A Study of Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Teachers by RPCV Cathy Cross

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Reference: Special Interests: Education and the Peace Corps: A Study of Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Teachers by RPCV Cathy Cross

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, November 21, 2001 - 1:59 pm: Edit Post

Read the paper presented by RPCV Cathy Cross at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in 1998. The paper is a study of returned peace corps volunteers who become teachers and their self efficiacy and cultural awareness. Read the paper at:

A Study of Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Teachers

Statement of Problem: Peace Corps volunteers who return to the U.S. to teach are often viewed as having special qualities that enhance their teaching. Returned Peace Corps teachers are consistently characterized in positive terms because of their spirit, their can-do attitude, and their ability to triumph in the face of difficult school situations. This ability to thrive is very much like what Bandura termed self-efficacy: the belief that one is capable of carrying out the actions needed to manage situations, even in the face of difficulties. Teachers with high self-efficacy believe they affect student learning positively. Returned Peace Corps teachers are also credited with having cultural awareness which helps them succeed in teaching students from diverse backgrounds. The purpose of this study was to explore how returned Peace Corps teachers viewed the Peace Corps experience and its impact on their self-efficacy and cultural awareness.

Method: The study consisted of a questionnaire, interviews and observations. Participants for this study were 154 teachers representative of approximately 30,000 returned Peace Corps volunteer teachers, by country and decade of service. A random cluster sample of teachers who were members of two regional returned volunteer associations completed the questionnaire. The questionnaire contained demographic questions, the Sherer et al. (1982) General Self-Efficacy scale and the Gibson and Dembo Teacher Efficacy Scale (1984). Interviews were done with a smaller subset of 15 teachers. Cultural awareness, self-efficacy, teacher efficacy and the importance of the Peace Corps experience were explored in the interviews. Six teachers in this smaller sample were also be observed in their classrooms. The observations focused on practices that are associated with high self-efficacy teachers and effective multicultural teachers.

Results: Questionnaires were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Interviews and observations were taped, transcribed, and analyzed. Data from questionnaires and interviews indicated that these teachers had high self-efficacy. A developed sense of cultural awareness was indicated in the interviews, but was not always observed in
classroom visits. The data from the questionnaire and the interviews indicated mixed results in the area of teacher efficacy. The teachers ranked the Peace Corps experience highly in its effect on their self-efficacy and cultural awareness, and less highly in its effect on their teaching.

Conclusions: Results indicated that the Peace Corps functioned as a mastery experience. The volunteers described the experience as difficult for a variety of reasons, but credited the Peace Corps with developing their enhanced sense of self-efficacy. The effect was robust and persistent, returned volunteers attributed changes caused by the Peace Corps, even if the experience had been more than thirty years ago. Feelings of self-confidence, willingness to take on challenges, and the ability to thrive in difficult situations were attributed to their experience in the Peace Corps. Most volunteers reported increased cultural awareness as a result of the Peace Corps experience, especially a modified view of the world. The results indicated that most volunteers had a strong belief in their ability to teach. However, they also believed that a student's learning was affected not only by their teaching, but also by factors outside their control. The teachers ranked the Peace Corps experience as very important in affecting their personality and as somewhat important in affecting their teaching.

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