T. Griego-Jones

University of Arizona (UNITED STATES)
It is well documented in the literature on teaching that teachers need to identify and utilize prior knowledge and experiences that students bring with them to the classroom (Dewey, 1938; Vygotsky, 1978). Teachers sometimes think of prior knowledge as particular subject content and academic skills, but in fact, prior knowledge includes much more than that. Prior knowledge is "the sum of an individual's knowledge and experience gained during the course of their lives and what he or she brings to a new learning experience" (Arends, 2007). Prior knowledge then includes knowledge students have about how classrooms and schools function, about participation in the formal academic settings called classrooms. What are students in a given classroom supposed to do? What do teachers expect of them as students? What do other students expect of them? The knowledge acquired by children as they move through their schooling can appropriately be called their "classroom funds of knowledge". Researchers who coined the term "funds of knowledge" used it to describe resources Mexican-American communities provide for their children (Ibanez-Velez, 1992; Moll et al, 1992), but the term in this paper is also applied to the knowledge children acquire as participants in classrooms. The funds of knowledge gained from experience as participants in classrooms are different from those learned at home or in students' neighborhoods. Further, knowledge of how classrooms function in a given geographic and political context is unique and specific to that location and it's educational system.

This paper reports on findings from two studies of students who attended schools in the United States and then moved to schools in Mexico. In the 1st study of 55 Mexican classrooms conducted in 2008-09 the researcher found that most classrooms had students who had spent time in U.S. schools. The 2nd study in 2013 focused on 15 students who attended schools in Arizona and California, then moved to Sonora, Mexico. All but 2 of the 15 started school in the U.S. and 12 were U.S. citizens. Analysis of data from classroom observations and student interviews from both studies identified "classroom funds of knowledge" acquired in each country including the role of teachers, appropriate classroom behaviors and expectations for students, and knowledge of how classrooms function in each country. There were important differences in classroom cultures in the U.S. and Mexico even though both countries have similar institutional structures with classrooms as their basic units. Differences appeared to reflect goals, values, priorities, and histories of education in each country. Historically, migration has been from Mexico to the U.S. but since the 2008 recession, there has been an increase of families moving back to Mexico so it is important for teachers on both sides of the border to understand classroom differences beyond curricular content and instructional strategies. Globally, increased movement of families and students across borders calls for teachers everywhere to be aware of differences in how students understand educational settings.