Pre-Service Teachers Write about Diversity: A Metaphor Analysis

By Brown, Pamela U.; Parsons, Sue Christian et al. | Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Pre-Service Teachers Write about Diversity: A Metaphor Analysis


Brown, Pamela U., Parsons, Sue Christian, Worley, Virginia, Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly


Abstract

This study, set in the teacher education program of a large, Midwestern public university, examines metaphors used by elementary pre-service teachers in writing about diversity and teaching in diverse settings with diverse populations. Using metaphor analysis methodology grounded in Lakoff and Johnson's work on conceptual metaphor and working through the lenses of constructivism and critical theory, we as researchers take notice that though students' words apparently mirror those of their professors, the meanings are often misapplied or missing altogether. Although at first glance our results may seem critical of the pre-service teachers, in actuality, we seek to uncover the tensions inherent in teaching "for" diversity. Metaphors identified include diversity as an object of value; diversity as a guest in the inn; diversity as a construction project; teacher as taxonomist, archaeologist, and/or connoisseur; teacher as voyeur; and student as voyeur.

Introduction

Assuming the arrogance of certainty, some teacher educators believe that in teaching about diversity, in encouraging students to engage in perspective taking, and in sharing case studies designed to deepen student thinking, they are doing what they can to ensure that pre-service teachers adopt the popular stance, the "proper" way of thinking about diversity. It is far more uncomfortable to mine the tensions of what teacher educators do and what they leave undone in an effort to "teach for social justice" as "student diversity in schools becomes the norm, not the exception" (Darling-Hammond, French, & Garcia-Lopez, 2002, p. 1). Teacher educators should examine carefully the underlying meaning of any goal for pre-service teachers asking them "to bring to the forefront issues of power, politics, equity, and equality" or to raise "questions about the relationship between schools and the social and cultural reproduction of social classes, gender roles, and racial and ethnic prejudice" (Adams, Shea, Liston, & Deever, 1998, p. ix). Teacher educators who assert the need for pre-service teachers to embrace diversity so specifically are in fact telling pre-service teachers what they must believe; the effect of this expectation actually silences diverse viewpoints. How can teacher educators balance "the paradox of social justice and diversity" (Blackwell, Futrell, & Imig, 2003, p. 359) if they demand students to assimilate our ideas of diversity?

In this study, set in the teacher education program of a large, Midwestern public university, the researchers studied attitudes of elementary pre-service teachers toward diversity and teaching in diverse settings with diverse populations. To examine these attitudes, researchers collected and analyzed diversity essays required of all elementary pre-service teachers as part of a state-mandated portfolio process. The university identifies four core concepts--diversity, integration, professionalism and life-long learning--intended to guide teacher education curricula. Written reflections on these core concepts, typically 500-750 words long, are required as part of the portfolio process that encompasses all teacher education coursework. Students write essays focused on their beliefs and understandings regarding each of the core concepts. The due date for the essays on the four core concepts is set many months in advance, and each student chooses how much time to spend preparing the essays which are written and polished outside of classes. The prompt for the diversity essay appears in the university's professional education portfolio handbook as follows: "Define and explain your understanding of this concept and how it relates to teaching and learning."

For this study, we collected and analyzed diversity essays elementary pre-service teachers submitted, using metaphor analysis to interpret the students' understandings, stances, and attitudes about diversity. Drawing from constructivism and critical theory, we as researchers were especially engaged when noticing that though students' words apparently mirror those of their professors, the meanings are often misapplied or missing altogether. …

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