Diversity Preparation: A Case Study of an Urban Undergraduate Teacher Education Program
Laderer, Beth 1978-
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The population of students enrolled in schools across the United States is rapidly becoming more diverse, yet teacher demographics remain fixed. The widening gap between students and teachers, both inadvertently and deliberately, causes the creation of unequal learning environments for students. Teacher preparation programs, like Quality Urban Education for Students and Teachers (QUEST), housed in the University of Houston, have a responsibility to prepare teacher candidates for their work with diverse students in order to create a learning environment where each student can grow and discover in a way that celebrates and respects individual differences. This critical case study investigated the perceptions of nine teacher candidates enrolled in the final semester of their preparation, the student teaching semester. Using dialogical interview data, teacher candidate beliefs about teaching diverse student populations, the socially constructed nature of diversity, and personal viewpoints on the preparation received during QUEST were investigated. The study included program document analysis as well as observations of QUEST teacher candidates interacting on their field campuses. The study utilized Carspecken’s (1996) process of reconstructive analysis as well as Critical Race Theory (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Yasso, 2006) to draw conclusions during data analysis. The findings suggested that teacher candidates, while demographically diverse themselves, maintain and perpetuate views of student success consistent with the established definition of achievement regardless of student difference. Their teaching was strongly affected by their past experiences in school particularly considering personal treatment by individual teachers. Additionally, authentic field work had a strong positive impact when paired with a high-quality mentor teacher. This study may expand the knowledge of practices for preparing teacher candidates for diversity as well as providing information for potential improvement of the QUEST program.