Source: The Teacher Educator, 55:4, 411-429
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study sought to explore the self-efficacy level of a group of preservice teachers (PTs) in addressing learners’ cultural and linguistic needs and what factors contribute to their perceived self-efficacy level.
The study adopted a mixed methods design to seek the answers to the authors’ research questions:
1) How do preservice teachers in this study perceive their knowledge and skills to address cultural and linguistic needs of learners? and
2) What conditions and characteristics do they perceive as contributing factors to their self-efficacy level in addressing the cultural and linguistic needs of learners?
The nature of this study is descriptive as this study did not test hypotheses or analyze cause and effect relationships (Gal et al., 2007).
The authors’ research approach was sequential.
A survey (self-efficacy survey ratings) was administered to the participating PTs first and followed by written rationales for their own ratings.
In addition to collecting survey data, one of the research team members interviewed the other researchers who were the PTs’ course instructors to supplement the information gathered through the survey, as well as to explore PTs’ backgrounds that do not show in the PTs’ data.
Research context and participants
This study was conducted with a group of preservice teachers enrolled in a small midwestern university.
The university, located outside of a small city, works closely with the city schools to provide preservice teachers urban education experiences.
It also serves 10 neighboring counties including rural and suburban school districts where PTs gain rural education experiences.
While the state’s Department of Education reports 4% of preK-12 students are English learners (Els), the number could be higher (Sugarman & Geary, 2018).
The PTs who participated in this present study were 27 seniors.
The PTs have been placed in diverse settings for field experience courses (urban, rural, and suburban) over 3 semesters, and that gave them some context for the activities presented in the teacher education program of the study.
For student teaching (last semester of the program), the majority of the PT participants were placed in rural schools with students of similar background and culture.
The Teacher Efficacy Scale for Classroom Diversity (TESCD; Kitsantas, 2012) survey was used to measure PTs’ competencies with Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) strategies.
The first research question, PTs’ self-efficacy level for teaching culturally and linguistically diverse learners was investigated using the TESCD survey (Kitsantas, 2012).
Twenty-two of 27 PTs rated their self-efficacy level for all 10 questions with the given rating options (0 -100%), and their ratings were analyzed.
The second data set, the PTs’ written rationales for self-evaluation on their self-efficacy level, was used to answer research question 2.
All 27 participants responded to these open-ended questions that prompted them to explain the reasons for their ratings and better ways to improve their confidence level.
Findings and conclusion
The participating PTs were highly confident about creating an accommodating environment for diverse students’ learning modality preferences; whereas, they were least confident about making instructional materials and discussions comprehensible for ELs.
This was due to their perceived lack of understanding of ELs’ native languages.
A slight difference was found between social and affective aspects of culture and academic aspects of culture in their self-efficacy level ratings, the former being a little higher than the latter.
What affects PTs’ self-efficacy level in working with culturally and linguistically diverse learners is neither simple nor straightforward.
Rather, the findings suggest that their self-efficacy level could be shaped by several factors.
Amongst them, direct exposure or experiences not only influenced PTs’ self-efficacy level but also made them wish for more to improve their self-efficacy.
Surprisingly, PTs’ life experiences such as being a former-ESL student, juggling parent, or someone with possible learning disabilities enabled them to develop a higher level of self-efficacy in dealing with the issues related to cultural conflicts and linguistic challenges.
The authors also reconfirmed that self-efficacy level ratings remain subjective.
And while the PTs’ professors considered them to be academically high-performing and hard-working, some of the PTs themselves often expressed self-doubt.
They appeared to be either too critical of themselves or what they have learned and displaying little flexibility in dealing with the culturally and linguistically conflicted situations.
In contrast, other PTs highlighted their open-mindedness, level-headedness, and self-efficacy, which did not always correlate with how their professors viewed them academically.
Although it is difficult to reason such dissonance in perceptions, it is possible that professors tend to view their students based on their academic performance with limited understandings of other personal characters and experiences.
Drawing on their findings, the authors discussed that PTs were more comfortable imposing or discussing mainstream school cultural norms, as opposed to identifying and integrating students’ cultures into their classroom activities and curriculum.
Typical diversity-awareness education seems to highlight respect and appreciation of different cultures as they were the PTs’ most frequent responses, regardless of what was asked.
Another interesting yet significant finding is that the PTs’ academic excellence in their coursework may not ensure their high self-efficacy level in the challenges that cultural and linguistic diversity could bring to the classroom.
Instead, the PTs’ direct experiences or exposure through life experiences or field experiences have a larger influence on improving their self-efficacy level.
Gal, M. D., Borg, W. R., & Gall, J. P. (2007). Educational research: An introduction. (8th ed.). Pearson.
Kitsantas, A. (2012). Teacher efficacy scale for classroom diversity (TESCD): A validation study. Profesorado, Revista de curriculum y formacion del Profesorado, 16(1), 35–45.
Sugarman, J., & Geary, C. (2018). English learners in Ohio: Demographics, outcomes and state accountability policies. Migration Policy Institute.