Teaching and Learning within and across Cultures: Educator Requirements across the United States
Morrier, Michael J
Teaching multicultural education has been a consistent theme in teacher education programs across the United States (Miller, Strosnider, & Dooley, 2000), yet most institutions of higher education have struggled to incorporate standards for implementing this coursework into their certification and/or endorsement programs. Evans, Torrey, and Newton (1997) found that 82% of states require some level of multicultural or diversity training for teacher preparation programs. However, only 37% of these states have a specific requirement as part of gaining teacher certification (Miller et al., 2000).
Thus, specific requirements for cross-cultural training vary greatly among states, with some having more rigorous or meaningful criteria than others. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), a professional accrediting organization for schools, colleges, and departments lists Standard 4 on Diversity which requires that the teacher education unit
…designs, implements, and evaluates curriculum and experiences for candidates to acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn. These experiences include working with diverse higher education and school faculty, diverse candidates, and diverse students in P-12 schools. (NCATE, 2000)
Providing high quality educational experiences is the goal of teacher preparation programs. Yet institutions of higher education have had difficulty incorporating this training in their preservice coursework. Most infuse multicultural education into traditional coursework. Previous attempts to improve culturally responsive teacher education has mainly focused on appealing to university faculty to infuse multiculturalism into their courses, and many faculty in content areas do not feel they are prepared to do that, leaving courses on multicultural education as electives.
This study describes how a state-level requirement for meaningful multicultural education can be developed and implemented. Specifically, this study details how the pervasive problem of underachievement of ethnic minority groups was the catalyst for what happened in one state-wide university system.
Given the current context and educational and achievement gaps of ethnic minorities, the outcomes of the educational reform presented in this article can be an effective example of how meaningful reform can happen in multicultural education for preservice teachers. This is especially important given the current environment of accountability through high stakes testing and the impact it has on the education of children. According to No Child Left Behind (NCLB; 2001) quality teaching is defined as effective knowledge and teaching of content area as well as classroom management skills.
Several respected education scholars have described quality teachers as those who have general academic and verbal abilities, knowledge of content area, knowledge of pedagogy, experience with children, and meet State certification requirements (Darling-Hammond, 2000, 2004; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001).
Yet, within this definition, the issue of cultural understanding has been neglected. Cultural understanding incorporates a person’s knowledge of and experiences with the values, mores, beliefs, and traditions of cultures different from one’s own (Grant & Sleeter, 2006). It also includes an understanding of one’s culture and its current impact on practices and beliefs. When included in teacher preparation programs, cultural pedagogy usually centers on the issue of English as a Second Language (ESL) or bilingual education. Due to this focus of language as culture, most state requirements revolve around bilingual education.
In the current era of high stakes testing (NCLB, 2001), many teacher preparation programs emphasize content to the exclusion of culturally-relevant pedagogy in their preservice preparation programs (Smith, Desimone, & Ueno, 2005). Often, teachers have a strong mismatch between cultural identity and the emphasis placed on academic achievement in today’s educational environments (Brown, 2004). This tension often results in perceived lower teacher quality and student achievement.
However, understanding the cultural background of students can assist teachers with making education a more meaningful experience (Hilliard, 2001; Wilson, 1991). Hilliard explains that understanding the cultural impact of the educational process, requires that teachers need to understand their own cultural identities, and the impact they have on the beliefs and educational goals of all students. This understanding is necessary to provide authentic and meaningful experiences which helps to increase the academic achievement of students in the classroom (Osborne, 1997; Wilson, 1991).
Quality Teachers: Teaching and Learning within and across Cultures
Quality teachers take the time and effort to differentiate instruction on several variables related to the child, with one of those variables being the child’s culture (Hefflin, 2002; Linek, Fleener, Fazio, Raine, & Klakamp, 2003; Seidl & Friend, 2002). In efforts to increase teacher quality across the U.S., coursework related to teaching within and across cultures has increased over recent years. However, the impact of this increase on teacher practices has received little attention. In fact, the majority of research in this area provides program descriptions without empirical evidence regarding long-term effects on preservice teachers and student outcomes (LeLand & Harste, 2005; Linek et al., 2003; Middleton, 2002; Quisenberry, & Partidge, 1993; Winn, Hobbs, & Johnson, 1998).
