateful for the opportunities the McNair Scholars Program has provided me because without the program I know that I, along with many other students of color, would not be in graduate school pursuing a Ph.D. Most importantly, the program demystified the image that I think a lot of other first generation students have about graduate school as being a place of prestige and elitism where only those who are considered “highly intellectual” are admitted. I was also fortunate to have many great individuals who supported my growth as scholar and to them I will always be grateful.
What drew you to the University of Minnesota?
What initially drew me to the University of Minnesota was Associate Professor Bic Ngo‘s scholarship on immigrant education, particularly her work with Hmong American students. After visiting the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, it was apparent to me that many of the faculty members and graduate students are actively engaged with the community in their research. As a scholar who is interested in breaking down the walls of the “ivory tower,” I value the department’s commitment to community engagement. The Culture and Teaching track in particular was attractive to me because of its commitment to social justice.
I strongly believe that to engage in education is to engage in a political act, and people cannot remain neutral in their position as educators. Consequently, I appreciate the dedication of the faculty and students in the Culture and Teaching track to social justice education. It was also important for me to find a space where I could further explore my identity as a Hmong American woman. Graduate school for me is not just about nurturing my growth as a scholar but also my growth as an individual, and I truly believe I chose the right place.
How did you get into education?
I have always been interested in studying how education as an institution reproduces oppressions, but what really solidified my passion to pursue a Ph.D. in education was my experience at Pennsylvania State University. I was selected to conduct research as a part of an intensive summer research program for undergraduates and had the opportunity to work closely with faculty in the sociology department. My research explored the model minority myth through examining the academic achievement in math and reading scores among first grade Asian ethnic groups. Through the work I did, I realized that there was a lack of research being done on Southeast Asian American students and that the dominant discourse of Asians as the model minority masks the problems faced by many Asian immigrant students.
What motivates/inspires you?
I am motivated by the possibilities of transforming our world through research and curriculum. Scholars who have dedicated their lives and their academic work to social justice inspire me and I hope to use my scholarship to create change as well.
Are there books that inspire you? What would you recommend?
I think that my idea of leisure reading may not be what most people consider be to leisure reading, but several books that inspire me and I have enjoyed are: Racism without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, killing rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks and Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples by Linda Tuhiwai Smith. Although I do not read many fictional books, I love and want to read more stories like A Passage to India by E.M. Foster and I Love Dollars: And Other Stories of China by Zhu Wen.
For more information about Lesley’s program, please visit our Culture and Teaching Ph.D. page and Associate Professor Bic Ngo’s profile page.

C&I faculty and graduate students are a big success at the 2013 Bergamo Conference

Three Curriculum and Instruction graduate students, Justin Grinage (Culture and Teaching Track), Christopher Kolb (Literacy Education Track), and Sadaf Rauf (Second Languages and Cultures Track), along with C&I department chair, Nina Asher, gave two presentations at the 2013 Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, held at the Bergamo Conference Center in Dayton, OH.

  • Asher and Kolb presented a co-authored paper titled, “Toward Educational Re-vision in a Time of Globalization and Standardization: Looking Deeply as a Means of Breaking the Confines of Capitalism.”
  • Grinage, Kolb and Rauf each presented a paper in a panel discussion called, “Race, Language, Nation, and Curriculum in a Global Context,” while Asher served as session chair. These presentations emerged out of the work the students did in Asher’s graduate seminar, Postcolonialism, Globalization, and Education last Spring and were very well received.

GinageJustin Grinage (pictured) was selected as the winner of the 2013 Bergamo Graduate Student Paper Award. His paper, “Reterritorializing Locations of Home,” will be published in the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing. This was Justin’s first presentation at a national conference.
For more information about Asher’s research, please see her faculty profile. If you would like to know more about the Ph.D. program tracks mentioned, please visit our Future Student – Ph.D. webpages.

C&I’s Yvonne Gentzler featured in Back to School article in Star Tribune.

gentzler2012In households across the United States, it’s time to start talking about the inevitable wind down of summer and the return to school. For many children and teenagers, the start of a new school year can be a time of transition and uncertainty. In “How to soothe school anxiety,” a new article in the Star Tribune prepping parents for some of the fears kids experience as school approaches, Department of Curriculum and Instruction Associate Professor Yvonne Gentzler offers input on strategies for supporting kids in this time of anticipation.
Read the full article at the Star Tribune.