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Reframing the Novice ersus Expert Roles of Children, Parents, and Teachers from a Cultural ... - page 16 / 22





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Doucet and Tudge

Project focused on decoding skills as one of the major signs of their children starting to read, middle-class parents, both Black (82%) and White (42%), were far more likely to mention motivational factors as being important than were working-class parents (fewer than 20%). These different views reflect different strengths on which teachers could build. But without talking to children and parents about the parents’ beliefs and the children’s prior experi- ences, teachers are unlikely to know what they can build on.


The transition to school is a cultural process, although the complex roles that culture plays in this critical developmental juncture often is not recognized. The theoretical bases for these claims come from two contextual theories. First, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological perspec- tive encourages a viewing of culture from the broadest level (i.e., the macrosystem) to the most proximate (i.e., the microsystem). Thus, schools operate within a specific cultural framework, but this framework does not always reflect the values and beliefs of the families the schools serve. Furthermore, Vygotsky’s cultural–historical model, with its focus on education and relationships among teachers and students, demands that teaching and learn- ing be seen as a transactional process—that is, teaching/learning.

Recognizing the transition to school as a cultural process means moving away from models that try to generalize a universal (or even national) model for how children experi- ence the transition to school as well as for how parents conceptualize this transition. Pro- jections suggest that the U.S. population will continue to increase in racial/ethnic diversity (see He & Hobbs, 1999) and that economic changes related to globalization, outsourcing, and wage stagnation will further the gap between asset owners and wage earners (Collins, Leondar-Wright, & Sklar, 1999). It is crucial that teachers be trained to appropriately ad- dress diversity in their classrooms (Fuller, 1992b) and, by extension, to address diversity among these children’s parents. For children to make the transition to school successfully, current conceptions of the roles children and their parents play in informing the schooling process also will need to be expanded to make room for diverse approaches (Graue, 1993a). This “transition as cultural process” perspective also means that teachers will need to sus- pend their expectations that children will experience the transition in the same way, just as they must suspend expectations that all children learn to read the same way (Delpit, 1988), communicate the same way (Tharp, 1989), or behave the same way (Wilson & Banks, 1994). Finally, schools themselves must be made more appropriate for adapting to the con- cerns of an ever-changing child population. To do so, all of the relevant players must actively construct schooling experiences together.


Appiah, K.A., & Gutmann, A. (1998). Color conscious: The political morality of race. Princeton, NJ:

Princeton University Press. Barnett, S. (1995). Long-term effects of early childhood programs on cognitive and school outcomes.

The Future of Children, 5(3), 25–35. Beery, M.E. (1984). Kindergarten entry: A study of transition. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Ohio

State University, Columbus. Berger, E.H. (1995). Parents as partners in education: The school and home working together (4th ed.). New

York: Merrill/Macmillan.

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