A few studies have indicated that effective multicultural education courses should also provide an opportunity for a close look at the educator’s own cultural biases and attitudes as it relates to the individual’s culture as well as those of all the children to be encountered (Hefflin, 2002; Smith, 2000; Thompson, Warren, & Carter, 2004). Howard’s (2001) seminal research looking at students’ perceptions of culturally-relevant teaching indicates that students can tell if a teacher is comfortable with cultures different from his or her own.
Cultural comfort is demonstrated by the amount of individualized authentic experiences teachers provide students to engage them in academic content (Wilson, 1991). Educational pedagogy stresses opportunities to incorporate the concepts of teaching within and across cultures in preservice and inservice educational opportunities to increase the number of high quality teachers (Heflin, 2002; Linek et al., 2003; Middelton, 2002; Norordhoff & Kleinfield, 1993; Stokes, 1999).
Middleton (2002) investigated the change in attitudes of preservice teachers towards students before and after enrollment in a diversity course. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, Middleton demonstrated that diversity courses utilizing individual introspection, focus groups, and small group discussions could change preservice teachers’ beliefs and commitments to diversity in educational settings. Results indicated that structured time and opportunities for individual and group exploration as well as discussion of experiences related to multicultural education benefited the students (p. 350). Middleton provides the following guidelines for multicultural education courses.
* Be authentic and nonthreatening.
* Fit cognitive and affective styles and levels of participant development.
* Be perceived as relevant to success for future teachers.
* “Gently force” an examination of one’s own biases.
* Allow time and freedom to make informed changes in one’s thinking. (p. 357)
The disconnect between cultural pedagogy and legislative mandates (i.e., Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEA], 2004; NCLB, 2001) paired with the ever changing demographics of students in the public school system prompted us to explore the current practices for preparing preservice teachers at the national level.
Current Trends at the National Level
This present study was the culmination of an ongoing project aimed at developing an education course to increase within and across cultural competency for preservice educators in one state university system. A committee was formed at the State Board of Regents with representation across the State in order to develop and make recommendations regarding multicultural education throughout the university system.
In order to determine current trends on approaching cross cultural teaching for preservice teachers across the nation, an online review of the requirements for certification and/or endorsement for teacher candidates in all 50 states was conducted during the Summer of 2004 (Ervin, Morrier, Irving, Dandy, Dmitriyev, & Ukeje, 2005). The review was current and accurate when the information was gathered, but requirements in some states may have changed since the investigation was conducted.
Three major themes related to preservice education emerged from the online review: (a) states that had a separate certification or endorsement in Multicultural or Cross-Cultural Education; (b) states that embedded multicultural educational requirements within their endorsements for bi-lingual education or English as a Second Language endorsement; and (c) university-based programs that incorporate cross cultural education as an emphasis. The next step in this process used a survey of academic deans to determine what was occurring at the university level. After survey results were compiled, the committee was able to determine how universities dealt with multicultural education at the preservice level.
The fourth step in this reform process looked at what the research literature recommended for successful multicultural education programs. And finally, the committee made recommendations to the Board of Regents on how to prepare preservice educators with viable multicultural education experiences.
States with a Separate Multicultural Endorsement or Certificate
In order to effectively educate the changing demographic populations within their state student populations, Alaska and North Dakota offer specific certification in areas related to multicultural education for all teachers. Alaska’s certification is offered as a separate certificate outside the realm of bi-lingual education, whereas North Dakota’s certification is embedded within a separate bi-lingual endorsement.
Alaska: The State Board of Education in Alaska requires specific coursework related to multicultural education for all teaching certificates due to the high percentage of students from Native Alaskan backgrounds. Alaska’s four types of certification (i.e., Teaching, Administrative, Special Services, Alaska Native Language or Culture) require specific coursework related to the culture and history of Alaska’s native peoples. Individuals must complete six hours of coursework in order to qualify for a certificate. Three hours of coursework must be related to an approved course in Alaska studies, and three semester hours must be in an approved multicultural education/cross-cultural communications course. This coursework is in addition to that required for each type of certification, as well as a background in the content area.
