Using Preservice Teacher Emotion to Encourage Critical Engagement with Diversity

May. 20, 2009

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 5, Issue 1 May 2009 , p. 5 - 20.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The demographics of classroom teachers and teacher educators do not mirror the diversity found in today's schools. As we prepare preservice teachers to be quality educators for all students, we must work to ensure that they are examining issues of equity and diversity that will affect those they teach. This article examines this challenge from the author's perspective as a teacher educator. Through self-study research, the author considers how she, as a white, female, middle-class teacher educator, attempted to help preservice teachers to think beyond their own experiences.

This self-study began with one question: What supports can she provide that will encourage prospective teachers to examine issues of equity and diversity related to teaching in elementary classrooms? The question has two components, willingness and ability. Students first need the desire to think beyond their own experience, but they also need techniques to help them consider multiple perspectives.


This is a self-study of the author's experiences in teaching the educational foundations course at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The twin pillars of the education program are reflection and diversity. As instructor of Introduction to Education, the author worked with cohort of 25 students. All 25 female students were first-degree students under the age of 25. Twenty were of Caucasian-European descent, one identified herself as African-American, and four students identified themselves as Biracial. Most identified themselves as having a socio-economic status of middle class or higher.

In short, the demographics of this cohort mirrored the demographics of the current teaching population: majority white, middle-class females. Very few stated that they had experience working in diverse communities or being in a circumstance where they were identified as the minority population. During classroom discussions, several students stated their intention to return to their hometown to teach; most of those students uncommitted to location anticipated teaching in schools similar to those that they attended.

Data Collection and Analysis

Data sources included researcher journals, student feedback forms, university course evaluations, instructor-generated narrative course evaluations, and student surveys.


In the end, what she categorized as a strictly intellectual pursuit uncovered something much deeper and more engaging: the impact of emotion on learning in a university classroom.
The analysis showed that four practices supported emotional and intellectual engagement: (1) building classroom community, (2) structuring experiences that connect theory to practice, (3) using methods to make diversity and inequity visible, and (4) role-playing situations that enable students to take a stand on an issue. The author also identified inhibitors of emotional engagement.

Transformative teacher preparation must be engaging on both intellectual and emotional levels. While the implications of this finding support the personal value of self-study, this study also contributes to our understanding of multicultural approaches when working with preservice teachers.


Updated: Aug. 24, 2009