Educating urban indigenous students in Taiwan: Six teachers' perspectives

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A substantial literature supports the thesis that teachers' beliefs and attitudes strongly influence their perception and behaviors in the classroom (Byrnes, Kiger, & Manning, 1997;Clark & Peterson, 1986; Cross, 1993; Dillingham & Johnson, 1973; Kagan, 1992; Lewis, 1990; Nespor, 1987; Tabachnick & Zeichner, 1984; Villegas, 1992). While some believe that the macro-context is the most salient factor of urban indigenous students' education, other researchers point to teachers' perspectives about indigenous students as significant to student's success and hence an important topic of study (Tatto, 1996). This qualitative study examines six teachers' perspectives of indigenous students and reveals factors that potentially impede or promote the success of indigenous students in Taiwanese urban schools. Much of this study relies upon periodic semi-structured interviews and classroom observations. From the cross-case discussion and analysis of six teachers' perspectives of teaching indigenous students, we learn that there is a need in the educational field for a reshaped perspective of indigenous students, along with changes in curriculum, instructional methods, and practices and policies. It requires teachers who have (1) direct experiences with and thorough knowledge about the cultural values, learning styles, historical legacies, and contribution of different ethnic groups; (2) the courage to stop blaming the victims of school failure and to admit that something is seriously wrong with existing educational systems; (3) the will to confront prevailing educational canons and convictions, and to rethink traditional assumptions of cultural neutrality in teaching and learning; and (4) the skills to act productively in translating knowledge and sensitivity about cultural diversity into pedagogical practices. Hopefully, then, schooling experiences like those of indigenous teachers will be historical memories, not everyday occurrences, and their children will have more successful stories to tell about their school experiences.