increasing preservice teachers' support of multicultural education

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Southern Queensland]On: 04 October 2014, At: 02:35Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Multicultural PerspectivesPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:

    Increasing Preservice Teachers' Support of MulticulturalEducationPamela M. Owen aa Mount Vernon Nazarene University ,Published online: 18 Mar 2010.

    To cite this article: Pamela M. Owen (2010) Increasing Preservice Teachers' Support of Multicultural Education, MulticulturalPerspectives, 12:1, 18-25, DOI: 10.1080/15210961003641310

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  • Multicultural Perspectives, 12(1), 1825Copyright C 2010 by the National Association for Multicultural EducationISSN: 1521-0960 print / 1532-7892DOI: 10.1080/15210961003641310

    Increasing Preservice Teachers Support of Multicultural Education

    Pamela M. OwenMount Vernon Nazarene University

    The purpose of this mixed-methods study wasto build candidate knowledge utilizing Katz andChards Project Approach (1989) promoting move-ment across Nietos (2000) levels of support formulticultural education. Three major preliminarysteps advancing multicultural sensitivity and teach-ing practice were identified as foundational forthe future development of pre-service teachersmulticultural understandings.


    This study examined the influence of the Project Ap-proach (Katz & Chard, 1989) on candidates developmentof knowledge, skills, and dispositions toward teachingmulticultural education. The purpose of the study was tobuild candidate knowledge about diversity, and stimulateadvancement across Nietos levels of support for mul-ticultural education (2000), thus laying the foundationfor future development of a strong multicultural teachingskill set.

    Social equity, justice, and democracy for all studentsare goals that are often overlooked, minimized, orresisted. It is essential for educators in teacher educationprograms to acknowledge, and respond to, the barriersfrustrating the move toward teaching for a pluralisticsociety in our global world.

    The Problem of InexperienceListening toTeacher Candidates

    While teaching European American sophomores(herein referred to as candidates) at a small Midwesternuniversity, I found the teacher candidates to be inex-perienced in their understanding of what it means tovalue diversity and teach for equity. Some had little or

    Correspondence should be sent to Pamela M. Owen, Mount VernonNazarene University, 800 Martinsburg Road, Mount Vernon, OH 43050.E-mail:

    no understanding of their need to see the world fromanother perspective. For example, when we discussedWhite privilege (McIntosh, 1988) many did not believeit currently existed; or they took a defensive positionexplaining why it existed. Of those who did believe it,most thought they had no power to change the situation,or believed egalitarianism was not their responsibility.The clear challenge was to confront their erroneous stanceand provoke a respectful response toward diversity.

    Candidates in this study conveyed strong, preconceivedideas and were often unaware of their biases. Declarationswere made stating they were unbiased; neverthelessthey verbalized cliches and made stereotypical ordiscriminatory comments. These comments occurredbefore completing the project work.

    The Problem Defining MulticulturalEducation

    These candidates defined multicultural educationalmost exclusively with a focus on cultures other thantheir own, revealing failure to perceive that they too hada culture. Candidates believed effective multiculturaleducation was teaching about other countries andcelebrating a variety of holidays. They defined fairnessand equity as treating all children the same; to some,being colorblind was valuing diversity.

    Derman-Sparks (1989) identified the dangers ofaccepting such definitions of multicultural education.When using only superficial features such as holidays,food, and clothing to discover the value of variouscultures, one risks defaulting to what Derman-Sparkscalled tourism curriculum.

    Tourist curriculum is both patronizing, emphasizingthe exotic differences between cultures, and trivializing,dealing not with the real-life daily problems andexperiences of different peoples, but with surface aspectsof their celebrations and modes of entertainment. Childrenvisit non-White cultures and then go home to thedaily classroom, which reflects only the dominant culture(Derman-Sparks, 1989, p.7)

    The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education





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  • Other researchers (Bennett, 2001; Nieto, 2000) alsorejected similar definitions of multicultural education.Multicultural education goes beyond tourism to challengeand reject all forms of discrimination. Learning aboutculture should daily permeate the curriculum in thenatural context of the school community. Multiculturaleducation is a life-style which promotes an inclusivecitizenship in a changing America (Banks, 2007).Byrnes (2005) supports the infusion of multiculturaleducation throughout the daily curriculum. No matterhow homogeneous or assimilated ones students are,a teacher has a responsibility to teach children aboutthe perspectives of minority ethnic and racial groups aswell as the dominant group (p.10). It could be arguedthat the more homogenous a group, the more they needmulticultural education.

    Candidates in this study needed to not only enrichtheir definition of multicultural education, they neededto develop skill sets enabling them to meet profes-sional teaching standards. Many organizations outlineexpectations for multicultural teaching through specificstandards. The National Council for the Accreditation ofTeacher Education is one such organization. Embedded inall five standards established by the National Associationfor the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) areexpectations for knowing, understanding, and supportingdiversity (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997).

    Candidates were expected to begin meeting theseprofessional education standards and teaching in diversesettings as early as their junior year. They would notmeet expectations if they maintained their preconceivedattitudes. The development of living a life-style thatnaturally infused the goals of multicultural educationinto the classroom culture was critical for their teachingsuccess, and the success of their future students.

    The Need for Curriculum Transformation ina Stand-Alone Course

    It was assumed the Project Approach would be assuccessful with university students as it is with the youngchildren for whom it was designed. Candidates wouldbegin their investigation at individual developmental lev-els, building on prior knowledge. Candidates would learnabout aspects of multicultural education that interestedthem thus promoting ownership of the study. Throughthis ownership they would potentially discover the flawsin their thinking while deepening their understanding.Respect for other cultures would increase, and candidateswould undergo a positive perceptual change.

    The expectation was that candidates progress towardthe practice of teaching well would be more effectiveif it occurred through self-discovery instead of directinstruction. Teaching well . . . means making sure

    that students achieve, develop a positive sense ofthemselves, and develop a commitment to larger socialand community concerns (Ladson-Billings, 2001, p.16).Previously, lectures and discussions had not generatedperceptible movement toward teaching well. A differentteaching approach was needed. I decided on the ProjectApproach (Katz & Chard, 1989).

    Theoretical Framework

    The Project Approach (Katz & Chard, 1989) is studentresearch grounded in constructivist theory (Henniger,2009) enabling teachers to lead students through in-depthstudies of authentic and mea