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Preparing Preservice Teachers in a Diverse World, Action in Teacher Education:

Article Critique

ETEC 500

Claude DSouza

4167007

Section 64B
In their case study, Lenski, Crawford, Crumpler, and Stallworth (2005) address the

issue of how to train preservice teachers to be more culturally aware and responsive, so

that they can effectively teach in the culturally diversified classrooms of today.

Lenski et al. (2005) chose to focus on their qualitative information gathered from the

second year of a five-year ethnography project that included 28 preservice teachers

enrolled in the education program at a large Midwestern University. The sources of

collected data included (1) neighborhood observations, (2) reflections of a school bus ride,

(3) observations of school sites, (4) observational field notes and reflections of community

sites, (5) interviews of six preservice teachers during the project, (6) student papers

describing ways to address cultural issues in classrooms, and (7) final ethnographic papers

(Lenski et al., 2005, p. 5-6). The students were taught how to conduct ethnographic

research before and during the study. The process included professional instruction in the

research steps, discussion and modeling sessions, practice observations at school,

community site observations (students were encouraged to take notes during initial visits,

then become participant observers), concluded with a final paper and presentation by the

students.

Lenski et al. (2005) organized findings into four major areas: cultural views, thoughts

on diversity, becoming a participant observer, and applying knowledge to teaching. First,

following an intervention in which the researchers brought the preservice teachers

unwarranted cultural assumptions from observations to light via in-class discussions, and

worked with the students on not passing judgements too quickly, the quality of the

ethnography improved. Furthermore, the students recognized their own culture, and

realized the importance of such cultural awareness in better understanding their future

students. Second, through the project, students learned that diversity is not simply confined

to race, and that as teachers, they must be aware of all kinds of diversity in their classroom.

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Third, over time, students became more comfortable with their role as participant observers.

Finally, the researchers found that the preservice teachers had little difficulty applying their

experiences in the ethnography project to their teaching. The preservice teachers

discussed how material in class could be connected with students lives, how to encourage

students to use background knowledge, and how to differentiate teaching. Lenski et al.

(2005) believe that participant observation and ethnographically-based teaching as part of a

teacher-training program can effectively address cultural issues in teacher education.

Overall, I thought that Lenski et al. (2005) provided sufficient detail in describing their

study, which included a clear focus and details as to how the research was carried out. One

major concern I have with the collected data is that it mostly comprises of information that

the students gathered during their own ethnographic study, and since these students had

little or no experience as participant observers, they may have just been giving the

researchers what they were looking for, rather than really changing the way they thought

about the culture and diversity of their future classrooms. These findings would be more

credible if the researchers observed the teachers in their classrooms years later to see if

they are in fact demonstrating an awareness of, and responding to, their students culture.

Furthermore, the researchers admitted that their sample size was small, and that a similar

study would be needed in a broader context to determine if all preservice teachers would

benefit from such an educational approach. Finally, while I agree that it is important for

preservice teachers to be trained in recognizing diversity and applying it to their teaching, it

seemed to me that Lenski et al (2005) were making generalizations about current teachers,

especially white educators, and their ability to connect with their culturally diverse students.

They did not provide any examples or evidence to show how teachers are not being

culturally responsive at present. I also find it ironic that they choose to focus on race when

introducing their research, while their participants are being trained to look beyond only skin

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colour when recognizing cultural diversity. Nevertheless, I do agree with the researchers

that cultural awareness training by having preservice teachers conduct qualitative

ethnographic studies is invaluable, not only because it will help our teachers of the future

become more culturally aware and responsive, but also because I think that it will provide

them with training and first-hand experience in the area of qualitative research that informs

their practice.

Reference:

Lenski, S.D., Crawford, K., Crumpler, T. & Stallworth, C. (2005). Preparing Preservice Teachers
in a Diverse World, Action in Teacher Education , 27(3), 3-12.