Progam Ownership and the "Transformative Agenda" in Colleges of Education: Teachers of Teachers Working towards a More Equitable Society

By MacDonald, Suzanne; Colville-Hall, Susan et al. | Multicultural Education, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Progam Ownership and the "Transformative Agenda" in Colleges of Education: Teachers of Teachers Working towards a More Equitable Society


MacDonald, Suzanne, Colville-Hall, Susan, Smolen, Lynn, Multicultural Education


Not only do we need to be continually empowered to choose ourselves, to create our identities within a plurality; we need continually to make new promises and to act in our freedom to fulfill them, something we can never do meaningfully alone.

-Greene, 1988, p. 51

In 1992 we began studying the preconceptions and attitudes ("prior knowledge") of pre-service teachers-as they impacted those students' experiences in a teacher education program charged with preparing them for diversity, in their future classrooms and schools (Colville-Hall, 1996; Colville-Hall, MacDonald, & Smolen, 1995; MacDonald, 1996a, 1996b, 2001a, 2001b; Smolen, 1996). This continuing interest in the student experience has extended to the faculty who create, support, and assess the educational engagement of students with diversity issues in their respective teacher education programs (Smolen, Colville-Hall, & MacDonald, work in progress).

We have been especially interested in looking at institutions in urban settings with formally articulated urban missions, thought to encompass the changing social conditions of our society. We have asked: "What is the role of faculty members' perceptions, practice, and knowledge of diversity issues in addressing what have now become commonly mandated directives in teacher education programs?" This is an accounting of the responses and responsiveness of four sets of teacher educators to societal change at their respective institutions.

Where Hove We Been?

Asking educators to take into account the social context of schooling as they plan for and deliver instruction to their students is not new (e.g., Dewey, 1915). Yet those who prepare educators are continually challenged in this regard-by new variations on the school and society theme; by what often appear to be increasing demands on the schools, and therefore, on the teachers they prepare for those environments; by higher expectations of various constituents of schooling in the United States; and by limited resources (finances, skills and knowledge, their own conceptions of what is possible and/or desirable, etc.)-in their attempt to fulfill roles in preparing teachers to serve well their students and communities.

The piece of this general challenge to universities and to colleges of education presented here is supported by a host of literature (Banks, 1995; Boyer, 1990; Perry & Fraser, 1993) emphasizing the importance of preparing pre-service teachers to serve the needs of a pluralistic society and to work productively with the diverse students they will teach. However, this educational purpose is still laden with controversy outside the academy; and within, there is often an uncertain, perhaps uncomfortable mix of responses, including "silence," to voices calling for change.

Affective issues related to pre-service teachers' belief systems (E.g., MacDonald, 1996; Sleeter, 1993) and those of the teacher educators who work with them (Smolen, 1996), possibly incompatible with broad social and educational goals identified by the institution in which they study and teach, become important as part of the acquisition and transmission of a knowledge base intended to provide meaningful educational experiences for all. Purposes and missions related to the role of teacher educators in meeting the needs of a culturally pluralistic society can be confounded by ambiguity and ambivalence regarding those goals-within the institution and the college (or department) of education itself.

Official statements and others supporting the importance, even urgency, of addressing the needs of an increasingly diverse student population and the ethos of a democratic, culturally pluralistic society through educational intervention in the preparation of teachers have a considerable history at this point. During the last decade one of the nation's most visible statements of educational intent was the Goals 2000 agenda. Goal 4 of that document stated "by the year 2000, the nation's teaching force would have access to programs for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all American students for the next century" (National Education Goals Panel, 1994, p. …

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