According to the U.S. Department of Education (2005), there are approximately 56 million students and 3.3 million teachers in our K-12 classrooms. Half the school aged population is expected to consist of students of color by the year 2020. It is estimated that more than 1 in 7 children aged 5 to 17 speak a language other than English at home. By 2026, the number of non-native English speaking students will reach 15 million (Garcia, 2005). The number of children growing up in poverty is on the rise; almost 40% of fourth graders are eligible for free or reduced-lunch. In addition to racial, ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity, we are also a multi-religious society. While we are experiencing dramatic cultural diversity in our student population, the teachers are becoming more homogeneous (Causey, Thomas, & Armento, 2000). As is the case for the teaching corps in general, the teaching candidates in our education program in Montana are overwhelmingly white, female, monolingual, and middle class. Consequently, preparing pre-service teachers to work with a heterogeneous student population can be challenging. To provide my students with the necessary skills and knowledge to become culturally competent reflective practitioners (Diller & Moule, 2005) I ask them to step outside their comfort zones and take a Cultural Plunge. I want them to challenge their assumptions which are often grounded in stereotypes while exploring homogeneity among members of certain groups. This research project investigated the effectiveness of a Cultural Plunge experience in a multicultural foundations of education course as a way for teacher candidates to deconstruct their preconceived and often negative stereotypes about diverse groups.
|Keywords:||Pre-service Teachers, Learning Diversity, Multicultural Education, Student Diversity, Immersion Experiences, Unacknowledged Biases|
Associate Professor, Department of Education, Montana State University-Bozeman, Bozeman, Montana, USA
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