14. Using Attitude Measures and Student Narratives about Diversity to Enhance Multicultural Teaching Effectiveness
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241 14 Using Attitude Measures and Student Narratives about Diversity to Enhance Multicultural Teaching Effectiveness Robert Lake and Kent Rittschof Attitudes on Diversity among University Students Educators around the world are faced with numerous challenges associated with effectively promoting the learning engagement of a diverse population of students. As part of many university programs in the United States attempting to help future educators understand cultural diversity, one or more undergraduate courses specifically dealing with diversity issues are typically required. Goals associated with such diversity courses usually include the enhancement of greater understanding of the many types of student diversity and the implications for social justice within educational settings. Toward addressing these goals, awareness of commonly held misunderstandings about diversity is often central to the curriculum. While teacher education programs usually examine whether teacher candidates have sufficiently learned the required material from diversity courses, these programs often overlook whether the candidate’s attitudes have changed in ways that coincide with the research-based information provided in the course and the general awareness expected of many schoolteachers. This chapter describes a study that begins to address this neglected aspect of teacher candidate assessment within the context of a university course dealing with multiculturalism. Furthermore, considering that teacher candidates study across college or university settings in the physical sciences, social sciences, or humanities, this examination of teacher candidates has relevance to many fields of study. That is, attitudes of future 242 | Lake and Rittschof educators are influenced by the context of pluralistic and diverse ways of seeing, knowing , and being in the world as they study across different domains. Theoretical Perspective This inquiry is framed in the literature of multicultural education in America. A broad survey of the major works in this field reveal several evolutionary periods of this discipline that emerged through the historical struggle for social justice (Banks, 1993). The first period emerged during the Jim Crow period through the work of Dubois (1903) and Woodson (1933), who were instrumental in initiating the study of black history. The next major period of research arose out of the civil rights movement with the Coleman Report (1966), with whom the terms “social capital” and “white flight” had their origin. The civil rights movement was a catalyst for the emergence of ethnic studies (Banks, 1973) as well as the women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, Chicano rights, and disability rights movements, to name a few. The term “multicultural education” began to be used in the latter half of the 1970s (Grant, 1977; Hilliard, 1974; Klassen & Gollnick, 1977). During the culture wars of the 1980s, multicultural education was aligned with minority language advocacy (Nieto, 1986) and brought direct challenges to issues of race, class, and gender in schools (Sleeter & Grant, 2009). By the close of the twentieth century, multicultural education was fully immersed in the literature of social justice, critical educational practices, and equality issues for all minorities. The conceptual framework of the institution’s education college where the present study took place informs the choice of the literature and theoretical perspective of the curriculum under investigation. The following excerpt from the conceptual framework appears on the syllabus of the course of central interest: We believe that Reflective Educators for Diverse Learners, as the theme for our conceptual framework, considers all learners and represents a vision of professional practice for undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty, joining together to form a community of learners. Therefore, we believe that all educators, at all levels, must acknowledge the multifaceted nature of their work and engage in an informed pedagogy that both recognizes and celebrates the diversities of contemporary life. Reflective Educators for Diverse Learners is the framework that permeates various orientations to the foundation of education, students’ reflections upon their educational experience, observations of teachers in practicum, and the portraiture of schools. (Georgia Southern University, College of Education, 2006) In addition to gaining further perspective from some of the key literature in the field of multicultural education by leading theorists such as Banks (2006), Sleeter and Grant (2009), and Nieto and Bode (2008), the instructor also adapted an “additive approach” (Valenzuela, 1999). This method draws on each student’s “funds of knowledge ” (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) as a starting point and lens for recognizing, Using Attitude Measures and Student Narratives | 243 affirming, and valuing the cultural wealth (Martin, 2002) and diversity of any and all of those who are “other.” This includes ethnicity, religious or nonreligious world views, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. For example, one...