Examining the Practice of Critical Reflection for Developing Pre-Service Teachers’ Multicultural Competencies: Findings from a Study Abroad Program in Honduras

Fall, 2011

Source: Issues in Teacher Education, Volume 20, No. 2, Fall 2011, p. 9-22.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors examine how critical reflection during a study abroad program to Honduras facilitates pre-service teachers’ multicultural competencies for personal and professional growth.
The Honduras study abroad for pre-service teachers is organized each year as a five-week summer program aimed at developing multicultural competencies through a reflective approach.
The program constitutes course work on content and pedagogical knowledge; field observations in multiple educational settings; service learning projects; informal social events, and cultural tours.

This research examine the following research questions:
1. How participants interpret experience within a given context?
2. How participants construct the self?
3. What meaning participants attribute to their experiences with the other?
4. How participants analyze these perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes toward self and other? and
5. What kind of reflection and transformative action their meaning-making evokes?

The participants were 49 preservice teachers aged 18-to-24 years who participated in the Honduras study abroad program between 2003 and 2010.
Data were collected through participants' demographics, interviews, participants’ course assignments and reflective journals, and researchers’ field notes.


The authors offer a few concluding comments on the educational significance of this study for developing pre-service teachers’ multicultural competencies through ongoing critical reflection.
First, critical reflection for developing multicultural competencies in teacher education students is necessary if teachers in U.S. American schools are to succeed with teaching diverse students.

The authors claim that as a form of systematic inquiry, critical reflection engages preservice teachers in examining their beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives toward self and other and deepens their understanding of how personal knowledge is related to educational issues and the broader construction of meaning.
Critical reflection for multicultural competencies helps pre-service teachers to identify and build upon the strengths of different cultures rather than view minority students as a problem that needs to be fixed.
As an ongoing personal and professional practice, critical reflection positions teacher education students to take ownership of their beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives and develop new interpretations for multicultural teaching and learning.

Second, participating in well–organized and structured programs such as study abroad infused with opportunities for critical reflection is one way of preparing multicultural teachers.

Third, exposure to diverse cultural knowledge and pedagogical practices enacted in diverse educational settings offers teacher education students opportunities for developing multicultural competencies.

Finally, universities and colleges around the world attentive to diversity will benefit from promoting critical reflection as a framework in teacher education programs for developing multicultural competencies in future teachers, in-service teachers, and teacher educators.

This study advocates a combination of two registers when preparing teacher education students for multicultural classrooms through study abroad programs.
The first register, critical reflection, provides a general framework for teacher education students to develop multicultural competencies by examining their beliefs and perceptions and questioning how their beliefs and perceptions shape their worldview toward self and other.

The second register looks toward transformative ways for framing multicultural experiences, constructing multiple perspectives, and reconceptualizing self and other as a continuous and systematic educational practice.
The authors suggests that a strategy that combines both registers can serve as a powerful vehicle for preparing teacher education students for multicultural classrooms.

Updated: Sep. 23, 2014


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