Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preparing Culturally Responsive Teachers: Rethinking the Curriculum

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Preparing Culturally Responsive Teachers: Rethinking the Curriculum

Article excerpt

The results of the 2000 Census show that the U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse. This trend is especially salient in the K-12 student population. Currently, one of every three students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools is of a racial or ethnic minority background. One in five children younger than 18 lives in poverty. More than one in seven children between the ages of 5 and 17 speak a language other than English at home; more than one third of them are of limited English proficiency (Educational Research Service, 1995; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2000). This trend toward increasing diversity is expected to continue well into the 21st century. Clearly, preparing teachers to teach children of diverse racial, ethnic, social class, and language backgrounds is a pressing issue in teacher education today and will continue to be for some time to come.

The typical response of teacher education programs to the growing diversity among K-12 students has been to add a course or two on multicultural education, bilingual education, or urban education but to leave the rest of the curriculum largely intact (Goodwin, 1997). Although such courses play an important role in preparing teachers for diversity, this approach to curriculum reform does not go far enough. Because added courses are often optional, students can complete their teacher education programs without receiving any preparation whatsoever in issues of diversity. Furthermore, unless the ideas introduced in the added courses are reinforced and expanded on in other courses, prospective teachers are not apt to embrace them as their own, particularly if those ideas clash with the views they bring into teacher education. Worse still, if the new ways of thinking are contradicted by courses comprising the "regular" curriculum, any positive effect of the added courses will likely wash out.

Some multicultural education advocates have argued for an infusion strategy whereby issues of diversity are addressed not only in specialized courses but throughout the entire teacher education curriculum (Grant, 1994; Zeichner & Hoeft, 1996). We find this comprehensive approach to curriculum reform appealing. However, there have been few discussions regarding what this infusion might entail and how best to accomplish it. We fear that in the absence of such discussions, many teacher education programs have interpreted infusion narrowly to mean the sprinkling of disparate bits of information about diversity into the established curriculum, resulting in the superficial treatment of multicultural issues. In this article, we contend that to successfully move beyond the fragmented and cursory treatment of diversity that currently prevails, teacher educators must first articulate a vision of teaching and learning within the diverse society we have become. They must then use that vision to systematically guide the infusion of multicultural issues throughout the teacher education curriculum. This infusion process requires that teacher educators critically examine the curriculum and revise it as needed to make issues of diversity central rather than peripheral. Below, we illustrate the coherent approach to infusion we advocate.

A CURRICULUM PROPOSAL FOR PREPARING CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE TEACHERS

Guiding our curriculum proposal is a vision of the culturally responsive teacher that is derived from our reading of a large body of empirical and conceptual literature, our observations in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms, and our work with preservice teachers. In our view, six salient characteristics define the culturally responsive teacher. Such a teacher (a) is socioculturally conscious, that is, recognizes that there are multiple ways of perceiving reality and that these ways are influenced by one's location in the social order; (b) has affirming views of students from diverse backgrounds, seeing resources for learning in all students rather than viewing differences as problems to be overcome; (c) sees himself or herself as both responsible for and capable of bringing about educational change that will make schools more responsive to all students; (d) understands how learners construct knowledge and is capable of promoting learners' knowledge construction; (e) knows about the lives of his or her students; and (f) uses his or her knowledge about students' lives to design instruction that builds on what they already know while stretching them beyond the familiar. …

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