ERG SES G 04, Communities and Education
Preservice Teachers' Perspectives About Student Diversity in the Classoroms
Research aim, question and theoretical framework
Process of globalization and increased mobility of people within and across nation-states have led to societies that are more diverse today (Banks, 2012). The changing demographic of societies has resulted in diverse learner groups in schools (Florian, & Pantić, 2017). Diversity is a pressing issue that presents both challenges and opportunities in education. Darling-Hammond (2011) has stated that, “dealing with diversity is one of the central challenges of twenty-first-century education” (p.ix). In addition, the diversification of student population in schools has challenged teachers’ educational practices and placed additional demands upon teachers requiring them, “to facilitate the learning and participation of all pupils” (Humphrey et al., 2006, p.305).
Like other European countries, Norway has continued to develop as a diverse nation with significantly increasing levels of immigrants lately. The changing demographic of Norwegian society has altered composition of student population in schools with increased heterogeneity among students (Kulbrandstad, 2018; Rosnes, & Rossland, 2018; Krulatz, Steen-Olsen, & Torgersen, 2018). Such changes have moved issues related to education and diversity, “from the periphery to the centre of educational research” (Engen et al., 2018, p.3) and, “the need to address issues of diversity in education has become more important than ever” (Burner, Nodeland, & Aamass, 2018, p.3).
Against this backdrop, there is a growing need for understanding and theorizing notion of diversity as important part of education of prospective teachers (Ball, & Tyson, 2011) in order to equip them for their work in diverse classrooms. It is therefore important to study about how preservice teachers understand and frame notion of diversity and to what extent the initial teacher education contributes to prepare these teachers for their work with diverse student groups in the classrooms.
The present study aims to explore Norwegian preservice teachers’ perspectives about diversity in relation to their preparedness for working in diverse classroom settings. To achieve the aim of exploring what and how the preservice teachers talk when framing notion of diversity, the following research question was posed: how do the preservice teachers talk about student diversity?
To specify concept of diversity in this study, Paine’s (1990) framework for diversity is used. Paine has differentiated between individual, categorical, contextual, and pedagogical orientations towards diversity, which is employed in the analysis. This is further related to the situation of prospective teachers, by drawing on Ball and Tyson (2011) who have emphasized that prospective teachers should be, “prepared with the attitudes, skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to become excellent teachers for students from racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds that differ from their own” (p.414). In order to achieve this, teacher preparation programmes need to foster diversity related dispositions of prospective teachers so that they can address both needs and challenges associated with diversity, which is not easy.
Darling-Hammond (2011) has stated that, “it is impossible to prepare tomorrow’s teachers to succeed with allof students they will meet without exploring how both students’ and teachers’ learning experiences are influenced by their home languages, cultures, and contexts”(p.ix). In line with darling-Hammond Gay (2010) states that teaching becomes most effective when students’ prior experiences, their community settings, cultural and other backgrounds including ethnic identities of teachers and learners are included in its implementation.
The findings will be discussed in light of the theoretical concepts presented above along with Paine’s framework towards diversity.
Methodology Design, participant and field work context The study followed a qualitative phenomenological approach. The participants included in the study were the preservice teachers attending a four year initial teacher education programme for primary and lower secondary schools in Norway. There were total eight participants included in the study-four in the third year and four in the final year of their initial teacher education. In the Initial Teacher Education programme, the course on Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge (PEL) is spread over the first three years, altogether 60 ECTS. One of the aims of PEL course in the second year is to address issues related to student diversity in relation to preparing preservice teachers for their work in diverse classroom settings. The empirical field work was completed in two public schools (Primary and Lower secondary) located in Western region of Norway. The primary school was near the local city centre whereas the lower secondary school was few kilometers away from city center. Both schools had relatively higher number of non-native Norwegian backgrounds students, which included language, culture, religion, ethnicity and other social and developmental differences. Data construction and analysis The empirical data were constructed through focus group interviews with two groups (Four participants in each group) of the preservice teachers at the end of a two weeks practice period. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data analysis strategy followed thematic analysis approach outlined by Braun and Clarke (2006). The analysis process identified four themes initially. Having reviewed initial four themes based on their internal homogenity and external heterogeneity in relation to the research question, the following three themes were identified as finals. (1) “Everyone is different” (2) “There must be a space for all” (3) “Practice should be a larger part of teacher education”. Ethical considerations Ethical issues related to qualitative research (Brinkmann, & Kvale, 2015) have been taken into consideration throughout the entire research process, which included ensuring anonymity of participants, guaranteeing participation as a voluntary choice, seeking consent, and obtaining authority’s approval.
