Physical Education Teachers Teaching in a Multicultural Setting: A Case Study of Teacher Knowledge and Practice

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The purpose of this study was to examine physical education teachers' knowledge and practice in teaching culturally diverse students in elementary schools. Three in-service teachers were purposefully selected and data collection involved interviews, participant observations, and document analysis. Grounded theory was used in the analysis of the data. The findings of the study revealed the participants to be aware of student diversity in terms of cultural background and behavior, and to have positive attitude toward student differences. However, the teachers had limited incorporation of ethnic and cultural diversity in their curricular activities. A final finding from this study was the teachers' use of varied disciplinary practices to manage student behavior, with some practices appearing problematic. Implications from this study include the need for the teacher education programs to prepare pre-service teachers with culturally responsive pedagogy and curriculum, and to offer teachers' workshops or seminars to augment in-service teachers' knowledge and practice working with culturally diverse student population.

Key Words: Elementary physical education; multicultural education; physical education curriculum; teacher knowledge; teacher practice; case study.

Introduction

Increasingly in the United States, there are drastic cultural differences between teachers and the students they teach. Trends in schools show predominantly white teachers to work with students from mostly underrepresented populations (African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and North American Indians) in U. S. public schools (Aud, Hussar, Planty, Snyder, Bianco, Fox, et al., 2010). Attesting to this trend are several scholars in the area of physical education teacher education who point out the widening gap between the cultural and ethnic diversity of school children and their teachers (Burden, Hodge, & Harrison, 2004; Griffin, 1985). In fact according to the U.S. Department of Education statistics, the percentage of public school students taught by White teachers decreased from 68 to 55 percent between 1988 and 2008, while the percentage of Hispanic student population doubled from 11 to 22 percent (Aud et al.). The mismatch between teachers and students in terms of background characteristics, could hamper the extent to which students gainfully learn new knowledge in schools. Research studies indicate a close association between school demographics such as racial and socio-economic status of students and discipline practices (McLoyd, 1998), which influences the "ability of children to achieve the academic and social gains essential for success in the 21st century (Skiba, Horner, Chung, Rausch, & Tobin, 2011, p. 85). With this trend, Gay (2002) indicates that the majority of teachers need to be prepared with multicultural education knowledge and pedagogical skills to allow for adequate preparedness in teaching diverse students.

With evident-based figures pointing to increases in student diversity in U.S. public schools, and the problems that arise from teachers varying to teacher diversity in schools dissimilar to their upbringing, there is a need to consider multicultural education in physical education teacher education. The goal of multicultural education is to provide prepare teachers to teach to diversity with principles of democracy and equality, which allows for the advancement of learning responsive to all students. In Banks (2008) advocate, teachers ought to develop curricular activities and generate pedagogical strategies responsive to student diversity. Teachers knowledgeable of diversity are influential in the area of multicultural education and tend to have a firm understanding of all cultures, which helps to ensure that each student receives an equal opportunity in educational environments (Sparks, Butt, & Pahnos, 1996). Although there are likely many factors in the school setting that account for differential achievement levels of culturally diverse students, teachers' knowledge and practice are integral to student success in education (Stanley, 1996). …