Blending Cultural Anthropology and Multicultural Education: Team Teaching in a Teacher Education Program

Article excerpt

Introduction

Two years ago, in a large urban university, a task force composed of university subject matter and education faculty, together with K-6 classroom teachers, came together to design a"blended" undergraduate teacher education program in elementary and special education. The group wanted to combine subject matter curriculum with educational issues and pedagogy in novel ways to better prepare teachers to be successful in urban schools. They believed strongly that urban teachers needed to deeply understand issues of diversity as they affected learners and that those understandings were rooted in various subject matter disciplines. They envisioned team teaching between subject matter faculty and education faculty, and courses that would integrate field experiences in urban elementary classrooms.

As a result of the work of that Task Force, our Liberal Studies Seminar in Anthropology was conceived. It is the second of four team-taught seminars that take place during the Freshman and Sophomore years ofthe program. The course was co-designed and is taught by professors from Anthropology and Elementary Education. Each of the four seminars includes 15 hours of field-- work in urban elementary classrooms. In addition, the four seminars are designed to serve as starting points for the spiraling of program themes that include diversity, literacy, and technology for learning.

Research in Teaching Diversity and Multicultural Education

The call for educating teachers to effectively meet the needs of diverse learners through multicultural education has been given increased attention since the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) began requiring that teacher education programs incorporate the study of multicultural perspectives and cultural diversity in 1979 (Hidalgo, Chavez-- Chavez-, & Ramage, 1996). NCATE's definition of multicultural education includes a focus on ethnicity, gender, race, religion, class, and exceptionality (NCATE, 1982).

But, teacher education programs have been slow to infuse a focus on diversity (Nieto, 2000b; Zeichner, 1993). Most programs fail to prompt students to interrogate their own assumptions about issues of race, class, and culture, and to examine the inequities embedded in America's social, economic, and educational institutions (McCarthy, 1993). Teacher education programs need to model a university-wide programmatic commitment to multicultural education (Hidalgo, Chavez-Chavez, & Ramage, 1996) and find ways to make the study of diversity an integral part of coursework, field experience, and seminars (Ladson-Billings, 1999).

Programs have attempted to address issues of diversity through the use of single courses, but the effectiveness of "add-on" courses has been questioned (Larkin & Sleeter, 1995; Nieto, 1996; Zimpher & Ashburn, 1992). At the same time, it has been demonstrated that attitudes about diversity issues can be impacted within the context of a single course (Peterson, Cross, Johnson, and Howell, 2000; Pohan & Mathison, 1999). Proponents of multicultural education argue that programs must infuse the study of diversity in their programs and need to approach that study from a social justice perspective (Nieto, 2000a; Zollers, Albert, & Cochran-Smith, 2000).

Zeichner (1993) proposes key elements for making traditional teacher education more effective in preparing teachers for diversity. Of the fifteen elements, many describe concepts and activities that impact sociopolitical issues of diversity: Help candidates develop their own cultural identities.

* Have candidates examine their attitudes toward other ethnocultural groups.

* Teach dynamics of prejudice in the classroom and how to deal with it.

* Teach candidates about social oppression and economic inequalities. * Teach candidates about learning styles of various groups and the limitations of this information. …