Gaps or Bridges in Multicultural Teacher Education: A Q Study of Attitudes toward Student Diversity

Feb. 15, 2013

Source:  Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 30, p. 27-37. February 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article aimed to examine both preservice teachers’ and teacher educators’ attitudes toward student diversity.

The authors used Q methodology is an appropriate research technique in measuring attitudes.
This study took place in a comprehensive teacher education program in the college of education at a large land-granted Midwest university in the United States.
The participants were 32 preservice teachers, all of whom had various degrees of exposure to student diversity and had self-rated their multicultural experiences ranging from fair to many and varied.
Furthermore, eleven teacher educators participated in the study, all of whom had considerable experience in teaching students from diverse backgrounds.

A total of 43 participants from a comprehensive American university sorted 47 Q-statements.


Two array groups emerged: Students Are Students and Diversity Advocates.
The authors find gaps in attitudes toward student diversity between the two array groups.

These gaps indicate both consensual and divided attitudes toward student diversity.
The authors find an agreement between the two array groups that multicultural education matters, that understanding and confronting racism was important, and that we need to assist students with language difficulty.

Another major consensus between the two groups was that students with English difficulty should be allowed to express themselves in their native language and that we should provide assistance to help them learn.
The consensual attitude suggests a teaching opportunity to create a secure learning environment for preservice teachers to explore and discuss linguistic diversity.
However, a major gap in attitudes toward student diversity between the two groups is similarity versus diversity: while one group highlights similarity among students, the other group appeals for the importance of acknowledging and addressing student diversity.


The authors conclude that the results revealed a seemingly attitudinal gap between the two groups, with one group seeing and preaching upon student similarity, and the other advocating the importance of acknowledging and addressing student diversity.
Another gap appears to lie in the level of comfort in dealing with student diversity between the two groups.
More educated and experienced with student diversity, one group seems to be more vigilant and cautious about diversity issues in the classroom, whereas the other group appears more fearless and confident.

The bridges which were found in the study include two types: the visible and the invisible.
The visible bridge refers to the consensual attitudes toward student diversity between the two groups.
Both Students Are Students and Diversity Advocates value multicultural teacher education, loathe racism in its various forms, and sympathize with students with language difficulty.
The invisible bridge lies in the responses to the open-ended question from the two groups: the discrepancy between the sorting results and comments from Students Are Students betrayed a confusion of “treating students alike” with “treating students equal".

Updated: Sep. 16, 2014