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Review of  Funds of Knowledge


Reviewer: Nathaniel Carney
Book Title: Funds of Knowledge
Book Author: Norma Gonzalez Luis Moll Cathy Amanti
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Book Announcement: 16.3224

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Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 03:22:27 -0200
From: Nathaniel Carney <natcarn@gmail.com>
Subject: Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing Practices in Households,
Communities, and Classrooms

EDITOR: Gonzalez, Norma E.; Moll, Luis; Amanti, Cathy
TITLE: Funds of Knowledge
SUBTITLE: Theorizing Practices in Households, Communities, and
Classrooms
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2005

Nathaniel Carney, unaffiliated scholar

PURPOSE

This book consists of a number of chapters describing the original
funds of knowledge project carried out in Tucson, Arizona, and other
chapters detailing both participants' experiences in this project, as well
as funds of knowledge-based projects carried out in places other than
Tucson, Arizona. The funds of knowledge approach to education is
based in the idea of connecting teachers with their communities
through ethnographic study of the communities in which they live,
particularly household visits and interviewing. In this book, the editors
make the point that the funds of knowledge approach is an alternative
to some current trends in education toward general testing of students
and broad generalizations about student backgrounds and culture
when developing curriculum. While the book could have a broad aim
and audience, perhaps it will be particularly of interest to K-12
teachers, teacher trainers, and researchers in education and
anthropology.

SUMMARY

The book is divided into a preface and then four parts. In the preface,
the three editors of the volume each introduce themselves and their
part in starting the Funds of Knowledge project. In addition, they
provide a brief summary of their individual fields and theoretical
frameworks which they brought to the study. Their different
perspectives include ethnography, insights from Vygotskian theory,
and insights from the field of education.

Part I of the book, entitled "Theoretical Underpinnings", consists of
four reprinted articles which give an overview of the funds of
knowledge project, from a theoretical, design, and practice
perspective.

The first chapter in Part I problematizes the world culture. The
proposal is made the term culture is often a narrow concept that leads
to broad generalizations about practices and customs which are often
inaccurate when a detailed investigation of individuals within a
community are examined. The author talks about the "hybridity of
culture", which expresses the fact that culture is often made up of a
myriad of practices by individuals and families and does not fit into any
singular set of norms or customs.

The second chapter in Part I provides an broad ethnographic
overview of the U.S.—Mexican peoples living in the southwestern
area of the United States where U.S. and Mexican culture often blend
together. The chapter details both through historical perspective and
case study some of the characteristics and diversity that exist among
U.S.-Mexican populations.

The third chapter in Part I tells how qualitative research was used to
investigate individual household practices and inform pedagogical
innovation. This chapter includes some edited transcripts from a
presentation made about the qualitative research conducted by one of
the teachers and an anthropologist involved the funds of knowledge
project, and the presentation transcripts serve to describe the
research approach and some of the results.

The final chapter in Part I elaborates on how home visits and
interviews were carried out in a working-class neighborhood in
Tucson, Arizona. Also, details about the actual project, such as
information about the teachers involved and some cases studies of
particular teachers' home visits, are given.

Part II of the Funds of Knowledge book is titled "Teachers as
Researchers", and the articles in this part are written by six of the
teachers who participated and conducted interviews in the initial funds
of knowledge project.

The first chapter in Part II, written by Martha Floyd Tenery, is a
narrative of her visits to households, and she gives details about the
visit and how her skills as an ethnographer developed over the course
of her visits. She concludes her chapter mentioning how she sees her
role of 'teacher' as a mediator in various ways.

The second chapter in Part II is the story of another one of the
teachers, who also is one of the editors for the Funds of Knowledge
book, Cathy Amanti. Amanti includes field notes from some of her
visits, and she writes about how she was able to try to incorporate
some of the learning from her visits into her classroom curriculum.

The third chapter in Part II is written by Marla Hensley. Hensley talks
about her home visits and she writes about finding many talents in her
students' parents which could be tapped to help with school projects.
One student's father writes a musical for the school, while some other
students' family members have quilting experience which inspires the
beginning of a quilting project for the students.

The fourth chapter in Part II is written by Patricia Sandoval-Taylor. In
her chapter, Sandoval-Taylor tells how the knowledge garnered from
the funds of knowledge interviews she conducted eventually led to the
development of a new learning module for her classroom teaching on
the topic of construction. At the end of her chapter, Sandoval-Taylor
includes some compelling written pre and post-tests that were given to
her students before and after the learning module was implemented.

