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Running Head: PROGRAMS HELPING TEACHERS UNDERSTAND DIVERSITY IN THE CLASSROOM 1

Professional Development for Educators on Multiculturalism

Kristy J. Keaton

Weber State University


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Introduction

Education is an ever-changing profession. Every year there are new opportunities, new

students, new technology, new experiences and new challenges. Diversity in the classroom is on

the rise, “As an outcome of growing diversity, US public schools teach more than 13 million pre-

K–12 students who live in poverty. Over 6.3 million of these students speak English as their

second language (Children’s Defense Fund 2005). In the United States, language and poverty are

intimately related to race and academic achievement among children of color. Academic

achievement among these diverse learners looks quite different compared with their White,

middle-class peers,” (Assaf, Jacobs & Lee 2011, p.2).

A teachers own viewpoints on cultural backgrounds impacts the students’ experience,

(Schniedewind, 2005, p.280). There are organizations locally such as the Utah Education

Association that provide teachers with workshops and information, (UEA, 2107). Educators

might not know how to incorporate diversity in the classroom. Professional development is one

way in which educators can be instructed on how to include various ways to make diversity and

multiculturalism important in the classroom.

Teachers Understanding, Reflection and Professional Development

Another challenge that educators might face is that of claiming their own, individual

culture identity, “Teachers’ own awareness of race, racism, and whiteness very much impacts

their ability to educate both students of color and white students. Researchers indicate that if

teachers do not acknowledge their own racial identity, they will not recognize the need for young

people to affirm their own. Similarly, they cannot be role models for students who are struggling

to understand and change the racial realities of the world,” (Schniedewind 2005, p.280).
Running Head: PROGRAMS HELPING TEACHERS UNDERSTAND DIVERSITY IN THE CLASSROOM 3

Frequently, teachers may have discrepancies or ideas about different cultures and students that

have difficulties with English as their second language, (Assaf, et al., 2011).

“…They lay the blame for educational gaps with ‘the students or their families,

not in the social ecology of the school, grade, or classroom’ (Weiner 2006, p. 42).

Teacher beliefs regarding culturally diverse students, especially second-language

learners, can influence the type of relationship that a student and teacher will have, as

well as the teacher’s expectations of students (Banks et al. 2001, Trumbull et al. 2001,

García and Guerra 2004). In order to address this deficit thinking, teachers must be able

to critically reflect on their beliefs and stereotypes and begin to respond with culturally

relevant pedagogy, (Assaf, et al., 2011, p.2).

Not much has been done to efficiently prepare educators in the twenty first century to

establish a solid foundation of inclusion of diversity in the classroom, (Assaf, et al., 2011). A

great way to begin teacher inquiry and discussion on multiculturalism in the classroom is the use

of book clubs, (Assaf, et al., 2011, p.5). Book clubs provide educators with exploration of

cultures, ideas and instructional strategies, (Assaf, et al., 2011, p.5). They also provide a way for

teachers to recognize their own assumptions and stereotypes that might be fostering incorrect

methods for their students, (Assaf, et al., 2011, p.5).

In a case study, twenty-five Curriculum and Instruction faculty members from Texas

State University, participants volunteered to be in a book club, (Assaf, et al., 2011). They were

assigned text, met twice a semester and were issued the following questions; ‘How do teacher

educators participating in a professional development book study on ELLs explore their beliefs

about language diversity and develop an awareness of how to best prepare future teachers for

culturally and linguistically diverse schools?’ (Assaf, et al., 2011, p.5).


Running Head: PROGRAMS HELPING TEACHERS UNDERSTAND DIVERSITY IN THE CLASSROOM 4

The qualitative findings discovered that the faculty, “…drew upon their own experiences

to make sense of language diversity. Some participants drew upon their first-hand experiences

with discrimination, from being second-language learners or teaching in diverse contexts. Other

participants reflected on their struggle, which was due to a lack of lived experiences with

diversity,” (Assaf, et al., 2011, p.7).

The participants assessed their own instructional habits and developed personal reflection

using the text. There were mixed discussions on how, “instructional strategies were important for

pre-service teachers, but they felt that these strategies needed to be the focus of their own

professional development as teacher educators, (Assaf, et al., 2011). In addition on how to best

prepare future educators with diversity in the classroom, participants were eager to discover

classroom strategies and best practices for the classroom.

“Many participants accentuated wanting resources like guest speakers and articles. The

concept of immersion surfaced as several participants within the book club described

classroom demonstrations where their guest speaker spoke only Spanish to give

mainstream students an idea of what it feels like to be a non-English speaker. The

question this theme raises is whether ‘getting’ strategies is the way to understand how to

work with ELLs. What if the teacher is coming to the classroom with a deficit view about

language and diversity? What will be the impact if the teacher does not understand

his/her own beliefs about cultural diversity? What will occur if the teacher has not begun

to develop an awareness of the interconnection between language and identity? Will

having access to a wealth of strategies alone really support the success of ELL students?”

(Assaf, et al., 2011, p.10).


Running Head: PROGRAMS HELPING TEACHERS UNDERSTAND DIVERSITY IN THE CLASSROOM 5

The book club case study had wide-ranging outcomes, but the concluding remarks stated

that, “Professional development must allow space and flexibility for teacher educators to engage

in critical self-reflection and multiple opportunities to grow,” (Assaf, et al., 2011, p.13).

