20 SES 07, Culture and Diversity for Pre-Service Teachers, Researching Learning Transitions in Challenging Settings and Retaining New Teachers
This study examined: a) how teaching diversity using an inter-cultural experience effects pre-service teacher’s understandings of diversity, b) how working in multi-cultural groups can create positive relationships and outcomes, c) how the role of online intercultural exchange (OIE) facilitates social comfort prior to meeting face-to-face, d) the effects of modeling the use of technology (OIE) to join cultures, and e) how pre-service teacher’s understanding of diversity can be affected by researching diversity (the project topic) with multicultural group members.
Fostering the development of cultural sensitivity among pre-service teachers has become increasingly important and continues to be a central concern as classroom demographics become less homogenous (e.g., Berg, 2011; European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2011, as cited in Florian 2012, Holzbrecher, 2013). However, the best methods to prepare pre-service teachers for culturally diverse classrooms remain grossly unclear, which is disturbing given that the research indicates that U.S. teachers continue to feel unprepared to work in diverse classrooms (Walker, Shafer, & Liams, 2004). Although international settings have been proposed as valuable training environments for pre-service teachers to raise awareness and develop cultural sensitivity (Trilokekar & Kukar, 2011), the cost and time to travel is prohibitive for many teacher candidates. U.S. pre-service teachers rarely choose to study abroad, which severely limits their ability to experience diverse populations and different educational and cultural perspectives. Pre-service teacher programs must seriously consider how to provide quality opportunities to experience culturally diverse populations in order to develop feelings of comfort when ultimately encountering culturally diverse classrooms.
Traditional ways of representing cultures in classrooms have been criticized for perpetuating essentialist, homogeneous and static images of cultural groups and thus reinforcing stereotypes rather than challenging them (e.g. Berg, 2011; Crawford & McLaren, 2003; Kumaravadivelu, 2008). In times of growing cultural globalization and transcultural flows, teacher candidates, therefore, must be encouraged to examine and reflect on their own thoughts regarding cultural diversity. The transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 1978) articulates a process of change to an individual’s frame of reference through critical reflection on assumptions and beliefs, which facilitates a more thorough understanding of our world.
The benefits of online intercultural exchange (OIE) are well documented in the research literature (e.g. Guth & Helm, 2010; O’Dowd, 2007) and supported by policy papers (e.g., European Commission, 2012). Technology-based teaching and learning is valuable in the development of intercultural communicative competencies as they may be less threatening by creating an environment in which cultural identities can be negotiated more freely than in face-to-face intercultural communication (cf. Dooly & O’Dowd, 2012). In line with the U.S. government’s recommendation for the use of technology in education (National Education Technology Plan, 2010) and teacher education programs, the research literature supports an experience-based approach to teacher education for OIE (Fuchs & Snyder, 2013).
This study examined the effects of OIE on pre-service teacher’s understandings of culture and diversity before meeting face to face with their culturally diverse counterparts. The study also examined the value of OIE in the collaborative process involving culturally diverse teams, and the pre-service teachers feelings of comfort as a result of utilizing the OIE method of communication. In addition, the study investigated the effects of embedding a project topic (Diversity in Education) as a cross-cultural activity by joining two culturally diverse classrooms.
Berg, W (2011). Diversity in German Classrooms. In J. A. Spinthourakis, J. Lalor, W. Berg (Eds.). Cultural Diversity in the Classroom: A European Comparison (pp. 9-27). Wiesbaden: Springer. Crawford, L. M. & McLaren, P. (2003). A Critical Perspective on Culture in the Second Language Classroom. In: D. L. Lange and R. M. Paige (Eds.) Culture as the Core (pp. 127-157). Greenwich, Connecticut: Information Age Publishing. Dooly, M. & O’Dowd, R. (2012). Researching online foreign language interaction and exchange: Introduction to the volume. In Dooly, M. & R. O’Dowd, (Eds.) Researching Online Foreign Language Interaction and Exchange. Theories, Methods and Challenges (pp. 11-41). Bern et al.: Peter Lang. European Commission (2012). Language competences for employability, mobility and growth. Strasbourg: European Commission, (Strasbourg), http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52012SC0372&rid=1, (last accessed 07/22/14). Florian, L. (2012). Preparing Teachers to Work in Inclusive Classrooms: Key Lessons for the Professional Development of Teacher Educators from Scotland’s Inclusive Practice Project. Journal of Teacher Education 63(4), 275–285. Fuchs, C. & Snyder, B. (2013). It’s not just the tool: Pedagogy for promoting collaboration and community in social networking in CMC. In M. N. Lamy & K. Zourou (Eds.), Social Networking for Language Education (pp. 117-134). Basingstoke: Macmillan. Guth, S. and Helm, F. (Eds.) (2010). Telecollaboration 2.0. Language, Literacies and Intercultural Learning in the 21st Century. Bern et al.: Peter Lang. Helm, F. & Guth, S. (2010). The Multifarious Goals of Telecollaboration 2.0: Theoretical and Practical Implications. In S. Guth and F. Helm (Eds.), Telecollaboration 2.0. Language, Literacies and Intercultural Learning in the 21st Century (pp. 69-106). Bern et al.: Peter Lang. Holzbrecher, A. (Ed.) (2013). Interkulturelle Schule: eine Entwicklungsaufgabe. Schwalbach/Ts.: Debus. Kumaravadivelu, B. (2008). Cultural Globalization and Language Education. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Mezirow, J. (1978). Perspective transformation. Adult Education, 28, 100-110. O’Dowd, R. (Ed.) (2007). Online Intercultural Exchange. An Introduction for Foreign Language Teachers. Clevedon et al.: Multilingual Matters. Risager, K. (2007). Language and Culture Pedagogy: from a National to a Transnational Paradigm. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Trilokekar, R. D. & Kukar, P. (2011). Disorienting experiences during study abroad: Reflections of pre-service teacher candidates. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 1141-1150. U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (2010). Transforming American education learning powered by technology http://www.ed.gov/sites/default /files/NETP-2010-final-report.pdf Walker, A., Shafer, J., & Iiams, M. (2004). “Not in my classroom”: Teacher attitudes towards English language learners in the mainstream classroom. NABE Journal of Research and Practice, 2(1), 130-160.
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