Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF Aubrey A. Huber, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Speech Communication, presented on March 29, 2013 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: HELP AS COMMUNICATIVE PRACTICE: A CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY OF A TEACHER EDUCATION CLASSROOM MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Nathan P. Stucky As a scholar studying critical communication pedagogy, I am interested in the ways help is produced in communication by future educators. I take Stewart's (1995) claim seriously that words are not merely representational, but instead produce reality. Working from this paradigm, I examined help-producing communication and its implications to theorize help and generate strategies to improve help practices, specifically between teachers and students. To collect data for this project I conducted an ethnography of the teacher education course, "Schooling in a Diverse Society," EDUC311. I was interested in future teacher discourse because teaching often is articulated as a helping profession. For example, a common argument from my research was that to teach is to help students learn content, skills, and particular worldviews. Schein (2009) argues that help is a process that cannot be easily explained. He asserts, "Helping is a common yet complex process. It is an attitude, a set of behaviors, a skill and an essential component of social life" (p. 144). However, very little work has been done to theorize or analyze the implications of help, particularly in terms of communication and educational contexts. In this dissertation, I examined how future teachers articulate and produce help in and through communication. In my experience as a former teacher education student, I found that the help articulated in teacher education classes, that focus on democracy and social justice was remarkably different than the help articulated in everyday experience. Hunt (1998) resolves, "A focus on teaching for social justice reminds us that our children need not only a firm grounding in academics but also practice in how to use those academics to promote a democratic society in which all get to participate fully" (p. xiii). Social justice educators recognize students have the ability to enact change. They recognize inequity and actively work with their students to understand their subject positions in order to work against systems of oppression. In social justice education, help is a process "with" students instead of "help for" students. EDUC311 explores the relationship between social justice and democracy. As a required course for all teacher education students at Southern Illinois University, this course provided me with an ideal population of future educators. By studying the communication of future educators in a course that emphasizes social justice, I analyzed the ways they produced notions of help, generated a definition of social justice-oriented help, and provided strategies that current and future educators could use to better help their students.
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