Teaching Taiwanese Indigenous students: Case studies of three Han Chinese teachers
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Research clearly indicates that Indigenous students continue to fail in the Taiwan public school system. One way to address this problem is to improve classroom instruction. This study examines the beliefs, knowledge, and practices of three Han Chinese female teachers, in three different settings, who were considered exemplary teachers of Indigenous students by the superintendent, teacher educators, principals, or administrators. It also explores related personal and contextual factors in order to better understand how teaching expertise was developed and was supported or impeded. Using qualitative research methods, I collected data via classroom observations, semi-structured interviews, and analysis of pertinent documentation. The data were examined, using a conceptual analysis model comprising two perspectives: culturally relevant teaching and critical pedagogy. The data analysis identified five themes in the teachers' beliefs, knowledge, and practices of teaching Indigenous students: (a) self-confidence and commitment, (b) differentiated expectations, (c) cultural pedagogy, (d) character development, and (e) an ethic of care. The findings also showed that the three teachers relied on their own experiences, their memorable teachers' styles, and their accumulated teaching experiences to develop their teaching expertise. Moreover, findings demonstrated that the teachers' work was constrained by time limitations for teaching and by a conservative school culture that devalued instructional innovation. On the other hand, teaching was supported by a collaborative school culture and by a school policy that valued Indigenous cultural development. Based on the research findings, this study suggests that teacher educators and school administrators provide a venue for teachers to discover their hidden beliefs about Indigenous culture and about their teaching practices; provide the theoretical and practical knowledge and skills needed by Indigenous students; and create school environments that support personal and professional improvements that will improve the teaching of Indigenous students. Moreover, this study suggests that teacher educators and school administrators consider cultural contexts when preparing teachers to teach Indigenous students. Culturally relevant teaching might well be suitable for educators who work in the Indigenous areas. Critical pedagogy, in turn, might well meet the needs of teachers who work with diverse populations of students in large urban schools.