To competently meet these requirements, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks offers a Teachers for Alaska (TFA) program, which is a fifth-year certification program for secondary teachers. TFA emphasizes preparation for very small remote Eskimo and Indian villages, as well as urban high schools. TFA is grounded in theory, philosophy, substantive knowledge, and pedagogical strategies relating to Alaska’s various Indian and Eskimo populations. The program offers hands-on classroom and community experiences with coursework, case studies, and distance learning courses in order to provide students with meaningful experiences in the context they will be employed. TFA students are required to attend community- based activities with local students in order to experience the native culture from the student’s perspective.
North Dakota: North Dakota provides an option for teachers to gain certification in Multicultural Education and Native American Studies, as well as an endorsement in ESL/Bilingual Education. To receive the certification, educators demonstrate understanding of the standards to meet the requirements: (a) understanding of culture as a collage of factors beyond race and national origin; (b) knowledge of at least two major cultural groups other than one’s own, with ability to describe historical perspectives from those groups’ point of view, and can identify issues that may impact education of students from those cultural groups; (c) understanding of the importance of family and family issues to how students are able to learn; (d) understanding of the socio-economic status on students and their opportunity to learn; and (e) ability to continue to learn about cultures and expanding their perspectives, adapting to new and varied student needs.
States with Multicultural Coursework Embedded Within Bi-Lingualor English As a Second Language Certificate or Endorsement
Eleven of the states reviewed have specific standards for teachers that require understanding how cultural differences and similarities influence education as a means to gaining certification or endorsement in the area of Bilingual Education or ESOL. Of these states, California has the most comprehensive program, which centers on coursework and assessment to demonstrate proficiency in this area.
Arizona: Arizona’s Department of Education Certification Unit provides an endorsement for Bilingual Education in grades K-12 and is required for an individual who is a bilingual classroom teacher, a bilingual resource teacher, a bilingual specialist, or a person otherwise responsible for providing bilingual instruction (Arizona Department of Education [ADE], 2003).
To qualify for a Provisional Bilingual Education certificate, educators must hold a valid Arizona certificate in elementary, secondary, special, or career and technical education, and demonstrate proficiency in a spoken language other than English by a language department of an accredited institution, with the exception of Spanish and American Indian languages. Spanish language proficiency is demonstrated by passing the Arizona Classroom Spanish Proficiency Examination, and American Indian language proficiency is verified by an official designated by the appropriate tribe (ADE, 2003).
Full Bilingual Education Endorsement requires (a) a valid Arizona teaching certificate, (b) completion of a bilingual education program from an accredited institution, (c) a total of 18-21 semester hours of coursework related to bilingual education or a valid bilingual certificate or endorsement from another state, (d) practicum in a bilingual program or two years of verified bilingual teaching experience, and (e) proficiency in a spoken language other than English by a language department of an accredited institution. For endorsement in bilingual special education, the addition of three semester hours in methods of teaching and evaluating children with disabilities from non-English-language- backgrounds is also required.
California: Since 1992, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) has required teachers who educate children who are English-language learners (i.e., ESOL/ESL students) to be certified with either the Cross-Cultural, Language and Academic Development (CLAD; CCTC, n.d.b) certification or the Bilingual Cross-Cultural, Language and Academic Development (BCLAD; CCTC, n.d.a) certification. This certification is required for all new and returning teachers and was developed to increase the effectiveness of teaching children from Hispanic backgrounds.
Certification in CLAD or BCLAD is required for hire in any school and district serving students with “community languages” (i.e., students with ESL backgrounds). This requirement mandates teachers with pre-CLAD certification to demonstrate CLAD competencies through specific coursework and/or passage of state examination (Croghan, 2000). Recent California legislation (S.B. 2042) requires all teacher preparation programs in the state to satisfy CLAD/BCLAD standards (Quezada, 2001).
Specific CLAD/BCLAD requirements include possession of a valid California teaching certificate, satisfactory completion of six semester hours in coursework emphasizing the learning of a language other than English or 90 hours of language training offered by the California Department of Education’s Bilingual Teacher Training Program, and passage of state examination for CLAD domains 1-3 and for BCLAD domains 1-6 (see Table 1). Twelve semester units of upper-division college coursework or 24 semester units of lower division coursework covering CLAD/BCLAD domains 1-3 may be taken in place of the state examination.
