Professional Development for Teacher Educators: Conflicts between Critical Reflection and Instructional-Based Strategies

Sep. 01, 2011

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 37, No. 4, September 2011, 499-512
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors examine a professional development book club for teacher educators.
The authors focused on understanding how teacher educators, participating in a professional development book club on English-language learners (ELL), explored their beliefs about language diversity and developed an awareness of how to best prepare future teachers for culturally and linguistically diverse schools.

The authors used Freire’s (1973) development of critical consciousness, a model that encourages learners to engage in a problem-posing education through a dialogic pedagogy.

The research question guiding this study was:
‘How do teacher educators participating in a professional development book study on ELLs explore their beliefs about language diversity and develop an awareness of how to best prepare future teachers for culturally and linguistically diverse schools?’


Fifteen of the 25 members of the book club participated in this study.
These participants included faculty (assistant, associate and full professors), lecturers/adjunct faculty and administrators.
The participants included 13 females and two males.
Most of the participants were White, with three of the 15 describing themselves as Latino/Latinas.

The participants read half the text (Tongue-tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education; Santa Ana 2004) for the first meeting and finished the text for the final meeting held a month later.
During the book club discussions, participants met in small groups for about 45 minutes to discuss key pieces of the book and questions that arose, followed by an hour of large group dialogue.


Data were collected through a brief open-ended questionnaire and in-depth interviews.



The authors found several overarching themes:

The centrality of lived experiences
The data reveal that reflecting on lived experiences was central for the participants in connecting to the stories in the book and the experience of ELL students in our schools, mirroring the format of the book and the book club discussions.

The participants drew upon their own experiences to make sense of language diversity.
Some participants drew upon their first-hand experiences with discrimination, from being second-language learners or teaching in diverse contexts.
Other participants reflected on their struggle, which was due to a lack of lived experiences with diversity.

While exploring lived experiences, the teacher educators were trying to relate to the ELL experience, but at the same time many held onto surface-level ideas about developing empathy.

Developing awareness or focusing on strategies within pedagogy
Many of the participants were focused on learning classroom strategies or the ‘how to’ in order to work successfully with ELL students.
Some of the participants shared a different perspective in explaining that there needed to be a greater focus on pedagogy that developed cultural awareness and critical reflection about beliefs.

Tensions and conflict with cultural and linguistic diversity
Experiencing personal tension and internal conflict related to the exploration of cultural and linguistic diversity cut across both the themes of lived experiences and pedagogical approaches.
Tensions and discomfort surfaced as the teacher educators explored their own experiences as well as reflecting on bringing these new ideas into practice with pre-service teachers in the college classroom.

The authors conclude that transforming a teacher certification program to reflect critical multicultural perspectives is a complicated and often contradictory process.
Professional development must allow space and flexibility for teacher educators to engage in critical self-reflection and multiple opportunities to grow.

Freire, P., 1973. Education for critical consciousness. New York: Continuum.

Santa Anna, O., 2004. Tongue tied: the lives of multilingual children in public schools. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Updated: May. 29, 2013