Academic journal article The Professional Educator

Multicultural Teacher Education as a Community of Practice: M.Ed./PDS Graduates' Perceptions of Their Preparation to Work with Diverse Students

Academic journal article The Professional Educator

Multicultural Teacher Education as a Community of Practice: M.Ed./PDS Graduates' Perceptions of Their Preparation to Work with Diverse Students

Article excerpt

To teach all learners well, especially learners with diverse backgrounds, the demographic differences and similarities between teachers and students need to be examined and incorporated into teaching and learning. Many teacher educators have applied and studied ways to develop teacher candidates' knowledge, dispositions, and skills for effectively teaching students from diverse backgrounds; for example, curricular or course development (Clark & Medina, 2000; Laframboise & Griffith, 1997; McFalls & Cobb-Roberts, 2001), field experiences in diverse settings (Cook & Van Cleaf, 2000; Groulx, 2001; Rushton, 2001), and community service learning (Bondy & Davis, 2000; Burant & Kirby, 2002; Seidl & Friend, 2002). Despite these varied efforts, there have been slow changes in preparing culturally responsive teachers and improving minority students' academic achievement (Lee, 2004). Some researchers point out that diversity issues should be more comprehensively infused into teacher education programs and curricula (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Zeichner & Hoeft, 1996). However, there have been only a few studies conducted on multicultural education at a program level (Ladson-Billings, 2001).

There is a need for more in-depth studies that demonstrate effective ways to holistically promote teacher candidates' ability to work with diverse students. In the study, we focused on the influence of this particular kind of community of practice (M.Ed/PDS program) on its graduates' perceptions of their preparedness related to issues of equity and diversity. We use Wenger's (1998) concept of communities of practice to describe how this program attempted to reach this goal as seen from the perspectives of its graduates.

Multicultural Teacher Education

The purposes and practices of this program mirrored many of the goals in the multicultural teacher education literature. First, the program addressed the multiple dimensions of multicultural education: content integration, knowledge construction, prejudice reduction, equity pedagogy, and creation of empowering schools and society (Banks, 2015). Second, to holistically infuse these multiple dimensions, the teacher education program strove to construct clear goals and procedures reflecting values of multicultural education, as Zeichner and colleagues (1998) argue is necessary. They also suggest that goals and procedures need to be explicitly communicated to teacher candidates, because they shape their experiences regarding diversity and equity. Many collaborative contexts within the program were sites for communicating and negotiating the goals and procedures. Third, Vavrus highlights that teacher educators need to enhance "reflection that is multicultural" (2002, p.38) by making reflectivity a dominant norm of the program. That is, reflection needs to promote teacher candidates' abilities to critically think and act on complex issues in multicultural education moving beyond technical deliberations of instruction. This was a major initiative within the program. Finally, teacher educators need to promote collaborative and harmonious relationships among all participants in the program (Hidalgo et al., 1996). All aspects of the M.Ed. program were designed to be collaborative. The strong implementation of these multicultural goals made us, the authors, curious to investigate the program's influence on the students' understandings of equity and diversity issues in education.

We use the term multicultural education to refer to the orientations and practices of the M.Ed. program and how the graduates thought about equity, diversity, and social justice. Banks (2007) defined multicultural education as the idea that all students, regardless their diverse racial, cultural, ethnical, language, gender, or social class, have an equal opportunity to learn in school (p.3). From his point of view, multicultural education is a reform and an ongoing process to achieve equity, democracy, and social justice. …

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