Preservice Teachers' Attitudes and Beliefs toward Student Diversity and Proposed Instructional Practices: A Sequential Design Study

Article excerpt

The cultural landscape of United States is fast changing. Throughout the United States, culturally pluralistic schools and classrooms are replacing monocultural schools and classrooms. Demographers predict that by 2035, half the school-age population will be students of color (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). In contrast, the majority of the teachers will still be White, monolingual, middle-class women (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012; U.S. Department of Education). Many White teachers experience some ambivalence toward minority and immigrant students (Hollins & Torres-Guzman, 2005; Sleeter, 2001) and doubt their efficacy in teaching students whose cultural backgrounds differ from their own (Helfrich & Bean, 2011). Cho and DeCastro-Ambrosetti (2005), as well as Ladson-Billings (2000), argue that preservice teachers' ill-preparedness to meet academic and psychosocial needs of minority and immigrant students and sometimes their lack of understanding of how cultural identities play out within the classroom context may be partly attributed to poor preparation by teacher preparation programs. One question that needs to be addressed in teacher education research and practice is the connection between teachers' beliefs and attitudes about their students and their own efficacy, and the kinds of practices they use to meet students' needs in the classroom.

Despite attempts to regulate teacher education programs to prepare preservice teachers to serve in culturally pluralistic classrooms, it is unclear how successful these programs are (Sleeter, 2001), or how many substantively address the need (Zeichner, 2003). However, research does suggest that more multicultural education in preservice teacher education positively affects teachers' attitudes and sense of efficacy toward helping culturally and linguistically diverse students (Bodur, 2012). The primary purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between White preservice teachers' beliefs and attitudes toward minority and less affluent students in relation to actual classroom practices they are likely to endorse. A second purpose is to examine whether increased exposure to preservice curricula intended to predispose them toward culturally pluralistic beliefs and practices shapes preservice teachers' beliefs, helping them become less culturally encapsulated--particularly with regard to ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and "otherness." In other words, do experiences in teacher-licensure programs help preservice teachers overcome, at least to some degree, prejudicial beliefs and expectations they may have of poor and minority students; decrease their degree of discomfort in interacting with students they perceive as different from them; and encourage them to adopt instructional strategies and classroom practices that are likely to promote learning and emotional well-being among all students?

Preservice Teachers' Attitudes Toward Cultural Diversity

Preservice teachers are members--either ascribed or by choice--to several cultural communities as well as affinity communities. While affinity communities, based on personal or professional interests, influence individuals' beliefs, values, and behaviors, membership in ascribed cultural communities defined, for example, by nationality, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and language is often taken for granted because of long years of socialization and thus have deep, often unrecognized effects. Membership within these ascribed communities defines to a large extent preservice teachers' cultural identity and informs their values, behaviors, and attitudes. Thus, choices they make, actions they take, and experiences they value as teachers, whether inside or outside the classroom, are likely to be informed by past experiences, knowledge base, and learned value beliefs--their socialized cultural identities. Preservice teachers who are White are much less likely to consciously reflect on their cultural identity as a majority privileged group. …