Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

What Precipitates Change in Cultural Diversity Awareness during a Multicultural Course: The Message or the Method?

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

What Precipitates Change in Cultural Diversity Awareness during a Multicultural Course: The Message or the Method?

Article excerpt

The census extrapolations of Haberman (1989, 1991) connote that by 2010, 95% of K-12 classroom teachers will be Caucasian, middle-class females with limited cross-cultural interaction. In contrast, the student population will become increasingly diverse, bringing to classrooms divergent racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic experiences. Hodgkinson's (1992) analysis of the demographic data concludes that this incongruity in cultural frames of reference between teachers and students will continue to widen.

Teacher education authorities such as Bennett (1995) and Gay (2000) espouse that to be effective, classroom teachers must be multicultural and possess the skills to provide a classroom environment that adequately addresses student needs, validates diverse cultures, and advocates equitable access to educational opportunity for all. However, Banks (2001), Sleeter (1995b), and others have found that many preservice teachers enter and exit stand-alone cultural diversity courses unchanged, often reinforcing their stereotypical perceptions of self and others in the process. The research of Banks (1995) and Irvine (1992) attribute this failure to resentment and/or resistance to multicultural doctrine, instruction, application, and interaction. Resentment is frequently reflected on teacher evaluations, whereas resistance is apparent in inadequate preclass preparation, reluctance to engage in class discussions and activities, and a lack of commitment to required cross-cultural interactions and research.

Allport (1979) proposes that many prejudices are established in early childhood and that prejudiced students use selective perception, avoidance, and group support strategies to resist confronting and modifying or changing their beliefs about self and others. In Brown's (1998) model, students use deflective and reflective filters to evaluate and accept/reject value judgments (refer to Figure 1). Combining Allport's premise of students' resistance strategies with Brown's model of communication processing, the following is a brief description of how and why students in cultural diversity courses exhibit the three forms of resistance:

1. Selective perception strategies are used by students to minimize internal conflict and reinforce biased beliefs about self and others. In this strategy, Brown (1998) proposes that students, using intrinsic deflectors (short-term memory), immediately accept/ reject incoming information based on prior experiences, current beliefs, and cultural inculcation. Accepted information then must be reevaluated and processed through extrinsic filters prior to storage in long-term memory or final rejection. Here, students use reflective filters to evaluate and resolve remaining internal and external conflicts based on motivation and aspirations.

2. Avoidance strategies are used to protect the student's worldview and maintain acceptance within their current out-of-class reference groups. These strategies are evidenced when students neglect to prepare for class, disengage in class discussions and activities, and evade cross-cultural interactions.

3. Group support strategies are used to maintain member group acceptance and protect one's sense of self-respect and self-approval. Students exhibit these strategies by seeking alliances with an in-group and with others who will defend and protect their shared values and beliefs and by avoiding interaction with those who hold different views.


Teacher education authorities such as Cochran-Smith (1995), Fried (1993), and Lehman (1993) indicate that teacher training designed to examine self-concept, perception, and motivation will generate a more receptive attitude toward multicultural tenets. However, Banks (1995) and Martin (1991) argue that this inquiry must include a probe into one's own history and its relationship to one's current beliefs, cross-cultural interactions, and the experiences of others. …

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