Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Preparing Multicultural Educators in an Age of Teacher Evaluation Systems: Necessary Stories from Field Supervision

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Preparing Multicultural Educators in an Age of Teacher Evaluation Systems: Necessary Stories from Field Supervision

Article excerpt

We live and teach in an age when stories of bad teaching abound and good teaching is increasingly defined in and outside the profession by one thing: a teacher's impact on student academic achievement. In turn, academic achievement is increasingly defined by proficiency on standardized tests, which, presumably, measure content mastery. It comes as no surprise, then, that more and more states are linking teacher certification to teacher evaluation systems that focus almost exclusively on the academic efficacy of lesson plans, homework assignments, and videotaped lessons prepared and executed during the student teacher phase. One example is New York State's adoption of the edTeacher Performance Assessment (edTPA). Few have any doubts that these evaluation systems will eventually drive university coursework prior to student teaching. It goes without saying that they will also drive field supervision of student teachers.

Given the shifting landscape of teacher evaluation, the goal of preparing multicultural educators, meaning teachers who see students' academic achievement as but one element in a fair and equitable education (Banks & Banks, 2010), (1) may appear dated, an ideal from a by-gone era. Despite the appeal of efficiency here, however, a singular emphasis on teaching to content mastery is a reductionist view of both how students learn and how they experience school in general. Research supports the voices of veteran practitioners and teacher educators, who repeatedly attest that student learning also depends on teachers who control and protect students from the institutional challenges to fairness and equity, which lie in wait for them throughout the school day (Delpit, 1995; Nieto, 1999; Valenzuela, 1998).

For example, many have argued that long term academic achievement is threatened when authentic instruction designed to enhance critical thinking skills is replaced by mandated test prep. It is also threatened when academic support services are inadequate, and when health, nutrition, and safety issues are ignored. Just as important is that students often have a harder time learning from inexperienced teachers. Their chances are even further reduced when new teachers' unconscious biases create unfair or unequal academic opportunities. One example taken from this study is the failure of a lesson plan that fails to capitalize on culturally relevant material or connect to the cultural life and norms of the community.

The view of teaching and learning as embedded within and responsive to a complex, interactive set of phenomena in a given building, on a given day, in a given relationship draws on Brofenbrenner's (1979) ecological systems theory, Eisner's (1992) discussion on the dimensions of schooling, and Valenzuela's (1999) work on teaching and caring in a cultural context. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the preparation of multicultural educators has always been a complex undertaking for teacher educators and field supervisors. The effort is typically dogged from the beginning by student teachers' inexperience with and inhibitions around diverse populations (Garmon, 2004). Reasonably, this only makes multicultural teacher preparation more indispensable, not less so.

Responding to Castro's (2010) call for research on specific field-based practices in preparing multicultural educators, this article reports on an exploratory case study in which, acting as a faculty field supervisor, I engaged student teachers in practicing the principles of multicultural education through a deliberately low-key, but intensive focus on stories from their teaching days that threatened their growth as multicultural educators. Stories included, but were not limited to, events relative to academic achievement (Banks & Banks, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2000). Assuming an ecological and multicultural view of schooling (Brofenbrenner, 1981; Eisner, 1992; Valenzuela, 1999), the study's objective was to explore the use of narrative, per the tools of narrative and scaffolded inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Vygotsky, 1978), to help students teachers revisit, rethink, and re-see their experiences in the context of a larger conversation on fairness and equity,

I report primarily on three stories or what I called "eco-narrative" constructions from the data. …

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