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Dialogue in a school -university teacher education partnership: Critical ethnography of a “third space”

Cynthia J Rosenberger, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This critical ethnographic study explores the possibilities and challenges of dialogue across differences within a school-university partnership between a state university and a low-achieving urban elementary school. The focal point of the study is the dialogue (reflection and action) that occurred in a focus group composed of school and university educators, parents, and community members. The study uses “third space” as a metaphor and theoretical lens to illuminate how dialogue complicates understanding through the collision of multiple perspectives, and, in some cases, produces a hybrid consciousness that results in novel action. In addition, the study draws on the postmodern notion of discourses to show how societal discourses permeate the multiple perspectives that constitute “third space.” The findings of this study suggest that creating a time apart from normal routine, positioning participants as learners and co-inquirers, and expecting and valuing different perspectives contribute to a dialogue process and to the building of parity among participants. Moreover, multiple and different viewpoints are crucial for complicating understanding in ways that lead to a hybrid consciousness that has the possibility of creating new agency. This study shows that the potential for hybrid understanding and negotiated agency is diminished when participants draw on primarily middle class discourses. The study concludes that a commitment to issues of social justice must occur at several levels of a partnership: (1) gathering a diverse group of participants whose perspectives are shaped by dominant and non-dominant discourses; (2) posing questions about the school context and teaching/learning practices in relation to sociocultural, political messages; (3) participating in social action that addresses the political and economic factors that produce inequities in schooling.

Subject Area

Teacher education|Elementary education|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Rosenberger, Cynthia J, "Dialogue in a school -university teacher education partnership: Critical ethnography of a “third space”" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3096311.