Florida: The State of Florida offers an ESOL Full Certificate and an ESOL Endorsement after demonstration of required coursework has been completed. Coursework for the Full Certificate mandates: (a) three semester hours in History and Philosophy of American Education, or (b) Multicultural Education. The Endorsement certificate requires: (a) three semester hours in ESOL Cultural Diversity, or (b) Multicultural Education.
Colorado: General teacher certification requirements mandate that all teachers are “…responsive to the needs and experiences children bring to the classroom, including those based on culture, community, ethnicity, economics, linguistics, and innate learning abilities” (Colorado State Board of Education, 1994). In addition, an endorsement in Linguistically Diverse Education can be added to any certification, provided the teacher demonstrates (a) knowledge about first and second languages, (b) articulates aspects of cross-cultural communication, including within one’s culture, as well as the culture(s) and the language(s) of the students, and (c) knowledge about child and adolescent literature from various cultures.
Indiana: Indiana offers certification in the field of English as a New Language. The standards are general and require educators to recognize the crucial role the student’s primary culture plays in his or her adaptation to the United States. Demonstration of standard proficiency occurs when the teacher (a) respects and promotes appreciation of culture, (b) is aware of cultural influences, and (c) promotes acceptance and understanding of the student’s culture in the school environment. This general requirement is demonstrated by the teacher’s ability to include all students in the school curriculum.
Massachusetts: In order to receive a Specialist in Transitional Bilingual Education certification, Massachusetts teachers are required to demonstrate (a) knowledge of cultures and histories associated with languages other than English, and (b) the legal and scientific bases for bilingual education. Although no specific coursework is mandated, educators must gain these requirements through their teacher preparation program(s).
Minnesota: The State Board of Education in Minnesota had adopted 15 rules for Teachers of Bilingual/Bicultural Education to demonstrate how cultural influences affect school performance (see Table 2). No specific prerequisite college coursework is required to demonstrate proficiency in these areas.
New Jersey: New Jersey City University’s College of Education offers a major in Multicultural Studies in the Department of Multicultural Education. This program emphasizes and conducts research on language teaching and learning in multi-cultural contexts. Coursework (see Table 3) has a heavy emphasis in language development for ESL. Students can receive New Jersey teacher certification in Bilingual Education or Teaching ESL.
New York: Teachers College at Columbia University offers two programs and concentrations leading to a Master’s degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Education or Peace Education and Conflict Resolution. The goals of both programs are rather broad. For example, Bilingual/Bicultural specialization enables students to develop the understanding necessary to educate language minorities throughout the world. It focuses on individual and societal bi/multiculturalism as well as the influence of culture and linguistic diversity in the design of educational systems and classroom instruction. In addition, a Certificate of Attendance in Multicultural Education and a Certificate of Attendance in Peace Education are offered to students in any program of the College.
North Dakota: Teachers in North Dakota have the option of receiving a certificate in Multicultural Education and Native American Studies or adding an endorsement in ESL/Bilingual Education. There is no specific required coursework that is needed in order to meet the requirement of four credit hours of multicultural education. These hours can be completed by choosing one of several courses that are designed to meet the requirement. Coursework for the ESL/Bilingual Education endorsement requires eight additional hours of coursework in (a) multicultural education (4), (b) teaching ESL students (2), and (c) teaching bilingual education (2).
Rhode Island: Rhode Island’s Brown University offers a Master of Arts degree in Bilingual Education and Cross-Cultural Studies or ESL and Cross-Cultural Studies through the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. This program does not provide candidates with elementary and secondary teaching certification, but coursework does satisfy Rhode Island’s Bilingual and ESL state endorsement requirements.
Vermont: To receive an endorsement in Bilingual Education in Vermont, educators at all levels must meet four general qualifications which center on the educator’s ability to develop and maintain cultural diversity among all students. Specific qualifications are (a) knowledge of cultural diversity, including the history of culture of students, (b) ability to develop student’s awareness of and appreciation for cultural diversity, (c) assist students in maintaining and extending identity in culture, including history of culture in United States, and (d) ability to identify cultural biases in the curriculum. These requirements are met through completing university-based courses in an accredited department of education.
