Academic journal article High School Journal

Preservice Teachers' Awareness of Multiculturalism and Diversity

Academic journal article High School Journal

Preservice Teachers' Awareness of Multiculturalism and Diversity

Article excerpt

In the present study, we attempted to replicate an earlier study (Larke, 1990) that sought to estimate preservice teachers' general awareness of cultural differences. Data from 99 preservice teachers who completed the Cultural Diversity Awareness Inventory were utilized to examine the extent to which teacher education programs were helping future teachers to become more multiculturally competent. Using the Larke study as a foundation, results from the present study revealed that preservice teachers' attitudes about cultural diversity improved. The article concludes with discussion and implications for preservice teachers and teacher education programs.

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The demographics of United States PreK-12 schools are dramatically changing as students are becoming more diverse. That is, the racial, ethnic, socio-economic, cultural, and linguistic orientations of students are more varied now than ever in the past. It is projected that by the year 2020, 48% of the nation's school-age children in grades one to 12 will be students of color (Pallas, Natriello, & McDill, 1989). Moreover, Banks and Banks (2001) remind us that, as the nation's students become increasingly diverse, "most of the nation's teachers remain White" (p. v). Indeed, approximately 87% of the nation's teachers are White or European American (Gay & Howard, 2000). A report from the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (1997) suggests that the majority of the school-age population in 50 or more major U.S. cities are from language minority and marginalized backgrounds.

Preservice teachers-those Individuals who are teacher candidates in teacher education programs-often enter classrooms culturally, racially, and ethnically incompetent (Larke, 1990). In other words, these teachers have not developed the skills necessary to be sensitive to cultural differences. Moreover, many preservice teachers have never had significant interactions with students from diverse backgrounds and, as a result, their knowledge and understanding where diversity issues are concerned are nebulous and often result in cultural and racial mismatches. In short, many preservice teachers have never attended schools themselves with individuals from diverse backgrounds, or lived in racially diverse neighborhoods. In light of this lack of exposure to diverse populations, and in the absence of intense study and reflection, preservice teachers may rely on stereotypical conceptions of diverse students to inform their future work as teachers (Milner, 2003).

Indeed, the task of helping preservice teachers become culturally sensitive is one that teacher preparation programs must continually address. To be sure, some attention has been paid to issues of multiculturalism and diversity in PreK-12 schools and in teacher preparation programs. However, in Ponterotto, Baluch, Greig, and Rivera's (1998) words: "Despite the increase in attention to multicultural training, little empirical attention has been paid to issues of evaluation and accountability in these training efforts" (p. 1002). This study attempts to extend our knowledge about evaluation and accountability in hopes that we might broaden our understanding about how to enhance preservice teachers' awareness of multiculturalism and diversity as we progress in an Increasingly diverse society.

Accordingly, the purpose of this inquiry was to assess the cultural sensitivity levels of preservice teachers. In particular, this study sought to replicate Larke's (1990) study, which included 51 female preservice teachers, that was published in Action in Teacher Education, to compare current preservice teachers' attitudes with similar data reported more than ten years ago. Thus, the following research questions guided this study: (a) How culturally sensitive are preservice teachers?; (b) Are preservice teachers more culturally sensitive in some areas than in others?; (c) To what extent are preservice teachers culturally aware? …

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