Visibility Matters: Policy Work as Activism in Teacher Education

Fall, 2010

Source: Issues in Teacher Education, (Fall, 2010), p. 65-80.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes a project which was designed to examine how teacher preparation programs address LGBTQ-related course content, attitudes toward gender identity and sexual orientation, and their ability to teach about LGBTQ lives and communities.

The authors conceptual framework for this project emerged from a desire to transform the oppressive systems of normativity, particularly heteronormativity, that constrain human flourishing and self-determination.

In 2005, a group of faculty consisting of between four and 12 members who represent 10 Illinois colleges and universities, became affiliated with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance (the Alliance) and established the Pre-Professional Preparation Project, or P Project.
The authors conducted an electronic assessment (e-assessment) of all 57 Illinois teacher education programs.

The authors then organized these data to create a snapshot of the state context for LGBTQ university students, generally, and prospective teachers, specifically.
The authors chose to convey these findings via report cards.
The authors called this project and the eventual report, released in 2009, Visibility Matters.


The findings revealed that faculty respondents reported being inadequately prepared to address gender identity and sexual orientation in the college classroom.
Additionally, most respondents noted that their resources were outdated and that their programs introduced LGBTQ issues via the icon of a tragic, wounded, and potentially suicidal student.

Based on the lack of attention to LGBTQ issues that these Illinois teacher educators reported, the authors decided to determine how LGBTQ lives and communities were visible, if they were, in teacher education programs and higher education institutions across the state.

Creating Dialogue

The authors found that the report generated a dialogue on campuses among faculty, among teacher education and other departments within the university, and among students, faculty, and administration.
A number of campuses created task forces or working groups both to examine the issues on campus and within teacher education and to advocate for change.

The changes taking place at colleges and universities around the state called out for recognition, and the authors decided to update the report for 2010. Using the same methodology, the P Project returned to the websites of the 60 institutions housing teacher preparation programs.

The findings indicate that all Illinois teacher education programs and the campuses of which they are a part can significantly improve their public attention to LGBTQ issues.
The authors hope that this project will serve as a catalyst for teacher educators to investigate multiple and intersecting forms of social injustice.

Updated: Oct. 15, 2012