The purpose of the Intercultural and Classroom Culture (ICC) research lab is to uncover how the daily life of the early childhood classroom is guided by shared routines, rituals, norms, values, and beliefs. This includes examining how teachers and children socially construct a peer and school culture as they act and react to one another. This also includes understanding how power, language, and ideologies influence the subject positions of children, families, and teachers. Moreover, the ICC research lab aims to explore teacher candidates’ (i.e., preservice teachers) understanding and development of intercultural competence. Intercultural competence is the willingness and ability to respond effectively with young children and families whose backgrounds, ways of thinking, communicating, and behaving are significantly different from the teacher candidates’ norms (Cushner, 2018).
Objectives of the ICC
The objectives of the ICC are to provoke questions that will challenge normative assumptions about children, families, and teachers in various social and cultural contexts. Such questions would include the following:
• What role do teacher preparation programs have in enhancing the intercultural competence of teacher candidates?
“Examining preschool children’s language and literacy practices in peer culture play: A collaborative ethnography of a Knoxville-Knox County Head Start classroom”
Funded by the UTK Office of Community-Engagement and Outreach
“Collaborative Online Learning Across Borders (COLAB): Examining the development of intercultural competency of teacher candidates using a “virtual” cross-cultural university-based program.”
Funded by the UTK Center for Global Engagement. In collaboration with The University of Auckland, The University of Melbourne, and The University of Wyoming.
Current Graduate Students
Karina Beltran, PhD Student
Karina Beltrán is from El Paso, Texas. She received her B.S. in Human Development with a double major in Chicano/a Studies and a minor in Education from the University of California, Davis. She is currently an MS-PhD student in the Department of Child and Family Studies. Beltran’s research focuses on educators and the juvenile justice system. She follows a qualitative approach along with artifact analysis to study trajectories that lead to alternative education settings. Beltran is currently examining life histories of educators who worked in juvenile detention settings. She will be working with Dr. Madrid Akpovo on the COLAB project to understand teacher candidates development of intercultural competence in a university-sponsored online cross-cultural context.
Sarah Neessen, Knox County Head Start
Sarah Neessen is from Cedar Falls, Iowa. She received her B.A. and Pre-k, kindergarten and special education license from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She has spent the last 13 years working as a Pre-k teacher at Knox County Head Start. Sarah is in the second year of her Early Childhood Master’s degree at East Tennessee State University. Her research interests include language, literacy and understanding children’s culture. She is working with Dr. Madrid Akpovo to understand the role of language and literacy in peer relationships during children’s play.
Cassie Sorrells, PhD Student
Cassie is from Charleston, West Virginia. She received her B.A. in Multidisciplinary Studies (Anthropology, Biology, and Linguistics) from West Virginia University, and her M.A. in Education and Human Development from the University of Colorado, Denver. Her research centers on qualitative exploration of the lived experiences of children and educators in early childhood classrooms, with particular focus on how societal and political forces shape these realities. Outside of academic pursuits, Cassie enjoys yoga, cooking, and hiking with her border collie pup, Emma. Cassie is currently working with Dr. Madrid Akpovo as a graduate research assistant. She is coordinating data collection on the “Head Start Collaborative Ethnography” research project.
Melissa Swartzentruber, PhD Student
Melissa Swartzentruber is from Lexington, Kentucky. She received her B.A. in Mathematics and M.A.T. with K-6 teacher licensure from Belmont University in Nashville. She has spent the last eight years working as a kindergarten and first grade teacher in international, public, private, and charter schools. Melissa is in her second year of the doctoral program in Child and Family Studies. Her research interests include examining children’s social-emotional development and understanding the teacher’s role in children’s social emotional learning. She is also interested in how various cultural contexts affect development in early childhood. She will be working with Dr. Madrid Akpovo on the COLAB project to understand teacher candidates development of intercultural competence in a university-sponsored online cross-cultural context.
(*Denotes graduate student or teacher practitioner)
Lash, M., Madrid Akpovo, S. & Cushner, K. (in press). Developing the intercultural competency of early childhood preservice teachers: Preparing teachers for diverse classrooms. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education.
Madrid Akpovo, S., Thapa, S., & *Halladay, M. (2020). Learning to see teaching as a cultural activity: US preservice-teachers’ significant experiences with Nepali mentor-teachers during an international field experience. Journal of Research in Childhood Education,34(1).
Madrid Akpovo, S., *Baldwin, & *Belbase, S. (2019). International field experiences: An ethnographic case study of one Minority-World student’s development of intercultural empathy and sensitivity. Critical issues in early childhood teacher education: An international perspective (pp). New York, NY: Information Age Publishing.
Young, D., Madrid Akpovo, S., & Thapa, S. (2019). Culturally responsive awareness and competence curriculum in early childhood pre-service teachers. In I. Jones and M. Lin. (Eds),Critical issues in early childhood teacher education: A US perspective (pp). New York, NY: Information Age Publishing.
Madrid Akpovo, S., & Nganga, L. (2018). Minority-World professionals in majority-world contexts: How do international field experiences promote intercultural competence or reinforce ethnocentrism? Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood,19(2), 1-7. DOI: 10.1177/1463949118778024
Madrid Akpovo, S., Nganga, L., & *Acharya, D. (2018). Minority-World preservice teachers’ understanding of contextually appropriate practice while working in Majority-World communities. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 32(2), 202-218. DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2017.1419321
Madrid Akpovo, S., Moran, M.J., Brookshire, R. (Eds) (2018). Collaborative cross-cultural research methodologies in early care and education contexts. New York, NY: Routledge Press.
Madrid, S., Fernie, D., & Kantor, R. (Eds). (2015). Reframing the emotional worlds of the early childhood classroom. New York, NY: Routledge Press.
Fernie, D., Madrid, S., & Kantor, R. (Eds). (2011). Educating toddlers to teachers: Learning to see and influence the school and peer cultures of classrooms. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.