Deepening Culturally Responsive Understandings within a Teacher Preparation Program: It’s a Process

Nov. 01, 2011

Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 15, No. 4, November 2011, 435–452
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article reviews the efforts of the teacher education program at the University of Colorado Denver to examine the extent to which culturally responsive practices were evident in their program and to provide professional development supports to faculty as they undertook course revision work.


Delivering inclusive teacher preparation
Given the teacher education program’s strong emphasis on urban, public school education, the PDS sites share many of the realities and challenges present in today’s schools.
At those sites, teacher candidates progress through a series of developmentally sequenced internships over the course of an entire academic school year to ensure exposure to the full range of student ages, types, and level of abilities, varied teaching styles, and collaborative opportunities.

Deepening culturally responsive teacher preparation
In 2007, the Achieving Special Education Equity through Diversity project (ASEED) leadership team began to make plans for revising the special education licensure program with a focus on culturally responsive pedagogy.

They embarked first on an external evaluation of the program's curriculum.
They shared their syllabi and invited six experts to campus to conduct focus groups with faculty and students.

Their final analysis of the program highlighted:
a near absence of community-based learning experiences for teacher candidates,
a glaring concern regarding their limited conceptualization of social justice and diversity, and a need for enhanced efforts at recruitment of diverse teacher candidates.

Implementing Changes Organizational Changes

The authors describe how professional development was designed and implemented and ensuing programmatic changes.

The multifaceted professional development plan was designed to support university and school faculty by providing training that was both embedded in the structure of the organization as well as specialized learning opportunities.

For organizational purposes, three overlapping structures for delivering professional development were incorporated: feedback loops; ongoing redesign activities; and specialized workshops and presentations.

Organizing the work began with eliciting feedback from both internal stakeholders and external experts in the field.

Feedback loops
To gain insight from the program's stakeholders as well as experts in the field, the ASEED team engaged in a series of extensive information-gathering activities all designed to provide us with substantive feedback that would guide our work, which included external evaluations of our program and focus groups with essential stakeholders in our preparation community.

Ongoing redesign activities
In planning their work, the ASEED team took advantage of pre-existing organizational structures within the School of Education and Human Development to fold in an array of activities associated with this project including a monthly program faculty meeting and an annual two-day faculty program retreat.

Specialized workshop/presentations
They hosted a number of additional events to build the knowledge and skills of university and professional development school's faculty.

To maximize time efficiency, they organized structured workshops prior to the monthly Council meetings which we termed Conversation Cafés.
In addition to the Conversation Cafés, they hosted several specialized workshops focusing on issues of power and privilege and instructional strategies featuring experts in premier urban and multicultural education and expertise.

Lessons learned

The authors conclude with recommendations for other faculties who are interested in designing and implementing such programmatic changes.

First, there must be coherence between all professional development and a comprehensive program plan of study including courses, internships, activities, assignments, readings and performance-based assessments.
Second, professional development efforts must be ongoing, differentiated, sequenced and sustainable.

Updated: Dec. 18, 2013