Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Effective Teaching/effective Urban Teaching: Grappling with Definitions, Grappling with Difference

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Effective Teaching/effective Urban Teaching: Grappling with Definitions, Grappling with Difference

Article excerpt

   The concept of urban, like the term reform, has no
   inherent definition or meaning. Its meaning is
   derived from its social context and is inextricably
   bound to dominant social and power relations,
   especially to the political uses of knowledge and
   official knowledge.

   --Miron (1996, p. 3)

This article examines the views of 17 novice teachers, all trained in the same teacher preparation program. In this study, we consider the ways in which these novice teachers define and describe effective urban teaching and the stark contrasts that these teachers draw between effective urban teaching and effective teaching. We found that descriptions of students played a prominent role when participants made distinctions between effective teaching and effective urban teaching. These teachers defined the two types of teaching largely in terms of perceived behaviors, beliefs, and characteristics of urban and suburban students that were chiefly based on monolithic group stereotypes and in the case of students of color, were deficit laden. We argue that properly designed teacher education and school-based induction programs are essential in helping these teachers overcome their deficit ideologies and helping them effectively meet the needs of each of their students.

A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Although the nation's children are growing more and more diverse, the nation's teaching population tends to be rather homogeneous. Researchers have argued that White, monolingual, middle-class women account for the overwhelming majority of the teaching force, whereas nearly 40% of all public schoolchildren are of color (Cochran-Smith, Davis, & Fries, 2004; Hollins & Guzman, 2005; Zumwalt & Craig, 2005). These demographic differences have serious implications for schools because teachers' attitudes regarding race and class are intricately intertwined with classroom dynamics and student achievement (Gay, 2000; Rist, 2000). Moreover, research points to particular problems with White teachers of students of color (Cochran-Smith et al., 2004). Often these teachers have negative views, attitudes, and beliefs about difference, which they may see as something to overcome or correct (Cochran-Smith et al., 2004; T. C. Howard, 2003b; Ketter & Lewis, 2001; Miron, 1996; Rousseau & Tate, 2003).

There is extensive research on preparing teachers to work successfully with diverse students (Cochran-Smith et al., 2004; Hollins & Guzman, 2005; King, 2005; Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1999, 2000). This work concludes that although there have been more than 25 years of research and theorizing on this topic, very few teacher education programs have successfully tackled the challenging task of preparing teachers to meet the needs of diverse populations (Hollins & Guzman, 2005). Specifically, most programs have yet to move away from add-on multicultural components toward the integrated approaches advocated by multicultural education and critical race theorists (Banks, 2006; King, Hollins, & Hayman, 1997; Ladson-Billings, 1999). And within programs that have made changes, by and large, diversity or multicultural education has done very little to disrupt teachers' beliefs or teaching practices in any radical way (Ladson-Billings, 1999). Instead, many teachers leave teacher education programs with "limited and distorted understandings.., about inequity and cultural diversity" (King et al., 1997, p. 158), what Joyce King (1991) has termed dysconsciousness: "an uncritical habit of mind (including perceptions, attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs) that justifies inequity and exploitation by accepting the existing order of things as given" (p. 135).

Although there is much research about not only how to teach diverse populations but also how to think about race in all classrooms (Gay, 2000; G. Howard, 1999; Irvine, 2002; King, 2005; Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1999; Lewis, 2003; Quartz, 2003), many White teachers often do not critically reflect on, question, or analyze how culture, class, ethnicity, and racism influence their teaching (Cross, 2003; Gay & Kirkland, 2003). …

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