Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 03:22:27 -0200 From: Nathaniel Carney 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
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.
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.
"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.