What Does Teacher Education Have to Do with Teaching? Implications for Diversity Studies

Article excerpt

What does teacher education have to do with teaching? Moreover, what does teacher education have to do with preparing teachers for diversity in P-12 classrooms? The short answer to these questions, I believe, is: Teacher education has a significant amount to do with teaching and with the preparation of teachers for the diversity they will face in P-12 classrooms! Preparing teachers to teach is about teachers building a repertoire of knowledge, attitudes, mindsets, belief systems, and skills for success through a teaching journey; teachers develop the cognitive and analytic skills to continue learning through processes of improving their work. Thus, I believe that an academic degree alone, whether undergraduate or advanced, in a particular discipline such as mathematics, history, or English is insufficient for the complex work of teaching because teaching requires more than learning or knowing a particular content or subject matter. (1) Teacher education seems essential to the preparation of teachers, especially as teachers are prepared to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse P-12 student population. However, diversity studies curriculum in teacher education requires significant reform in order to more seriously address the multilayered needs of teachers.

In this article, I discuss some important concepts that I believe should be included in any teacher education curriculum to more effectively prepare all teachers for their work with students in P-12 schools. The recurrent question that I contemplated throughout this project was: What are some relevant conceptions that every teacher education program should include in its curriculum regarding diversity studies? I am not suggesting that the five conceptual repertoires of diversity presented here are exhaustive. Building on and from the empirical and conceptual work in the fields of education and teacher education, as well as my own research and experiences, I outline what I call conceptual repertoires of diversity as a site for curriculum integration and reform in teacher education. By conceptual repertoires of diversity, I mean the collection of thoughts, ideas, images, and belief systems that teachers build to more deeply understand diversity and its multiple relationships to teaching and learning. (2) I realize that teachers' instructional practices are also important, but conceptions seem to be the most logical place to focus because P-12 teachers' conceptions shape their practices, which consequently influence P-12 students' opportunities to learn.

Ball (2008) suggested that a more uniform curriculum across teacher education programs could be beneficial for the field. Since her lecture--which called for a more standardized curriculum across teacher education programs--I have reflected on the following question: What would a common curriculum of diversity studies encompass in teacher education? (3) While I do not necessarily agree with the idea of standardization of teacher education curriculum because of the variance among programs and because of the social context that shapes the learning needs of teacher education students and those of P-12 students, I do believe there is value in attempting to capture some of the most promising curriculum elements in preparing teachers for diversity. For instance, what if we prioritized what is indispensable for all teacher education programs to include in the curriculum rather than continuing to have teacher education students exposed to broad matters of diversity that vary substantially in terms of depth and breadth from one curriculum to another? Such prioritizing could ensure that teacher education students, at minimum, would be exposed to some key conceptions of diversity that would be supported by and grounded in research. Such prioritizing might allow the field to build a set of specific concepts into the teacher education curriculum but at the same time allow for broad decision making in terms of how the concepts are incorporated into it. …