Transformative Teaching for Multicultural Classrooms

By Finley, Susan | Multicultural Education, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Transformative Teaching for Multicultural Classrooms


Finley, Susan, Multicultural Education


Designing Curriculum and Classroom Strategies for Master's Level Teacher Education

To date, much of the focus in discussions about multicultural teacher education in the United States has been on the design and content of curriculum for preservice teachers. The conversation has brought about a growing bibliography of curricular designs and course descriptions recommended in the preparation of prospective teachers. The conversants tend to overlook that one of the functions of multicultural teacher education is to provide continuing professional education programs for inservice teachers, either in degree or non-degree, certification renewal, and continuance programs.

Comparatively little has been done by teacher educators to develop multicultural curricula specific to continuing professional education of inservice teachers. Likewise, teachers themselves have not widely shared their experiences with updating their classrooms and curricula to teach an increasingly diverse student population. To encourage continuing conversation among educators, this article introduces six contributions from inservice teachers, adding their voices to the conversation about multicultural classrooms and curricula.

Teaching in a Culturally Diverse Society

One cause for concern in the teaching profession is the continuing lack of diversity among teachers, countered by the increasing diversity of public school students (Zeichner, 1996). With regard to race, ethnicity, language, and social class, teachers in the United States do not look like their students, demographically, nor do they share many important cultural contexts. Even with emphasis on how to recruit and retain more teachers of color, the ranks of teachers continue to fill with white, female, middle class, monolingual teachers who have had limited interracial and intercultural experiences (Melnick & Zeichner,1997, 1998; Zeichner, 1996, with reference to: AACTE, 1987, 1989, LaFontaine, 1988). Teacher educators exhibit a remarkably similar profile, although women are less represented among teacher educators than among teachers (Melnick & Zeichner,1997, 1998; Zeichner, 1996, Ducharme & Ague, 1989; Lanier & Little, 1986).

Given the dynamics of social change and the stasis of the teaching population, there is a need to prioritize discussion around issues encountered in approaches to multicultural education of practicing teachers.l This emphasis is important for at least three reasons:

1. Amajority of teachers are not new teachers and are likely to have had little or no formal instruction about multicultural teaching and learning.

2. The socialization of new teachers to existing school environments assures that they will increasingly resemble the teaching staff already in practice.

3. Multicultural education is both the catalyst for and depends upon continuing social reconstruction if it is to confront issues of power and inequity in schooling.

To equip teachers to work toward social change requires continuing renewal and extension ofthe skills, knowledge, and awareness necessary to remain effective in culturally dynamic institutions such as schools. Continuing education of teachers, and especially achieving Master's level status, should reinvigorate teachers for continued reflection and learning about their own classrooms, the schools where they teach, and other schooling contexts.

Another area that has been of lesser concern in discussions of multicultural teacher education, with the exception of a few dedicated writers, is the maintenance of a set of principles for education in U.S. public schools that reflects definitions of knowledge and approaches to learning that continue the influence of the Eurocentric, Christian, male dominated power structure that formed them in the first place. Somewhere, it must have been said of education that "the more it changes the more it stays the same."2

To assertively educate teachers to work effectively within a culturally diverse learning community requires the integration of multiple cultural perspectives in the content and structures of teacher education programs. …

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