Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Diverse Teachers for Diverse Students: Internationally Educated and Canadian-Born Teachers' Preparedness to Teach English Language Learners

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Diverse Teachers for Diverse Students: Internationally Educated and Canadian-Born Teachers' Preparedness to Teach English Language Learners

Article excerpt

Introduction

North American classrooms continue to become increasingly diverse in light of current immigration patterns. In the United States, the proportion of students of diverse backgrounds in many urban and rural areas exceeds 60% (Lau, Dandy, & Hoffman, 2007). In Canada, immigration trends have resulted in an unprecedented number of English language learners (ELLs) (1) in the school system. Over 50% of newcomers to Canada settle in Ontario (People for Education, 2008). In large school boards such as the Toronto District School Board, almost half (47%) of the student population have a language other than English as their mother tongue or primary home language (TDSB, 2011). As the student body in North American classrooms becomes more diverse, educators are seeking alternate instructional programs and strategies to better serve these students. There is ample evidence that in spite of the rapid increase in the number of ELLs in mainstream classrooms, teachers do not have the required competence and skills to support these students (Evans, Arnot-Hopffer, & Jurich, 2005; Ladson-Billings, 2000; Rushton, 2000; Webster & Valeo, 2011). Another major concern about the education of a diverse student population is the mismatch between the proportion of students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds and teachers of similar backgrounds (e.g., Solomon, 1997; Thiessen, Bascia, & Goodson, 1996). The inclusion of teachers of backgrounds similar to those of the students has been recognized as being critical (Ryan, Pollock, & Antonelli, 2009), especially for the success of a diverse student population (e.g., Solomon, 1997; Zirkel, 2002) as they bring a unique perspective to education due to their personal experiences with diversity-related issues (2) (Quiocho & Rios, 2000). Yet, little is known about how well-prepared they feel to teach ELLs in mainstream classrooms. The purpose of this paper is to address this gap. This study juxtaposed Canadian-born and internationally educated teachers' (IETs') (3) perceptions regarding their: (a) level of empathy with ELLs, (b) sense of preparedness to teach ELLs, and (c) roles and responsibilities towards ELLs. It also examined the impact of teacher preparation on teachers' perceptions towards these issues. I start by providing a context for teacher education programs in Canada with particular attention to their focus on preparing teachers for diversity and teaching ELLs. Next, I present the conceptual framework drawing on research in: (a) teacher diversity, (b) internationally educated teachers, (c) teacher empathy, (d) linguistically and culturally responsive pedagogy, and (e) sense of preparedness. I then describe the study's participants, methodology, and findings. Finally, I examine and discuss the implications of the findings for policy and practice in teacher education programs.

Teacher Education Programs: Attention to Diversity and Teaching ELLs

In Canada, education is governed provincially and each of the provinces and territories establish their own teacher certification criteria. In Ontario, the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) (established in 1997) regulates all aspects of the teaching profession and sets guidelines for teacher education programs that are delivered by faculties of education in universities across Ontario. As providers of teacher education, individual faculties are autonomous and determine their own content for the programs they offer. As such, pedagogies and approaches for preparing teachers to work in Ontario's increasingly diverse classrooms vary greatly among faculties. In spite of the large number of ELLs in elementary and secondary classrooms, preparing teachers to teach in multilingual and multicultural classrooms does not receive sufficient attention in initial teacher education programs. Attention to diversity and English as a second language (ESL) (4) is not a mandated component of most teacher education programs accredited by the OCT. …

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