The fifth chapter in Part II, by Anne Browning-Aiken, details
ethnographic study undertaken by Browning-Aiken during her doctoral
work in anthropology. She centers in on the topic of border crossings
and the influence of mining on Mexican-U.S. families. In her chapter
she specifically writes about her interviews with one particular family in
the school district where the funds of knowledge project was taking
place.

The final chapter in Part II is by Jacqueline Messing. In this chapter,
Messing looks at the reflections of the teachers involved in the funds
of knowledge project. She includes transcripts from teachers and
shows how teachers developed in various ways through participation
in the funds of knowledge project.

Part III, entitled "Translocations: New Contexts, New Directions",
presents some research that was done in different areas and contexts
from that of the previous chapters, all of which had taken place in
Tucson, Arizona.

The first chapter in Part III is the account of a team ethnographic study
in southern Louisiana which had researchers working along with
teachers studying the local populations, particularly families involved
in offshore oil drilling. In this case, the teachers' funds of knowledge
approach research contributed to the overall data that was being
collected for the ethnographic study.

The second chapter in Part III tells how the funds of knowledge
approach was used in a Master's level teacher training program.
During the program, teachers, many of whom were of white, middle-
class backgrounds, made visits to urban, low-income neighborhoods
largely populated by minorities where they students would potentially
live. Teachers later completed research projects related to the
neighborhoods they visited and studied.

The third chapter in Part III details the reexamination of data from visits
made to fourteen Puerto Rican family households from 1996-1999 in
New York City. The reexamination's focus is an analysis of household
literacy practices in the households. The value of looking at such
local literacy practices is said to have great benefit for locally sensitive
curricular and teacher development.

The fourth chapter in Part III is written by two of the editors along with
two other authors, and it is a Vygostkian analysis of how household
mathematical practices and school math practices might be able to
coincide more. The authors spend time both explaining Vygotskian
learning theory as well as showing how it might be applied to research
data garnered from the funds of knowledge interviews.

In the final section of the book, Part IV, entitled "Concluding
Commentary", Luis Moll, one of the editors, gives both a critique of
certain current trends in public education, and offers suggestions as
to what might be gained from application of research espoused by the
funds of knowledge approach.

EVALUATION

"Funds of Knowledge" does an excellent job of detailing what the
original funds of knowledge project was about, and how the funds of
knowledge approach might benefit teachers and researchers
engaging in such an educational approach. While most of the book
centers in on the funds of knowledge project as it was carried out in
the Tucson, Arizona context, the inclusion of Part III in this book
greatly broadens the book's appeal since in gives researchers and
educators in other areas an idea of how the approach might work in a
different context.

Another positive point to mention about this book is that its tone is
both academic as well as testimonial. In other words, it includes both
significant research as well as individual commentary and reflection
from the participants. It is a readable volume, neither being overly
technical nor overly simplistic about the subject matter.

Considerable time is spent by different authors in the book on
describing household visits and the funds of knowledge's unique
approach to household visits. As the authors of chapter 5 (the final
chapter in Part I), "These are research visits, for the express purpose
of identifying and documenting knowledge that exists in students'
homes" (p. 89). The importance of ethnographic household visits
seems integral to the funds of knowledge approach, and the book
does a good job, albeit sometimes a repetitive job, in describing both
actual visits as well as the procedure for making these visits. Thus,
the reader of this book can gain concrete information about
implementing this essential element of the funds of knowledge
approach.

For a reader already familiar with the original funds of knowledge
approach, this book may not offer a great deal of new insight, but for a
teacher and/or researcher unfamiliar with the project, this must be the
definitive text. The only clearly lacking feature in this book, according
to this reviewer, is that there are not enough accounts of funds of
knowledge approaches in contexts beyond that of the southwestern
United States. Of the four chapters in Part III, really just the second
and third are general pedagogically-focused applications of the funds
of knowledge in contexts beyond Tucson. More applications of the
funds of knowledge throughout the United States would be welcome.

Perhaps that is what the authors are hoping as well. If this book's
unique approach to connecting teachers with the local context and
households where they work garners more widespread interest,
perhaps another volume, full of funds of knowledge applications in
various contexts, will be possible. While not explicitly a guidebook
about how to conduct funds of knowledge projects, Funds of
Knowledge gives the reader ample information about the original
project so that they might feel the confidence of trying to apply the
principles of the funds of knowledge approach in their own context.




 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Nathaniel Carney received his MA in TESL from Penn State
University, and currently is the head teacher at Freude Language
Centre in Kyoto, Japan. His research interests include assessment of
intercultural competence, pedagogical application of sociocultural
learning theory, and telecollaboration for language learning.


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