University Programs that Promote Teaching within and across Cultures But No Certification or Endorsement
Kansas: Educators in Kansas who receive a General Education Certification are required to demonstrate understanding of world cultures as it applies to the education of students. No specific objectives are outlined for demonstrating this standard.
Delaware: At the University of Delaware and Delaware State University the course Multicultural Education is in the core curriculum for all students at the undergraduate and graduate levels but no degree in Multicultural Education is offered.
Illinois: At National-Louis University, Capella-Santana (2003) investigated the changes in teacher candidates’ multicultural attitudes and knowledge while attending a teacher preparation program. After completion of three internships in culturally and ethnically diverse urban public elementary schools, students completed five to six courses related to diversity (i.e., two foundations courses, one special education course, one multicultural education course, four teaching methods courses, and courses in bilingual education for nine of the students).
Students then completed a survey related to and were interviewed regarding attitudes and knowledge of multicultural issues. Students completed these assessment measures at four different time periods. Results indicated that students showed positive increases in regards to bilingual education, building minority self-esteem, culturally related behaviors, and assimilation. Positive decreases were reported in regards to stereotypes. Conclusions indicated that a well-designed multicultural education course can positively change attitudes and knowledge of preservice teachers as they related to teaching students from diverse backgrounds.
North Carolina: Building on the growing emphasis of technology in preservice preparation programs, Gabbard, L’Esperance, Perez, & Atkinson (2002) used Blackboard technology to promote multicultural awareness of teachers in an accelerated certification process in North Carolina. Breaking students into small groups and allowing them to investigate their own cultural identity through on-line discussion groups and one large group presentation increased accelerated certification teachers to positively change attitudes towards multicultural education as well as increased engagement with subject material.
Gabbard et al. conclude that future research should be conducted on this program, but so far it appears to benefit students as much as, if not more than, more traditional face-to-face multicultural education courses. The on-line course also allowed for more hands-on experiences in the educational settings and with real children, rather than talking about multicultural education in a theoretical manner.
These four teacher preparation programs are extending the research on preservice teacher programs, and have contributed positively to teacher attitudes towards diversity. One drawback of all four preparation programs is the lack of follow-up data or data on actual implementation of ideas presented during the programs. Future research should investigate the effectiveness of teacher preparation on the actual teaching styles and methods implemented in public schools.
Virginia: Virginia State University students can receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a non-teaching concentration. This program has been developed in accordance with the University’s initial mission for enhancing the understanding and appreciation of the African American presence in the evolution of American social and educational institutions. The B.S. degree requires successful completion of an eclectic multi-cultural arts and sciences curriculum.
Our review of State requirements for cross cultural certification supports the fact that multicultural education has become a significant part of teacher preparation across America. Universities are increasingly aware of the liberatory potentials of cross-cultural teaching. Teachers can complete a variety of coursework or program options aimed at developing culturally sensitive educators who are effective in educating students from minority backgrounds. Depending upon the state from which a teacher is employed and/or received preservice education, the qualifications, and coursework needed to work with these populations can differ greatly.
In order to address documented achievement gaps between African-American and White male students, the Georgia Board of Regents started the African-American Male Initiative in late 2002. This Initiative researched the current state of affairs and recommended the creation of the Cross Cultural Teaching Consortium. The Consortium was charged with researching current certification and endorsements across the United States that were related to teaching and learning within and across cultures (i.e., multicultural education, cross-cultural education), as well as discern the current state of affairs in Georgia’s teacher education programs in the University System of Georgia (USG).
As mentioned previously, the present study was undertaken to assess the perception of the college of education deans in the publicly-funded teacher preparation programs in Georgia on the effectiveness of preparing culturally-sensitive teachers, as well as to compare their answers about what was actually occurring at the university level.
The Deans of all 15 colleges and universities that have teacher education programs and that are a part of the USG were sent a survey to query each university’s quality of providing preservice teachers experiences in cross-cultural teaching. A follow-up phone call was provided to ensure receipt of the survey and to serve as a reminder of the return deadline. Thirteen of the universities responded for an 87% response rate. In many of the institutions, a dean forwarded the survey to faculty, who completed the form and returned it via email.
