The Emotional Work of Discomfort and Vulnerability in Multicultural Teacher Education

November 2015

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 21, No. 8, 1010–1025, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines what types of emotional work are entailed in approaching multicultural education from a pedagogy and an ethnic of discomfort. 

The authors were two experienced teacher educators at a private religious university in the United States where they teach the required multicultural education course for all teacher education majors.

Data were included (1) five sets of notes from class observations conducted in each other’s classes; (2) seven sets of notes from course development meetings; (3) three sets of notes from post class personal reflections; (4) twelve lesson plans for class sessions; and (5) four analytic memos.

The findings reveal a typology of the kinds of emotional work that the authors engage in as teacher educators practicing a pedagogy and ethic of discomfort in multicultural teacher education.

The first type of emotional work is managing personal emotional reactions. Such management reactions will be greatly enhanced as teacher educators realize that emotional work is a structural characteristic of multicultural teacher education.

The second type of emotional work is facing your past in your present practice. Experiences of this type of emotional work can be constructive instead of debilitating when teacher educators create systematic spaces for reflection on and critique of their practice.

The third type of emotional work is remaining vulnerable and emotionally available for students. The authors suggest that when teacher educators facing this type of emotional work, they embrace tensions between their ideals of practice and their actual practice and examine these tensions for new insights into existing theoretical constructs of multicultural education and their own practice.

The authors recognize that the emotional work in multicultural teacher education may look or feel different with students from different backgrounds from those in this study. This work points to needed professional development and support of such emotional work in academia particularly for pre-tenure teacher educators. 

Updated: Feb. 11, 2018