Teaching and Learning within and across Cultures: Educator Requirements across the United States

By Morrier, Michael J.; Irving, Miles A. et al. | Multicultural Education, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Teaching and Learning within and across Cultures: Educator Requirements across the United States


Morrier, Michael J., Irving, Miles A., Dandy, Evelyn, Dmitriyev, Grigory, Ukeje, Ikechukwu C., Multicultural Education


Introduction

Teaching multicultural education has been a consistent theme in teacher education programs across the United States (Miller, Strosnider, & Dooley, 2000), yet most institutions of higher education have struggled to incorporate standards for implementing this coursework into their certification and/or endorsement programs. Evans, Torrey, and Newton (1997) found that 82% of states require some level of multicultural or diversity training for teacher preparation programs. However, only 37% of these states have a specific requirement as part of gaining teacher certification (Miller et al., 2000).

Thus, specific requirements for cross-cultural training vary greatly among states, with some having more rigorous or meaningful criteria than others. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), a professional accrediting organization for schools, colleges, and departments lists Standard 4 on Diversity which requires that the teacher education unit

...designs, implements, and evaluates curriculum and experiences for candidates to acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn. These experiences include working with diverse higher education and school faculty, diverse candidates, and diverse students in P-12 schools. (NCATE, 2000)

Providing high quality educational experiences is the goal of teacher preparation programs. Yet institutions of higher education have had difficulty incorporating this training in their preservice coursework. Most infuse multicultural education into traditional coursework. Previous attempts to improve culturally responsive teacher education has mainly focused on appealing to university faculty to infuse multiculturalism into their courses, and many faculty in content areas do not feel they are prepared to do that, leaving courses on multicultural education as electives.

This study describes how a state-level requirement for meaningful multicultural education can be developed and implemented. Specifically, this study details how the pervasive problem of underachievement of ethnic minority groups was the catalyst for what happened in one state-wide university system.

Given the current context and educational and achievement gaps of ethnic minorities, the outcomes of the educational reform presented in this article can be an effective example of how meaningful reform can happen in multicultural education for preservice teachers. This is especially important given the current environment of accountability through high stakes testing and the impact it has on the education of children. According to No Child Left Behind (NCLB; 2001) quality teaching is defined as effective knowledge and teaching of content area as well as classroom management skills.

Several respected education scholars have described quality teachers as those who have general academic and verbal abilities, knowledge of content area, knowledge of pedagogy, experience with children, and meet State certification requirements (Darling-Hammond, 2000, 2004; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001).

Yet, within this definition, the issue of cultural understanding has been neglected. Cultural understanding incorporates a person's knowledge of and experiences with the values, mores, beliefs, and traditions of cultures different from one's own (Grant & Sleeter, 2006). It also includes an understanding of one's culture and its current impact on practices and beliefs. When included in teacher preparation programs, cultural pedagogy usually centers on the issue of English as a Second Language (ESL) or bilingual education. Due to this focus of language as culture, most state requirements revolve around bilingual education.

In the current era of high stakes testing (NCLB, 2001), many teacher preparation programs emphasize content to the exclusion of culturally-relevant pedagogy in their preservice preparation programs (Smith, Desimone, & Ueno, 2005). …

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