Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Four Diverse Educators Chronicle Challenges in a Christian- Centered Society

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Four Diverse Educators Chronicle Challenges in a Christian- Centered Society

Article excerpt

Topics of religion and spirituality are often considered to be conversation topics to be avoided in social settings, and particularly educational contexts, which can serve to negate the essence of some people's lives. Meanwhile, many teacher education programs provide inadequate multicultural educational opportunities in order to prepare teachers to teach diverse student populations. Public schools and universities in the United States typically represent the general political and social milieu, which is mainly Christian. As a result, teacher education programs are mainly oriented implicitly around Christian beliefs. As noted by some scholars, the teacher and students' culture impacts teaching and learning dynamics (Grant & Ladson-Billings, 1997). Howard (2006) and Ladson-Billings (1995, 2009) propose that teachers must have an understanding of their own cultural identity and beliefs in order to understand and teach others. These beliefs can be addressed by involving students in critical multicultural pedagogy in their preservice and inservice teacher education programs. By helping these teachers better understand their own cultural identity and the cultures of those different from themselves, they can better understand and value the cultures of their students. In this study, we investigated religious identity, as an important aspect of a person's culture that we believe should be included in considerations of culturally responsive teaching.

Globally, other countries are addressing issues of minority concerns often related to religion. Sanders, Foyil, and Graff (2007) declared "there will be global shifts in the majority religion(s) in the next few years" (p. 169; Bishop & Nash, 2007). Daily global news events, such as Islamic factions of Sunnis and Shiite people in Iraq, cannot be understood without knowledge of differing religions. Sanders, Foyil, and Graff (2010) suggested that in order to counter religious violence worldwide, knowledge of other religions is needed to move thinking from personal, individual understandings of religion to "pluralistic" notions of religion. This is the goal of our research and promotion of culturally responsive teaching that includes study of various world religions.

To search for greater understanding of the influence of religion on learning in the classroom, we wondered whether teachers leave religious identities outside of the classroom and how religious identities may influence the students they teach. Therefore, we interviewed two inservice and two preservice teachers (n=4) from diverse religious backgrounds to gain insight into their understandings about how religion and spirituality impacted their lived experiences as learners and teachers in colleges of education and elementary classrooms that are rooted in Anglo Christian traditions. Ideas of multiculturalism and social identity theory helped us examine the topic of religion as an influence in development of culturally responsive teacher educators and consequently plan for increased success of students.

Review of Literature

Limited literature exists that relates to the topic of religion and spirituality in classrooms and it may impact teacher identity, yet some scholars discussed relevant topics that expanded our thinking. For instance, certain scholars proposed curricula should include specific teaching of various religions in the classroom and should move beyond the "holidays around the world." Additional research that enhanced our study includes: the call for conversations about religious perspectives in college classrooms, teacher beliefs about ideas of diversity, and research on hegemony of a Christian perspective in the majority of public classrooms. It is necessary to recognize religious and spirituality beliefs are a part of a teacher's identity within an orientation toward diversity. These ideas contributed to our greater understanding that the influence religion and spiritutality has on instruction and student success. …

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