Preservice Teachers' Perceived Barriers to the Implementation of a Multicultural Curriculum

Article excerpt

This study investigated preservice teachers' perceived barriers for implementing multicultural curriculum with preservice teachers as they began their teacher education program. Preservice teachers (n = 68) were asked to identify the inherent barriers that may prevent the integration of anti-bias curriculum. It has been suggested that the study of beliefs may be a significant psychological construct for teacher effectiveness research. Many studies have investigated the role of teacher beliefs and few would disagree that the beliefs teachers hold influence them and affect their teaching practices. To determine barriers, beliefs were analyzed and themes were identified: Difficulty Discussing Sensitive Topics (including Religion in the Classroom and Creating Controversy); Policies and Practices Detrimental to Diversity (including Geography and Federal, State, and School Regulations); Difficulty Implementing Diversity Curriculum (including Developing Curriculum and Teaching Strategies, Time Constraints, and Financial Constraints); and Inability to Recognize and Accept Diversity (including Society, Teachers, Parents, and Children).

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Teacher education programs have a responsibility to prepare preservice teachers for working with diverse populations and implementing an effective multicultural curriculum. The goal of education in the United States has been described as a "multicultural experiment unique in the history of the world: A democratic society attempting to forge peaceful and productive communities with shared interests, while at the same time honoring particular ethnic, racial, and cultural characteristics, traditions, histories, and languages" (Hill, Carjuzaa, Arambura, & Baca, 1993, p. 260). Needless to say, this is a challenging goal. Kea and Bacon (2000) stated that the achievement of this goal is not only unattainable but that teacher education has limited ideas and methods for the successful realization of this goal.

The questions which guided this study included: What are preservice teachers' perceived barriers for implementing a multicultural and anti-bias curriculum with diverse groups of children? What are preservice teachers beliefs about the difficulty associated with bringing a diversity curriculum to the classroom? Teachers' knowledge-base and prior experiences help to create individual assumptions and values about diversity. These perceived barriers are a reflection of their individual attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and skills. For this reason, the present study aimed to identify the perceived attitudes and skills with which teachers would enter the classroom by asking preservice teachers to identify the perceived barriers for implementing a diversity curriculum.

In this article, the relationship between teacher beliefs and teacher practices in the diverse classroom will be explored. First, the quality of teacher education preparation programs in preparing students to work with diverse classrooms will be presented. Second, a summary of the role of teacher beliefs in the classroom will be discussed. Third, the methodology and the development of themes will be presented. Finally, conclusions about the perceived barriers will be considered.

Review of Literature

At the end of the year 2000, children of color comprised one-third of all students enrolled in public schools and it is projected that by the year 2020 this figure will increase to 40% (Cushner, McClelland, & Stafford, 1996). Although the increasing diversity among populations of children reflects a significant change, diversity is not limited to racial composition. Changing family composition, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, and varied abilities of children have an effect on society's expectation of what should be included in the school experience (Garibaldi, 1992). Acknowledgment of these changing demographics has resulted in a great deal of attention focused on how to best prepare preservice teachers for entrance into the diverse classroom. …