The article as written by Lenski, Crawford and Crumpler and involves a topic that garners little discourse in the world of pre-service teachers and beginning teacher induction programs. However, the authors of this study contend that it is a major area of concern that should dominate more attention and one that requires more in depth research and study to reconcile the issues arising due to the increase in diversity of today’s classrooms.
As stated in their introduction the national average of white teachers in the United States is over 90%. The issue facing pre-service teachers entering the profession is that classrooms are becoming increasingly more diverse and that current education programs are not adequately preparing them for that reality. The authors contend that any programs that currently purport to be address this are following a model that encourages teachers to adopt “difference blindness” and view each student not as individuals with different heritages, religious beliefs, or The authors of this study try to address this issue with the creation of the Beyond Awareness Project. This project contends that if pre-service teachers are trained to act as ethnographers as well as teachers, they were tasked with learning more about their own culture, and becoming participant observers that learn about their students cultures, religious practices, social-economic status, and how they can use this to see their students as individuals. This perspective would then allow them to guide decisions in the classroom.
They decided to implement this project with 28 pre-service teachers that were all working at professional development schools located in the suburbs of larger metropolitan centers. However, the data collected and used for the article was from a small subset of six teachers of the original group, and the only data used was from the second year of a five-year study.
The conclusions fell in line with their hypothesis, and from the data gathered they determined that key elements from the Beyond Awareness project could be valuable in changing perceptions of pre-service teachers and thus creating classrooms with teachers more prepared to teach more diverse classrooms.
My reservations about this qualitative study are relatively extensive, and revolve around a number of issues pertaining to the participants used and the methodologies used in constructing the data. Although qualitative studies are meant to develop and evolve throughout the research this study tends to make a lot of compromises that seem to benefit the hypothesis stipulated by the authors.
The first and most glaring issue that I don’t feel was properly discussed was the fact that the data for this article was only taken from six of the original 28 participants. Although time was a limited resource in this instance, and qualitative studies require more allotment of time spent with participants, I feel as if narrowing the field to such a select few hinders the validity of the study. Granted qualitative studies can be conducted on small numbers, I would like to hear more in depth analysis on the selection of the final six. The only real justification was a one-line reference to a Lecompte and Preissle study on the concept of “key informants”. This is concept is more then justifiable, however, there was no other rationale provided for these six being selected as being an appropriate cross section of the original group. In addition to this, my other more astounding issue lies with the gender of the participants involved. They mention gender a number of times throughout their study as something that warrants attention by pre-service teachers; nevertheless, the entire majority of the teachers they selected to use were predominantly female. Personally I believe they should have identified the gender and race of the six selected. If it was pertinent to mention when they first discussed the original 28, it is even more essential to identify these numbers for the six involved in the actual data collection stage of this study.
Although it seems they followed some measures to ensure accuracy, like the use of multiple data sources to provide triangulation of data, I am somewhat concerned about the “open coding” method the authors used and would have preferred if this were done as a group. The individual coding and initial analysis done by the individual authors created a small amount of bias in the initial analysis and I would have preferred if they only analyzed it once the coding methodology was officially agreed upon as a group. This would have allowed for a fresh perspective of the data without any preconceptions from previous analysis.
This study does have some significant information that can be used by individuals that develop pre-service teacher programs, but I honestly feel as if there are a number of concerns with the methodologies used that would need to be addressed in further studies that would warrant me considering this information as viable for the implementation of the Beyond Awareness project.
Lenski, S.D., Crawford, K., Crumpler, T. & Stallworth, C. (2005). Preparing Preservice Teachers in a Diverse World, Action in Teacher Education, 27(3), pp. 3-12 Manassas, VA.