Background/Context: Educating pre-service teachers to develop multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills for teaching diverse students is a major responsibility of teacher education program coordinators and teacher educators. Numerous studies have discussed and explored the characteristics of teacher preparation that improve pre-service teachers’ competency to teach diverse students. However, only a few empirical studies have examined the relationship between preparation characteristics and pre-service teachers’ multicultural awareness, knowledge, and skills.
Research Questions: The study answered two research questions: 1) How do the initial level and change in pre-service teachers' beliefs about diversity in personal and professional contexts differ by their background characteristics? and 2) What characteristics of teacher preparation for diversity reported by pre-service teachers are associated with positive changes in their beliefs about diversity in personal and professional contexts, controlling for their background characteristics?
Participants: The participants were 243 pre-service teachers enrolled in eight sections in a diversity course and accompanied field experience component in a teacher education program in a Midwest Research I university.
Research Design: Pre- and post-surveys were conducted to examine: 1) pre-service teachers’ background characteristics (gender, socioeconomic status, class standing, hometown location, and prior exposure to diversity), 2) beliefs about diversity in personal and professional contexts, and 3) four characteristics of teacher preparation for diversity: classroom as a learning community; instructor modeling constructivist and culturally-responsive teaching; field experience for understanding diverse students; and opportunity for reflection.
Findings: The study found that three characteristics of teacher preparation for diversity reported by pre-service teachers: 1) classroom as a learning community, 2) instructor modeling constructivist and culturally-responsive teaching, and 3) field experience for understanding diverse students were significantly associated with positive changes in pre-service teachers’ beliefs about diversity in both personal and professional contexts.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Creating a sense of community in classrooms, and modeling constructivist and culturally responsive teaching are likely to promote positive beliefs about diversity among pre-service teachers. In addition, field experiences should promote pre-service teachers’ interactions with people from diverse backgrounds, assign a mentor to support their learning experience and promote self reflection, and provide opportunities to understand the connection with diversity coursework.