07 SES 07 B, Culturally Diverse Teachers and their Resources in Dealing with Cultural Diversity: Complex Findings from Iceland, Germany and Switzerland
In many European countries it is being observed that the student population becomes increasingly diverse in terms of national origins, ethnic (multiple) belongings and cultural frames of reference. At the same time, the teacher population remains astonishingly majority oriented and monocultural. Teachers are observed to be mainly from the dominant national or ethnic majority of the region in which they work (Santoro, 2013). This observation has led different educational actors across Europe to call for a more diversified teacher population. Such calls have been made referring to (at least) two points:
Firstly, it is being pointed out, that the underrepresentation of minority teachers may mirror discriminatory experiences in the educational systems in general and in the access to the teaching profession in particular. In Switzerland, for instance, this assumption has led to recommendations for an “intercultural opening” of educational institutions (Cohep, 2007).
Secondly, minority teachers are being described as having specific competences in dealing with cultural diversity. It is being assumed that they are “well placed to act as role models for minority students, will understand students’ cultural practices and beliefs and how they shape them as learners, and will contribute diverse cultural perspectives to school curricula” (Santoro, 2013).
However, many of these recommendations and political calls are made on the basis of assumptions. Empirical insight is needed in order to have a more profound and complex understanding of the competences of minority teachers as well as the hindrances and opportunities they face in their professional career.
A large range of findings – predominantly from the US and Canada – has shown a pedagogical potential of minority teachers in dealing with cultural diversity in terms of an engagement for social justice and for the learning achievements of minority students while also experiencing discrimination in their access to the teaching profession and the acknowledgment of competences (Mantel & Leutwyler, 2013; Strasser & Steber, 2010).
These findings relate to particular national and historical contexts and their transferability into other country contexts is limited. Yet, the comparative perspectives on these context related findings are highly interesting by allowing the findings to be reflected upon.
Therefore, this proposed symposium shall contribute to a reflected understanding of minority teachers and teachers with an immigrant background within the three European countries of Iceland, Germany and Switzerland. The presented studies all pursue qualitative approaches and focus on the minority teachers’ own perspectives:
The study from Iceland focuses on teachers of foreign international backgrounds and their resources in crafting their professional identity. The study from Germany investigates the routines and activities of minority teachers within their classrooms. And the study from Switzerland examines the life stories of teachers with an immigrant background and shows their experiences of difference and belonging.
Cohep (2007). Empfehlungen zur Interkulturellen Pädagogik an den Institutionen der Lehrerinnen- und Lehrerbildung. Bern: COHEP. [Recommendations for Intercultural Education in the Institutions for Teacher Education] Mantel, C. & Leutwyler, B. (2013). Lehrpersonen mit Migrationshintergrund: eine kritische Synthese der Literatur. Beiträge zur Lehrerbildung, 31(2), 234-247. [Teachers with an Immigrant Background: a Critical Synthesis of the Literature] Santoro, N. (2013). The drive to diversify the teaching profession: narrow assumptions, hidden complexities. Race Ethnicity and Education, 1-19. Strasser, J. & Steber, C. (2010). Lehrerinnen und Lehrer mit Migrationshintergrund. Eine empirische Reflexion einer bildungspolitischen Forderung. In J. Hagedorn & L. Herwartz-Emden (Hrsg.), Ethnizität, Geschlecht, Familie und Schule. Heterogenität als erziehungswissenschaftliche Herausforderung (S. 97-126). Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. [Teachers with an Immigrant Background. An Empirical Reflection of an Educational Political Call]
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