Lessons for Teacher Education: The Role of Critical Professional Development in Teacher of Color Retention

Jan. 01, 2019

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume: 70 issue: 1, page(s): 39-50
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the author employed narrative inquiry to better understand the professional experiences of teachers of Color as it intertwines with their personal and political commitments. Eleven self-identifying justice-oriented women of Color who currently work in California, K-12, urban public schools participated in the study. They all also served in prominent justice oriented district or community-based leadership roles, either formally or informally defined.

The study initially aimed to understand how veteran teachers of Color made sense of their preparation in regard to sustaining a justice-oriented career. Some of the questions asked were as follows: In what ways do you feel your teacher education program prepared you for the classroom? In what ways did it fall short? In what ways do you feel your school or district professional development prepared you for the classroom? In what ways did/does it fall short?
As narrative inquiry, the interviews also included questions about teachers’ past, present, and future, such as the social–emotional context of childhood and familial experiences, K-12 schooling, their experiences as a teacher, and the development of their critical consciousness.
During the course of the interviews, the author added additional questions about the interviewees participation in CPD spaces to sharpen their racial literacy, such as: “Why did you join/develop/lead this social justice education work? What do you hope it will accomplish?”

In data analysis, it emerged that participants experienced teacher education in two main ways.
First, some programs contradicted the teachers’ justice-oriented positionalities, and these programs ranged from not discussing issues of injustice/justice in any substantive way to actually promoting practices that exacerbated inequity.
Second, some programs aligned with the teachers’ justice-oriented positionalities, engaging participants in frameworks, ideologies, and practices they were seeking from teacher education. Yet while training teachers to serve students of Color in important ways, even these justice-oriented programs fell short in preparing them to navigate or confront the hostile racial climate of schools.
Both contexts, negative or positive, neglected to develop the racial literacies of teachers of Color, leaving them underprepared and more at risk of being pushed out of this predominantly White profession.
The author shows that the collected data show that the CPD training attended by the interviewees served to strengthen their racial literacies, which in turn, supported their retention in the profession.

The author concludes that through their narratives, veteran teachers of Color reveal that teacher education that is void of critical frameworks does not just marginalize teachers of Color in their preparation, but continues to negatively affect their careers as they enter the field with limited tools to resist racialized structures. Because these programs often frame teaching in contradiction to what many teachers of Color visualize as their profession, they are often left to imagine social justice practices on their own.
Although justice-oriented teacher education programs do much better at supporting the visions and goals of teachers of Color, if programs are not strengthening teachers’ social networks, their racial literacies, and their capacities to navigate a predominantly White profession, teacher education is missing key tools that have the potential to support teachers of Color in long, sustained careers.

The author maintains that although equal effort must be placed on transforming the structures of schooling to eradicate racism from educational policy and practice, there are concrete lessons to learn from teachers of Colors who endure hostile racial climates, resist pushout, and challenge injustice.
Applying these lessons to teacher education can support the growth and retention of teachers of Color, an important step toward a diverse and culturally responsive teaching force. 

Updated: May. 23, 2019