The Multicultural Education Survey was developed to meet the requirements of the Board of Regents’ charge for current practices in Georgia. The survey was divided into four sections: (a) current course offerings on race, class, and gender; (b) courses about other cultures; (c) integrated curriculum; and (d) progress.
As a part of the survey, recipients were directed to attach or send the following: a copy of a syllabus that illustrated the first course in the sequence for race, class, and gender; and a syllabus for a course that taught teachers about other cultures. Many of the syllabi were sent by U. S. mail. Other respondents referred the investigators to the unit’s website. Institutions were also requested to send a copy of the unit’s assessment rubric for knowledge, skills, and dispositions teachers need to teach children who come from cultures others than their own.
Each responding institution was coded for the following five responses: (a) offering of courses related to race, class, and gender; (b) offering of coursework to acquaint teachers with other cultures; (c) integrating these areas throughout the preservice program; (d) requiring the course; and (e) self-rating of program effectiveness for preparing teachers to serve children from various cultures. Table 4 presents the response codes for each variable under consideration.
Means and standard deviations for all 13 responding institutions on course requirements and overall self-rating are provided in Table 5. Required coursework relating to race, class, and gender, as well as other cultures and integration of topics is minimal. Self-rating of effectiveness is average.
Current Offerings on Race, Class, and Gender
Of the 13 institutions that responded, only nine (69%) of them offered a separate course on race, class, and gender. For the most part, the course was taught in departments of Arts and Sciences, and it was not a core or required course. Only 54% of the institutions offer a separate course in cross-cultural education, primarily taught in the Departments of Education, Social Sciences, and Sociology. Surprisingly, the results for Departments of Education did not vary much from other departments. Education departments offered only 57% of these courses.
Courses about Other Cultures
Responses to the question “Does your institution offer a separate course that acquaints students with other cultures?” indicate that the majority of units (69%) do provide a separate elective course that was offered by Colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences alike. The primary audience for this course is sophomores (31%) and juniors (46%). Examples of syllabi included such titles as Multicultural Education; The Learner and The Learning Process in a Multicultural Context; and Human Development in Learning. One institution indicated that while it did not offer a single course that acquaints students with other cultures, all students at the unit are required to choose from a list of courses that develop “global perspectives.”
With respect to whether the institution integrated concepts about multicultural education into all teacher education courses, nine institutions (69%) responded positively, while an unexpected high percentage of institutions (25%) indicated that they did not use the integrated curriculum model.
Eleven units (85%) indicated that they identified the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions teachers need to teach children who come from cultures other than their own. However, when asked if the institution assessed these characteristics, only seven (54%) responded affirmatively. Two institutions (15%) reported that they did not assess and four (31%) did not even respond to the question. There seemed to be a variety of ways these characteristics were evaluated from portfolio assessment rubrics, to practica and clinical experiences. No assessment rubrics were forwarded in response to the request.
In self reports of how confident the institution felt it was doing to prepare teachers for working with students from other cultures, only 77% rated themselves as doing an “excellent” or “good” job, while 23% assessed themselves as “average” in this area. There seemed to emerge a trend in responses to the request to list two specific features that make their institution excel in preparing teachers to work with children of other cultures. All responses mentioned continuous field placements in culturally diverse schools along with assessment of lesson plans and teaching units.
The Pearson correlations between an institution’s requirement for students to take a course related to race, class, and gender and self-rating of teacher preparedness is moderate (r=.426), however it was not significant (see Table 6).
There was a weak correlation (r=.273) between whether an institution requires preserve educators to enroll in a course that acquaints them with cultures different from their own and the institution effectiveness rating, however this relationship was also not significant (see Table 6). There was a strong correlation (r=.723, p
Perhaps the most substantive answers were given to the final question “What in your estimation does a teacher education program need to do to graduate teachers who are excellent at teaching students of cultures other than their own?” These responses provide direction for what may be needed to improve the delivery of courses in this area.
