Using Reflection to Explore Cultural Responsiveness of Preservice Teachers

Using Reflection to Explore Cultural Responsiveness of Preservice Teachers

Louise Whitelaw (Neumann University, USA) and Laura McLaughlin Taddei (Neumann University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2963-7.ch009
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Preservice teachers need experiences that prepare them to work in a variety of settings with a diverse population. Teacher education programs work with mentor teachers and partner schools to provide preservice teachers with time to practice cultural responsiveness. Reflection can be used to explore and discuss these experiences. This chapter will include information on preparing culturally responsive educators with the use of advocacy and reflection, early hands-on experiences, and collaborative professional development. The study involved mentor teachers who reflected on the cultural responsiveness of students placed in their classroom. Preservice teachers completed a survey reflecting on their cultural responsiveness. Preservice teachers need opportunities to work in diverse settings with mentor teachers who support them through the process, and then opportunities to reflect on experiences. The feedback loop between teacher education programs, preservice and mentor teachers is a critical component to successfully preparing culturally responsive teachers.
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Teacher education programs are charged with providing students with diverse field experience settings in order to work effectively in a variety of career placements with wide-ranging learners. This chapter will explore the perceptions of mentor teachers on preservice teachers’ cultural competence as well as the self-reflection of preservice teachers on their ability to be culturally competent, “which is the ability to think, act, and feel in ways that are respectful to diversity” (Howe & Lisi, 2014, p. 397). Students at a small private university in suburban Pennsylvania who will be dually certified in Pre-K to 4 and special education participate in field experience every semester including special education settings, private and public schools, urban settings, and preschools. In this research study, mentor teachers completed a three-question survey reflecting on the cultural responsiveness of the preservice teachers in their classrooms. The preservice teachers were also sent a survey asking them to reflect on their experiences and ability to be culturally responsive.

The need for this study is twofold, therefore – an intersection of student feedback and faculty observation regarding a potential lack of student preparedness for diverse settings in the context of the multiple perspectives needed for career preparedness. According to Howe and Lisi (2014):

Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) better prepares students academically and socially by understanding and using their rich cultural backgrounds in teaching and learning. CRE also instills in students a lifelong appreciation for understanding and valuing diverse cultures in all settings of life (p. 237).

The US Department of Education stresses the importance of preparing high quality teachers who can work with a diverse population. In the Improving Teacher Preparation: Building on Innovation report, the US Department of Education (n.d.) states:

Recruiting, preparing, developing and supporting great teachers have a direct impact on the learning and success of America’s students. Research confirms that the most important in school factor in a student’s success is a strong teacher, and excellent teachers are especially important for our neediest students. And strong teacher preparation programs lead to better learning for students.

The key indicators of the US Department of Education’s call for improved teacher preparation include teacher education programs reporting on employment outcomes, teacher and employer feedback, student learning outcomes, and proof that candidates are leaving programs with content and pedagogical knowledge and that they are participating in high quality clinical practices (US Department of Education, Nov 2014). In addition, the US Department of Education initiated the “Excellent Educators for All Initiative” and the goal is for students to have access to high quality teachers. This initiative is critical because “students’ race and family income often predict their access to excellent educators. Low-income students and high-need schools tend to have teachers who are less experienced, have fewer credentials and do not demonstrate a track record of success” (US Department of Education, July 2014).

This chapter will include empirical findings on preparing culturally responsive educators with the use of advocacy, feedback and reflection, early hands-on experiences, and the integration of technology to enhance field experiences. Within this chapter, the researchers seek to make recommendations regarding cultural competence of students enrolled in one teacher education program and to inform similar education programs about the importance of reflection and diversity training in pre-service education programs.

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