Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 61, No. 1-2, p. 118-131 (January/February 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
Several concepts that are important for inclusion in any teacher education curriculum regarding diversity studies are clarified in this article. The framing question of the discussion is: What are some relevant conceptions regarding issues of diversity that every teacher education program should consider including in its curriculum? The author outlines important concepts that contribute to what he calls teachers’ conceptual repertoires of diversity.
The research literature suggests that student learning opportunities may be hindered when teachers fail to consider their own and their students’ racial backgrounds and how race can affect learning opportunities in the classroom. The research suggests that teachers do not recognize the multiple layers of privilege associated with their race and how race can manifest in teaching, learning, and curricula experiences.
Consequently, Teachers who profess color-blindness teach their students in a myopic manner; they do not consider how racially diverse students experience the world in the classroom, the school, and society. Their curricular and instructional decisions are grounded in a “White norm” (Foster, 1999) that students of color just have to deal with.
Cultural conflict is another important aspect of a conceptual repertoire of diversity that should be included in the teacher education curriculum. Researchers have found that conflicts, inconsistencies, and mismatches emerge in the teaching and learning context based on (among other factors) race, gender, geography, and socioeconomic disconnections between teachers and students. Furthermore, conflicts may be historically or currently grounded and shaped.
Cultural conflicts in the classroom can result in negative consequences for such students because teachers refer students to the office when students of color “misbehave.” Furthermore, teachers refer students to special education when students are not grasping curriculum material rather than attempting to adjust their instructional practices to better meet the learning styles of the culturally diverse students.
Myth of Meritocracy
According to the meritocracy argument, people are rewarded based (solely or mostly) on their ability, performance, effort, and talents. Furthermore, systemic and institutional structures and barriers are not considered. Individual achievement is seen as an independent variable.
Consequently, teachers do not give students multiple chances for success. Teachers do not delve (more) deeply into the reasons behind students’ lack of engagement or the reasons why students do not complete their homework.
Discussions and experiences about deficit conceptions should also be included in a common curriculum of teacher education in order to help teachers build their conceptual repertoires of diversity. Teachers approach their work concentrating on what students do not have rather than focusing on what students actually bring into the learning environments (their assets).
Consequently, teachers refuse to allow students to develop their own critical and analytic thinking skills. Students are expected to regurgitate a right answer that the teacher or the textbook has provided. Students are given busy work in hopes that the students will not talk; the classroom is viewed as the teacher’s space, and students are expected to conform and to be quiet.
Related to deficit conceptions are the mindsets and practices of low expectations that may permeate the thinking, discourse, and actions of teachers. Teachers do not believe that culturally diverse students are capable of rigorous academic curriculum so they provide unchallenging learning opportunities in the classroom.
Consequently, teachers focus on basic skills only and push students to get a “right” answer in all academic subject matters. Students are not allowed to think outside the box, develop critical and analytic thinking skills, or question power structures in order to improve unfair, inequitable learning environments.
The idea is that when teachers enter teacher education, their conceptions—their mindset, thinking, belief systems, attitudes, and overall understanding of the teaching and learning exchange—need to be addressed because these conceptions shape their curricula and instructional practices with P-12 students.
The author is not suggesting that the five conceptual repertoires of diversity presented in this article are exhaustive; based on research, the list represents some areas that seem important for teachers’ building repertoires to teach culturally diverse students successfully.
The author concludes this article with a call to action. The author suggests that teacher educators gather to discuss a more common curriculum of diversity studies in teacher education. The author argues that teacher educators have to examine themselves, and adjust their practices to meet the needs of teacher education students and ultimately P-12 students.
Foster, M. (1999). Race, class, gender in education research: Surveying the political terrain. Educational Policy, 13(1/2), 77-85.