To develop meaningful education reform within the institutions of higher education, the process and survey described allowed us to gain academic buy-in from the Deans throughout the university system. The Deans within the USG that reported integrating multicultural education perceived their institutions as effective in preparing teachers to meet the needs of students from different cultural backgrounds.
Although these Deans reported an average ability to prepare teachers to work with students from various cultures, only eight universities actually offered a separate course on race, class, and gender, with only three of them requiring this course to be taken for preservice teachers. A specific course acquainting educators with different cultures was offered to teachers in nine of 13 responding universities. Yet, only three universities mandate this requirement as part of a preservice educator’s program. When courses are offered, universities overwhelmingly aim these at sophomores and junior undergraduate students; which is usually 1-2 years prior to any field experiences preservice teachers will undergo.
Over half of the universities (69%) report that they integrate multicultural education throughout all courses offered to preservice teachers. Even with the limited multicultural rigor in most programs, 77% of the respondent universities self-report a “good” or “excellent” job at preparing their teachers to work with students from cultures different than their own. Despite some of these results, the strong correlation (r=.723, p
When courses related to culture and race are offered, they tend to be provided outside of the Departments of Education and are not required for graduation, although certification regulations stipulate that teachers display competence in working with students from cultures different from their own (Georgia Professional Standards Commission, 2000). These data from Georgia fall in line with data from others states as well (Evans et al., 1997; Miller et al., 2000).
This inquiry has produced key issues and problems that needed immediate attention, solution, and actions. In addition, the interview of the Deans enabled the committee to use their views of programs as a means to similarly view the need for academic reform. This process was conducive to allow us to collaborate with the Deans in understanding the need for educational reform and developed a conducive environment establishing meaningful multicultural education at the preservice level.
The review of the requirements for the preparation of culturally responsive teachers across the country as well as the more in-depth investigation of the state of affairs with multiculturalism in the USG was undertaken to discover possible solutions to the existing academic gaps among some majority/minority students and to the lack of expertise how to deal with cultural diversity in the classrooms among teachers.
The committee used the survey of national trends and feedback from the Deans as a basis for developing recommendations and a plan of action which was proposed to the Georgia Board of Regents, Georgia Department of Education, and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. As a result, in 2005 the State educational authorities accepted the recommendations to reform the prservice education of teachers to teaching and learning within and across cultures in the institutions of higher learning across the state.
The curriculum in preservice teacher education became the first and major target of the plan and the renewal started with the reform of its mandatory Area F component. Once course approval was obtained, the State created committees which worked on developing the content so that the universities throughout the USG could start offering them in fall 2007.
In the United States, state requirements for teacher education certification and endorsements have been limited in the area of teaching within and across cultures in order to serve the diverse needs of students in the public school system. Miller et al. (2000) report the inconsistencies between states make it difficult, if not impossible, to formulate a comparison of requirements due in part to the difficulty in getting the requirements from State Departments of Education. They conclude that research in this area needs further investigation, as well as research on the consistency of implementation regarding these regulations.
Alaska, California, and North Dakota should be considered as models for other states, since they have proactively developed specific measurable requirements for all teachers seeking certification. The research to date has focused on specific teacher preparation programs within colleges of education, which demonstrates positive pre-post changes (Capella-Santana, 2003; Gabbard et al., 2002; Middleton, 2002; Noordhoff & Kleinfeld, 1993; Stokes, 1999). Even with these positive findings for preparatory programs, little long-term follow-up and teacher implementation of these programs has been conducted.
Thus, the results of our online investigation and university survey proved to be an effective means for reforming teaching and learning within and across cultures in preservice teacher preparation. It also successfully met the challenges of the growing cultural diversity of student populations in Georgia and introduced future teachers to the best instructional practices and ideas.
It is a hope and a strong belief of the researchers that further steps based on constructivist ideas are needed, which include establishment of an Cross Cultural Institute as (a) a resource and research center for teachers and faculty, (b) a strategic planning, renewal of professional development, construction of culturally sensitive guidelines and evaluation, and (c) alignment of teaching and learning within and across cultures with the recently adopted Georgia Performance Standards for school curriculum.
