Academic journal article Education

The Role of Collaboration in Teacher Preparation to Meet the Needs of Diversity

Academic journal article Education

The Role of Collaboration in Teacher Preparation to Meet the Needs of Diversity

Article excerpt

Preparing university students to teach in twenty-first century classrooms that will be more ethnically and culturally diverse requires a paradigm shift to collaboration among systems relevant to education. Best practices from schools, universities, communities, and industries establish benchmarks that these collaborative systems can use to develop effective teacher preparation programs. When such collaboration exists, the educational systems become aligned in a seamless web of experiences, leading to knowledge, skills, and attitudes inherent in lifelong learning.

This paper discusses the social context of teacher preparation at national and state levels, as well as the merits of the professional development school. The Texas vision for restructuring teacher preparation includes an emphasis on collaboration which impacts the preparation of educators. How a collaborative PDS model is applicable to the preparation of future teachers in meeting the needs of diverse populations is presented in a case study of the PDS model developed at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). The UTA collaborative program is a collaborative that shows promise in meeting educational needs in a state with increasing diversification.

An Introduction to the Social Context of Teacher Preparation

Within the social context of teacher preparation, the issue of diversity is addressed by exploring the role of a collaborative professional development school approach in providing "equity in excellence for all students." The social and cultural forces at play in society influence the educative process. Ravitch (1993) notes, "... the future of education will be shaped ... by changes in demography, technology, and the family" (p. 43). Schools of the future will have students who reflect the pluralistic nature of society, which requires that educators deliver a curriculum that is learner-centered (Reinhartz & Beach, 1997).

Several studies examining the contexts and constructs of educating a diverse population have been conducted throughout the world. Findings from studies in Singapore, India, South Africa, Great Britain, Denmark, and the United States provide information for organizing a curriculum in their respective countries and identify strengths and weaknesses of their approaches to addressing the needs of their diverse populations (McNergney, Regelbrugge, & Harper, 1997). These comparative research studies have implications for teacher educators since the success or failure of minority students appears not to be entirely dependent upon the differences in language and culture from the dominant group. But rather, their success or failure is a reflection of the curricular and instructional practices these students experience, along with their perception of their ethnic identity (Ogbu, 1992; Steele, 1992). In other words, students should not be expected to leave their ethnic, racial, and "... cultural heritages at the school door" (Jung, 1997, p. 203).

More than 50 million students attend public schools today across the United States. Figure 1 shows projected population trends where today "about 20 percent of children under seventeen are minorities, including African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Asian-Americans. By the year 2000, over one-third of all school-age children, and by 2020, nearly half will fall into this category" (Ryan & Cooper, 1993, pp. 349-350). These statistics show that the composition of ethnic groups in the student population in American public schools is changing.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Educators in America will need to respond to the challenge of designing a learner-centered school curriculum which is relevant and meaningful to children from diverse backgrounds. Diversity is not a new issue for American educators. According to Campbell (1996), "Since its founding ... the United States has been a nation of immigrants" (p. 61). What has changed however, is (1) the improved quality and increased access to educational opportunities for more children with diverse backgrounds, and (2) the growing acceptance by the dominant cultural group of a more diverse cultural perspective (Webb, Metha, & Jordan, 1996). …

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