Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Educating for Diversity, Social Responsibility and Action: Preservice Teachers Engage in Immersion Experiences

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Educating for Diversity, Social Responsibility and Action: Preservice Teachers Engage in Immersion Experiences

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper examines how a short cultural immersion experience strongly impacted and had long lasting personal and educational effects on preservice teachers who were enrolled in a cultural diversity class. Reports from their reflections and oral responses indicated that this experience helped them to be more culturally aware and to seriously reflect on their prejudices, misconceptions and stereotypes about minority groups. Through personal convictions they realized that positive changes toward cultural diversity had to be made if they were going to be culturally responsive in their daily lives, and as teachers in the classrooms.

Key Words: Diversity and Education, Immersion Experiences, Social Responsibility and Action.

The changing demographics in our society today call for preservice teachers in schools of education to not only be aware of these changes, but also be fully prepared to work with students from various cultural backgrounds. Research suggests that schools of education must prepare teachers with the knowledge, skills and values that will enable them to be culturally competent in the classroom, enabling them to meet the challenges of a pluralistic society (Banks, 2001; Delpit, 1995; Nieto, 2004; Ladson-Billings, 1995). According to Zimpher (1989), preservice teachers are white middle class females who want to teach students like themselves. Many white preservice teachers come to teacher education programs unaware of societal injustices and educational inequities; hence, the need to move from within their comfort zone into situations where they can experience diversity firsthand (Ukpokodu, 2003). Preservice teachers may, also, in some cases, develop various misconceptions, stereotypes, and attitudes about minority students. According to Ladson-Billings (1991) and Beyer (1991), many preservice teachers simply lack attitudes regarding diversity that would enable them to teach culturally diverse students. Therefore, various researchers (Cannella & Reiff, 1991; Grant & Secada, 1990; Suleiman, 1996; Ukpokodu, 2003; Vaughan, 2002) argue for diversity training within education programs consisting of field experiences and instructional programs designed to enhance their opinions and understanding of our pluralistic society. Likewise, others (Grant & Secada, 1990; Tellez, Hlebowitsh, Cohen & Norwood, 1995) have suggested the importance of field experiences in teacher education programs when preparing preservice teachers to work with diverse learners. However, Whitfield & Klug (2004) cautioned that preservice teachers need to understand that they must change as they immerse themselves in communities different than their own.

In this paper, I examine how a short cultural immersion experience designed to increase preservice teachers' cultural sensitivity and awareness strongly impacted them positively with long lasting effects. The cultural immersion experience is an assignment given during the fall and summer semesters to graduate students who are enrolled at a midwestern university to become licensed in elementary education. The purpose of the assignment is to give students an opportunity to explore other cultures, to experience what it would be like to be a member of a minority group, and to make connections to what it would be like for minority students in our school system today. Students are required to spend at least one hour in a setting where they would be classified as a minority in order to see how the experience impacts their cultural awareness and what knowledge could be applied to the teaching/learning process.

Students arrange their experiences after weeks of readings and discussions on the works of James Banks and the importance of cross-cultural communications, culture and society, cultural identity and learning, and constructing their own definitions for diversity and culture. Before the experience begins, students brainstorm ideas about what would be appropriate experiences and how best to plan and approach them with special emphasis placed on stereotypes and misconceptions they might have of possible cultural groups. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.