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Preservice and Culture: A Detriment to Students Troy Moore University of British Columbia

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In Preparing Preservice Teachers in a Diverse World, published, originally, by Action in Teacher Education (2005), esteemed authors, Susan Lenski, Kathleen Crawford, Thomas Crumpler, and Corsandra Stallworth assert that change is needed in the preparation of preservice teachers, as they may fail to recognize the cultural differences in their chosen professions. Lenski, et al. (2005) believes that a huge discrepancy exists between the culture of students and the teachers tasked with their education. In order to address this cultural phenomenon, the preservice teachers were instructed in ethnographic practices and trained to observe various cultural and educational settings to better understand the cultural paradigms that exist between the respective groups. Moreover, the authors believed that the use of ethnography not only promoted awareness of cultural complexities, but also emphasized non-visible diversity, such as gender issues, and socio-economic differences. The study was from the second year of a five year report. The results were mostly positive; many of the preservice teachers felt they would be able to transfer the knowledge gained in the study into their future classrooms. In addition, many felt they now had a stronger grasp on the cultural idiosyncrasies and contrast between the various cultures represented within their neighbourhoods. The evidence was presented in written format by the preservice teachers. Cultural anomalies definitely exist in the profession of teaching and the idea of preservice training in culture is a good one, but the format laid out by Lenski, et al. (2005) would be impractical and in the end, invalid. The concept of culture training in preservice teacher training is a bold and appealing one. Lenski et al (2005), contend that although the student population is increasing in diversity, the teaching profession is suffering from an era of homogeneity. Although policy exists in four districts in British Columbia, including my home school district of Quesnel, that encourages the hiring of Aboriginal teachers in an attempt to reflect the heterogeneous nature of student

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population, the process is a slow one, and rife with controversy. Lenski et al (2005) maintain that teachers need to be more culturally responsive because they will teach many different ethnicities and cultures over their careers. This point is an extremely valid one. Over the course of one career, teachers will look out onto the faces of students from every walk of life and every place on the globe. Unfortunately, the training through ethnography, is not a viable solution. The idea laid out by the authors was to observe a specific group and/or area. The problem with this approach is that many cultures live a homogeneous existence within a geographic area. Therefore, many schools, are not as diverse culturally as one would expect. Training for many cultures by observing one is not necessarily a solution. Training for many cultures needs to involve many cultures. An additional problem with the approach taken by Lenski et al (2005), is the ethnic and cultural assumptions made by trained students. The authors state that one of the goals of the study was to not only sharpen skills, but to stop the prejudgment of communities (Lenski et al, 2005). Yet, many of the students form uniformed decisions, believing asinine overgeneralizations such as people living near powerlines are automatically lower socioeconomically, or that areas with a neighborhood watch were high violence areas. These overgeneralizations are harmful to a study and dangerous to the profession. As an educator I believe this issue affects the profession more than we realize. Certain schools are avoided because they are lower socio-economically or in a certain geographic area, with little regard to the students. We prejudge on a daily basis. Informed consent is a very crucial piece to research, without it the study falls apart. Lenski et al. never discuss informed consent, nor does it seem to be an issue. The preservice teachers simply observe without thought or explanation as to why they are even

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there. The students talk about observing in areas other than schools, yet there never seems to be any consent. This causes the validity of the study into question. One final problem with the study is the extremely limited study group. There were 28 participants, only one of whom was ethnically diverse. In addition, the group is furthered whittled down into six, pre-selected students. This small sample size is troubling when the results could potentially influence teacher training. The idea of culturally training preservice teachers is an excellent idea. The idea of moving away from color blind methodology where all students are treated the same way to one which utilizes the differences in culture is a long time coming. Although Lenski et al (2005) have the right idea, which is to make culturally aware teachers; there study ultimately fails due to small sample sizes, uniformed consent, and prejudged assumptions.

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Bibliography Lenski, S. D., Crawford, K., Crumpler, T., & Stallworth, C. (2005). Preparing Preservice Teachers in a Diverse World, Action in Teacher Education, 27(3), 3-12.