Expected outcomes The analysis of the focus group interviews yielded three main themes as the findings in relation to the research question. (1) Dilemma of treating as ‘equals’ or ‘different’ (2) There is diversity but we do not notice it (3) Tension between ‘ theory’ and ‘practice’. Talking about diversity, the preservice teachers live by their uncertainty of whether to treat every student as ‘equals/same’ or ‘different’. The preservice teachers seem aware of student difference but reluctant to act upon it explicitly. Similalry, the second finding suggests that the preservice teachers see the student diversity through colour-blindness. Meaning that they know students are different but they said they did not take notice of it. Contrary to Paine’s (1990) four orientations towards diversity, preservice teachers’ dilemma seem to lead othering the student difference. This view to diversity leads to othering the differences and the preservice teachers’ dilemma of sameness or differences reoccurs. The third finding indicates that initial teacher education should address the tension between theory and practice regarding preparing preservice teachers for student diversity. Teaching diverse student requires teachers a new way of looking at society and the function of schools in with regard to understanding their own role as teachers in diverse classroom settings. This is in line with Paine’s (1990) contextual and pedagogical orientations toward diversity. Moreover, teaching students from diverse background the teachers need, as Gay (2010) has emphasized that it is imperative to take into account students’ backgrounds and other differences.
References Ball, A.F., & Tyson, C.A. (2011). Preparing Teachers for Diversity in the Twenty-first Century. In A.F. Ball, & C.A. Tyson (Eds). Studying Diversity in Teacher Education, pp. 399-416. Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield publishers. Banks, J.A. (Ed.). (2012). Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education, Vol.1. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. Braun, V, & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, vol. 3 (2), pp. 77-101. Brinkmann, S., & Kvale, S. (2015). InterViews: Learning the Craft of Qualitative Research Interviewing (Third edition). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. Burner, T., Nodeland, T.S, & Aamaas, Åsmund. (2018). Critical perspectives on perceptions and practices of diversity in education. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), Vol. 2(1), pp. 3-15. Darling-Hammond, L. (2011). Foreword. In A.F. Ball, & C.A.Tyson. (Eds.). Studying Diversity in Teacher Education. Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield publishers, ix-x. Engen, T.O. et al. (2018). Education and Diversity: Introduction of a Multidisciplinary Research Group. In L.A., Kulbrandstad, T. O., Engen, & S., Lied. (Eds.). Norwegian Perspectives of Education and Cultural Diversity, pp.2- 37. UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Florian, L, & Pantić, N. (2017). (Eds). Teacher Education for the Changing Demographics of Schooling: Issues for Research and Practice. Inclusive Learning and Educational equity, vol. 2, pp.229- 236. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. Gay, G. (2010). Culturally Responsive Teaching: theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College. Humphrey, N. et al. (2006). Understanding and responding to diversity in the primary classroom: an international study. European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 29(3), pp. 305- 318. DOI: 10.1080/02619760600795122. Krulatz, A., Steen-Olsen, T., & Torgersen, E. (2018). Towards critical cultural and linguistic awareness in language classrooms in Norway: Fostering respect for diversity through identity texts. Language Teaching Research, Vol. 22(5), pp. 552- 569. Doi: 10.1177/1362168817718572. Kulbrandstad, L.I. (2018). Developing Research-based Literacy Teaching Practices for Diverse Schools in Norway. In L.A., Kulbrandstad, T. O., Engen, & S., Lied. (Eds.). Norwegian Perspectives of Education and Cultural Diversity, pp.40- 64. UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Paine, L. (1990). Orientations toward diversity: What do prospective teachers bring? East Lansing, MI: National Centre for Research on Teacher Education. Rosnes, E.V., & Rossland, B.J. (2018). Interculturally competent teachers in the diverse Norwegian educational setting. Multicultural Education Review, Vol. 10(4), pp. 274-291. DOI: 10.1080/2005615X.2018.1532223.
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