Results of this study should not be generalized to other state-wide systems for preparing preservice educators for teaching within and across cultures. Although the results do provide a framework for future research endeavors, the small number of respondents makes generalizations unwise. These results also come from a Southern state-wide university system that has a limited number of colleges and universities offering teacher education programs under its jurisdiction. These limited sites allow for more inter-connection between programs that might not be available in larger university systems (i.e., California or New York university systems).
Another limitation is that the online review of certifications requirements and multicultural education programs only included those that were on the internet during the summer of 2004. As a result, there may be other programs that involve cross-cultural teaching, multicultural education, and diversity that were not included in this research, and the state requirements and programs reviewed may have changed in the years since.
Implications and Suggestions for Future Reform Efforts for Multicultural Education
Using national trends in multicultural education provided data that were important for developing recommendations in an effort to produce meaning reform in one state’s university system. These trends allowed the committee to determine what aspects of multicultural education produced meaningful outcomes for students, and enabled us to incorporate evidence-based practices into the recommendations for continued accountability of the coursework.
Educational reform needs to be a collaborative effort from all of the stakeholders involved in order to become meaningful and implemented successfully. Results from the Deans’ survey produced buy-in from the academic leadership across the state at the beginning of the development process and allowed the reform recommendations to be implemented within the whole university system. This initial buy-in has created quick implementation of the reform efforts, which could have taken years to gain without the participation of the academic Deans.
Another component of successful reform efforts was due to the formation of a committee that represented the state university system. Having both large and small universities involved in the process created an environment that allowed all stakeholders to have meaningful input into the reform efforts. This representation allowed the committee to have input from all regions of the State regardless of regional differences that are evident in a large university system.
The most important aspect of this process is that preservice educators now will receive a stand-alone course which focuses on multicultural education. This course will provide meanginful experiences for students as a means to develop successful competency for teaching within and across cultures. This stand-alone course will enable faculty at the university level to provide experiences to increase competence in all preservice teachers without taking away from courses on and accountability in content areas.
This study found a significant correlation between infusion of cross-cultural teaching within university coursework and the university’s self-rating of effective teacher preparation for working with diverse students. This finding would suggest sufficient preparation for teachers working with students from various cultures in our public schools.
This study also supports previous research efforts demonstrating that teachers’ lack of cultural awareness leads to reduced academic achievement by minority students (Hudson et al., 2003; Serwatka, Deering, & Grants, 1995; Thompson et al., 2004). Clearly, universities must provide additional training and educational support to meet the needs of preservice teachers. Without coursework designed to increase preserve teacher’s cultural awareness within a high stakes testing environment, these academic gaps will continue. To support both students and teachers, specific stand-alone coursework should be developed to meet the ever changing demographics of today’s schools.
We believe that future research should focus on educator perceptions of how their coursework prepared them to work with students from diverse cultural backgrounds. This data would allow university administrators to revise coursework in order to meet the state-, regional-, and district-level needs of teachers and students. Changing demographics indicate that minority populations are expanding at rates greater than expected (Brown, 2004; Wainer, 2004).
Analysis on the most effective instructional techniques to provide preservice teachers the hands-on experiences necessary to make the theoretical background meaningful is also needed. Future research should extend previous rehabilitation training research (Greene, Willis, Levey, & Bailey, 1978; Iwata, Bailey, Brown, Foshee, & Alpern, 1976; Montegar, Reid, Madsen, & Ewell, 1977; Reid & Whitman, 1983) by comparing didactic training to simultaneous didactic and field experiences. With an emphasis on teacher self-report on preparedness and effectiveness, this reform in multicultural education can assist with developing coursework to meet the needs of diverse students while still maintaining current emphasis on academic achievement (IDEA, 2004; NCLB, 2001)
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Michael J. Morrier is a doctoral studentand Miles A. Irving is an assistant professor,both with the Department of Eductional Psychology and Special Education at Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia;Evelyn Dandy is a professorin the Department of Early Childhood Educationat Armstrong Atlantic State University,Savannah, Georgia;Grigory Dmitriyev is a professorin the Department of Curriculum, Foundations,and Reading at Georgia Southern University,Statesboro, Georgia;and Ikechukwu C. Ukeje is a professorin the Department of Elementaryand Early Childhood Educationat Kennesaw State University,Kennesaw, Georgia.
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