Rethinking Assumptions of Demographic Privilege: Diversity among White Preservice Teachers

From Section:
Multiculturalism & Diversity
Jan. 10, 2011

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 43-50.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The findings reported in this article developed from a yearlong study of white preservice teachers (WPTs) engaged in a dialogue circle around issues of race in education. The author was interested to examine the ways preservice teachers are prepared for classrooms that include students’ diverse both amongst their peers and within themselves.


The author focused on two preservice teachers who enrolled as participants in this project at a medium-sized tier-one research private university located in a medium-sized Southern city.

Data sources and analysis
This study was a qualitative study using multiple methods of data capture, including written artifacts, audio- and video-recordings of interviews and group meetings, multiple rubrics addressing dialogic and racial development, and consistent member checking of ongoing constant comparative data analysis
The participants are compared to generalizations of White preservice teachers found in the literature.

Implications for how MTE views being White

1. WPTs as dysconscious of racism
White preservice teachers may be dysconscious of many aspects of racism. However, prolonged engagement with multiple definitions of racism and explorations of their own racial developments may lead to thinking about racism at a much deeper level.

2. WPTs and expectations for students
Evidence from this study suggests that WPTs do not necessarily have lower expectations but can work to challenge students as individuals. However, White preservice teachers may suffer from the lowered expectations of researchers and teacher educators.

3. WPTs and experience with communities of color
White preservice teachers may have broad experiences with communities other than their own or may even have been taught to question their own communities. The author suggest that perhaps Multicultural Teacher Education would be more efficacious to develop methods for engaging communities in ways that are mutually beneficial, which would require significant examination of a WPT’s own identity and community.

4. WPTs as racial beings
Evidence from this study suggests that engaging WPTs in deeply theoretical definitions of race and racism is important in analyzing racial development. If researchers and teacher educators want to engage participants and students in issues around race and racism, then evidence from this study suggests they must critically evaluate their own understandings first.


The author concludes that many teacher educators engaged in the preparation of WPTs for diverse classrooms may rely on generalized assumptions that will inevitably lead to failure. Instead, teacher educators might recognize each student teacher as diverse both within and across multiple communities. No matter the system of privilege at work, teacher educators should not rely on assumptions lest they fail to know their student teachers as individuals and fail to prepare them adequately for diverse classrooms.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Attitudes of teachers | Multicultural education | Multiculturalism | Personal narratives | Preservice teachers | Teacher educators