ORAL HISTORY AS A METHOD OF GENERATING AUTHENTIC UNDERSTANDING OF "OTHERS"
In our globalized world today, there is no greater imperative in education than to help future educators learn how to teach and work within multicultural settings, with students who are racially, ethnically, culturally, indeed in every way, different from themselves. Teacher Education programs everywhere have struggled to prepare teachers to work effectively with students and parents from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.
This paper discusses an activity that has shown potential for helping prospective teachers learn about students who have backgrounds different from their own. It describes a method, that of analyzing Oral History interviews, that has long been used in historical research to capture the authentic experience of people living in a given time, place, and circumstance. In Oral History interviews, people describe their experiences, their perspectives and opinions in their own voice. No one is interpreting or judging what they say about a given topic.
In the Southwestern United States, Mexican American children make up a significant percentage of students in public schools. However, the majority of prospective teachers don't come from this same ethnic group and logistically, it is sometimes difficult for teacher interns to have contact with communities outside of their own. In one course that focuses on education of Mexican American students, the author invited Mexican American educators and parents to talk about their own school experience and expectations for their children. More than any other course activity, this oral interaction facilitated eye-opening and authentic learning for university students. Because this promoted authentic learning, the author conducted Oral History interviews with more Mexican American teachers and parents so that more prospective teachers could learn directly from them. The interview transcripts were able to be used with a wider group of students and also over time. University students could listen and analyze at their own pace.
The proposed presentation will show snippets of Oral Histories and university students' analysis of them. Students and author's analysis didn't always match but discussion of differences also facilitated learning. Using Oral History to teach can be effective in multicultural countries like the U.S. and across the globe.