Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Exploring Two Interventions to Promote Graduate Education Majors' Dispositions toward Culturally Responsive Teaching: Taking Action to Address My Shortcomings as a Literacy Teacher Educator

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Exploring Two Interventions to Promote Graduate Education Majors' Dispositions toward Culturally Responsive Teaching: Taking Action to Address My Shortcomings as a Literacy Teacher Educator

Article excerpt

For five years I have supervised a summer literacy camp that connects graduate education majors with students from diverse ethnicities. Each summer I noted I inadequately challenged the education majors to extend their knowledge, examine their attitudes, and expand their abilities to offer culturally responsive literacy instruction to students in the camp. Therefore, I employed a formative-experimental framework to explore the benefits of adding two interventions to our curriculum to stimulate the education majors' culturally responsive dispositions. My discoveries indicate teacher educators can help education majors develop culturally responsive understandings, and pedagogical repertoires that meet the needs of students from nonmainstream families.

Key Words: culturally responsive; interventions; dispositions; education majors; formative-experimental framework

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I know now the concept of culturally responsive teaching is complex. I have just begun to understand what culturally responsive teaching means. (Graduate Education Major's End of Semester E-mail Reflection) If it was not for camp this summer, I do not think I would have developed a deep understanding and appreciation of culturally responsive teaching. (Graduate Education Major's End of Semester E-mail Reflection)

National statistics show the population of the United States has become more ethnically diverse and this trend will continue. (Brown, 2004). In addition, by 2010, 95% of classroom teachers will be mostly white, middle class, monolingual females with limited or no previous multicultural experiences or interactions (Brown, 2004; Zumwalt & Craig, 2005). As a result, future and in-service teachers will teach many students whose cultural, linguistic, racial, and economic backgrounds differ from their own (Banks, 2001; Sleeter, 2008).

Even after taking some coursework in multicultural education many teachers feel ill prepared to teach children from nonmainstream families. (Hadaway & Florez, 1987; Irvine, 2003; Jones & Fuller, 2003; Ladson-Billings, 2001; Sleeter, 2008) They continue to hold misconceptions about minority children's literacy abilities, fail to recognize the pervasiveness of racial inequality, hold lower expectations for students of color, deny the significance of race in their practices, and lack a sense of themselves as cultural beings (Castro, 2010; Edwards & Kulman, 2010; McIntyre, Hulan, & Maher, 2010). As this demographic divide between students and teachers deepens, "teachers in diverse schools may hold lower expectations for students that result in a pedagogy of poverty that undermines the potential inherent to a public school education" (Castro, 2010, p. 198) (also see Cazden 2001; Haberman, 1991; McIntyre, Hulan, & Maher, 2010; Szabo & Anderson, 2009).

Scholars who study diversity issues suggest teachers who accept and adopt the tenets of culturally responsive teaching must first take their "teaching behaviors into account, identify their view of the world, and recognize that one's view is shaped by one's life experiences that include race/ethnicity, social class, and gender" (Villegas & Lucas, 2002, p. 7). In addition, teachers must "possess the skills to provide a classroom environment that adequately addresses students' needs, validates different cultures, and advocates equitable access to educational opportunity for all" (Brown, 2004, p. 325). Thus, Castro notes, "preparing culturally responsive teachers with the willingness and abilities to teach in nonmainstream school contexts represents perhaps, the most daunting task facing teacher education today" (2010, p. 198).

I concur with Castro's statement. As a professor of a graduate Practicum Reading course situated for the past five years in a summer literacy camp for multicultural students, my observations of, and informal conversations with the White, Hispanic, and African-American middle class graduate education majors who tutored in the camp continued to reveal they wanted to provide exemplary literacy instruction for their students. …

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