Professional Development in Relation to Instruction on Multiculturalism and Democracy

There are multiple opportunities for growth as an educator. Professional development on

diversity can be beneficial on multiple levels, “professional development opportunities in

diversity education provide an important arena for practicing teachers to expand their

consciousness about race, racism, and whiteness and to gain support to apply that awareness to

their practice,” (Schniedewind 2005, p.280).

The research and on the efficacy of diverse professional development is narrow and has

mixed outcomes, (Schniedewind 2005). Teachers can have a varied impact on their students

based on their own background, “Teachers support students of color by validating their racial

identities and making their classrooms protected places for students to talk about color, bias, and

racism. While all teachers are very intentional in this regard, the teachers of color provide

particularly focused accounts of their efforts,” (Schniedewind 2005, p.283). A teacher educator

in St. Petersburg Russia, Vera, mentions that, “we should at least recognize that any message of

democracy that we teach will be seen through the lenses of our students’ cultural and personal

histories,” (Cude 2012).

In a book review, Paul Thomas (2011, p. 516) claims that there is much interest on white

young people needing to not only be introduced to multicultural and anti-racist education, but

that it needs to be properly explored. He wishes that the text “could have shed real light on what

effective citizenship teaching and education for diversity needs to address and look like,”

(Thomas 2011, p. 516).


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Professional Development in Utah

Micheal L. Hardman (2009) shares his insights on the redesign, rationale and framework

of teacher education at the University of Utah.

“Educational reform of the past 25 years has emphasized that all educators must become

more student-centered in their approach to instruction while working within a common

curriculum and accountability system (Goodlad, 1990; Thurlow, 2000; Vinovskis, 1999).

Achieving this outcome requires that new and practicing teachers have subject matter

expertise, as well as the ability to adapt curriculum and instruction to address individual

learning characteristics,” (Hardman 2009, p. 583).

His approach is to look at the higher institutions and what they are willing to do; “The

development of collaborative teacher education is highly dependent upon the willingness of

institutions of higher education to focus more on what all educators have in common rather than

what makes them different,” (Hardman 2009, p. 583).

Echoing what the volunteering educators at Texas State University, Hardman claims that,

“Effective teacher preparation programs routinely evaluate the quality and impact of their

graduates beyond measuring whether they demonstrate mastery of professional competencies at

the time of program exit. Teacher preparation programs must be involved with the schools in a

joint preparation, mentoring and evaluation process that begins at the time a teacher candidate

begins initial preparation, continues during an induction period of no less than three years, and is

maintained throughout his or her career,” (Hardman 2009, p. 585). He also mentions that new

teachers should be assisted and measured with their mentor programs and their performance over

time, (Hardman 2009, p. 585).


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There are many ways that teachers in Utah can receive instructional assistance and

education, one of these programs is offered through the Utah Education Association, UEA. The

UEA, originally called the “The Deseret School Teachers’ Association,” in 1860 with a stated

purpose of “establishing a society for promoting the educational interests of the community,”

(UEA, 2017). UEA offers new teacher education programs, recognizes and awards exceptional

teachers, works with Future Educators of America, and other organizations and opportunities to

improve the quality of education in the community, (UEA, 2017). Utah also has its own chapter

of the National Association of Multicultural Education that is affiliated with UEA.

Summary

Institutions, programs, and Universities nationwide and locally are striving to improve

the quality and efforts made in our educational system. Book clubs and new teacher training can

provide essential perspective and professional development for educators on multiculturalism

and diversity in the classroom, (Assaf, et al., 2011). Utah has the Utah Education Association to

assist educators in a variety of ways.


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References

Cude, M. D. (2012). TEACHING DEMOCRACY. Curriculum & Teaching Dialogue, 14(1/2),

49-63.

Hardman, M. L. (2009). Redesigning the preparation of all teachers within the framework of an

integrated program model. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(4), 583-587.

doi:10.1016/j.tate.2009.02.005

Jacobs, J., Assaf, L. C., & Lee, K. S. (2011). Professional development for teacher educators:

conflicts between critical reflection and instructional-based strategies. Professional

Development In Education, 37(4), 499-512. doi:10.1080/19415257.2010.533587

Schniedewind, N. (2005). "There Ain't No White People Here!": The Transforming Impact of

Teachers' Racial Consciousness on Students and Schools. Equity & Excellence In

Education, 38(4), 280-289. doi:10.1080/10665680500299668

Smith, N. L., & Bahr, M. W. (2014). Increasing cultural competence through needs assessment

and professional development. Professional Development In Education, 40(1), 164-181.

doi:10.1080/19415257.2013.776618

Thomas, P. (2011). Multiculturalism and education. Educational Review, 63(4), 515-516.

doi:10.1080/00131911.2011.619887

Thomas, S., & Kearney, J. (2008). Teachers working in culturally diverse classrooms:

implications for the development of professional standards and for teacher

education. Asia-Pacific Journal Of Teacher Education, 36(2), 105-120.

doi:10.1080/13598660801971625

Utah Education Association (2017). Retrieved from

http://www.myuea.org/about_uea/general_information.aspx