Entanglements in Learning: Sensemaking and Building Relationships in Classrooms through Storytelling




Silva, Supuni Dhameera

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The need for building relationships of trust between students and between students and teachers, and practices that position students and teachers as full people in ways that honor their prior experiences is always present. Such approaches and practices are particularly necessary when teachers have different lived experiences than their students (Henfield & Washington, 2012; Ladson-Billings, 2005). Classrooms, as a nexus for lines of experience from all the individuals (Keifert, 2015, under review)—both teachers and students, learning together, provide opportunities to understand the need to reflect on their own histories and learn about other’s histories to better understand the role of intersectionality in shaping experiences within US K-12 schools. A critical first step in the preparation of teachers along multiple intersectionalities requires supporting teacher candidates (TCs) to engage in critical reflection on their own and other’s learning experiences to (re)imagine what their own pedagogical approach might accomplish for their future students (Zeichner, 1996). As words carry compressed histories and suggest potential futures, we seek to understand those histories and imagined futures that learners make relevant through the stories they tell in classrooms. This approach demands that these stories serve as sensemaking resources for the individual telling the story as well as those listening to the story, though an analytical lens—Entanglements which are the moments in interactions when participants make relevant, and therefore intertwine, their lines of experience. TCs were asked to reflect on their past learning experiences and imagined future teaching approaches through disciplinary ideas presented in the course—they did a face-to-face sharing of a non-traditional representation of self (a representation of themselves using any form other than an essay) drawing on stage-theorists (Piaget, Erickson, Marcia, Kohlberg), followed by a whole class discussion. Through these artifacts, TCs told stories about themselves related to stage theories using all kinds of practices, including but not limited to poems, drawings, songs, and built an understanding of one another that allowed them to recognize both vulnerability and strength. Personal stories may have a particular impact on TCs developing an understanding of how relationships are central to teaching / learning practice, thus we propose that the differences between entangling personal stories (past and present) with disciplinary ideas is most important as a matter of scaffolding TCs towards supporting them to engage in power-explicit conversations about intersectionality in past and future teaching and learning experiences leading towards building strong relationships with students in their future classrooms.


University of North Texas