Preparing Teacher Candidates for Diverse Classrooms: The Role of Teacher Preparation Programs

Preparing Teacher Candidates for Diverse Classrooms: The Role of Teacher Preparation Programs

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0897-7.ch003
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A majority of PK-12 teachers are White, middle-class woman who speak only English (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2012); many of these teachers report a lack of confidence to adequately meet the needs of a diverse classroom of students (Hollins & Torres-Guzman, 2005), particularly those with background different from that of the teachers (Helfrich & Bean, 2011). The perceived lack of preparedness to serve diverse students, whether factually based or not, has been attributed to poor training provided by teacher preparation programs (Cho & DeCastro-Ambrosetti, 2005). This chapter suggests that teacher preparation programs, regardless of geographic location and demographics of their teacher candidates, model a spirit of inclusivity and be intentional in offering an integrated approach to preparing teacher candidates to be highly-effective in working with all students regardless of diversity represented.
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Today’s beginning teachers need to be prepared for the a diverse body of students representing demographics that may look like the following: “25% live in poverty; 10% to 20% have identified learning differences; 15% speak a language other than English as their primary language and about 40% are students of color” (Darling-Hammond, 2006, p. 301). The National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) states that teacher education programs’ conceptual framework should clearly state an intent to prepare teacher candidates to provide instruction based on the needs of students; in addition, there must be a demonstration of knowledge, dispositions, and skills related to diversity, integrated across the curriculum, instruction, field experience, clinical practice, assessments, and evaluations (NCATE, 2010).

Changing Student Demographics

Although trends are somewhat different from region to region and state to state, national projections indicate that by 2050 the ethnic and racial minority groups in our schools today, will be the majority (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008). For example, of the 20 largest school districts in the U.S., 18 consist of less than 50 percent White students (Aud, Fox, & Kewal Ramani, 2010). In addition, students of color are consistently increasing; between 2000-01 and 2007-08, the percentage of White students enrolled in public schools decreased from 61 to 56 percent; during the same time period, Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native student enrollment remain unchanged (17% and 1%, respectively); Hispanic enrollment increased from 17 to 21 percent; and Asian/Pacific Islander enrollment increased from four to five percent (Aud, et al., 2010).

Socioeconomic diversity is also a consideration; in 2009, 48 percent of public school fourth graders were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, representing 77% Hispanic, 74% Black, 68% American Indian/Alaskan Native, 34% Asian/Pacific Islander and 29% White (Aud, et al., 2010).

Lastly, there is a representation of increased diversity in languages spoken by students entering classrooms. In 2002, Kindler reported that approximately 450 languages were represented by students enrolled in public schools in the U.S.; it is important to note that it is likely that numbers are much greater today. For example, the number of Spanish speaking English Language Learners (ELLs) is expected to continue to rise (Fry & Gonzales, 2008) with 80% of ELLs speaking Spanish as the first language (Gandara & Rumberger, 2009). It has been reported that within the 13,900 school districts in the U.S., in 2007, 69% of Hispanic students and 64% of Asian elementary/secondary school students spoke a language at home other than English (Aud, et al., 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Funds of Knowledge: A term that encompasses the knowledge, skills, and experiences acquired through historical and cultural interactions of an individual in their community and family life and culture through everyday living.

Culture: The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

Ethnicity: Generally refers to the distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage of a person or group of persons.

Teacher Candidate: A student who is participating in a professional teacher education program and preparing to become a certificated educator, but is not yet graduated.

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT): Culturally responsive teaching, also referred to as culturally relevant teaching, is defined as using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference and learning styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning personally meaningful and effective for them.

Diversity: Differences among groups of people and individuals based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, exceptionalities, language, religion, sexual orientations and geographical area and types of diversity necessary for addressing the effects of candidate’s interactions with diverse faculty, candidates, and students.

Socio-Economic Status (SES): Socio-economic status is characterized by the economics of a family; in schools SES is typically defined qualifications of students to receive free or reduced lunch and other services at a school.

K-12 Students: Defined as children or youth attending K-12 schools including, but not limited to, students with disabilities or exceptionalities, students who are gifted, and students who represent diversity based on ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender, language, religion, sexual identification, and/or geographic origin. .

Multiculturalism: A philosophy, process and educational approach that emphasizes acceptance, respect, and appreciation for the many kinds of diversity that children and families bring to a classroom, including race, ethnicity, language, and religion.

Self-Efficacy: Described as how a teacher candidate views self in regard to the ability to exercise control over their own level of functioning and over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy is a by-product of confidence and beliefs on how one feels, thinks about self in regard to accomplishing a given task.

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