Preparing Teachers for Work in Increasingly Diverse Classrooms

What knowledge, skills and attitudes do teachers need in order to meet the needs of students in increasingly diverse classrooms?

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ann Chinnery

How This Project is Carried Out

Many North American classrooms prior to the 1970s were, on the surface at least, relatively homogeneous. However, shifting patterns of immigration, policies of racial integration and mainstreaming of students with disabilities, as well as an opening up of discourse around race, class, gender, ability and sexuality, brought differences to the fore.

In their recent survey of research on teacher education, Cochran-Smith & Zeichner (2005) note that “[a] major challenge facing teacher education today is preparing teachers with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to work successfully with an increasingly diverse pupil population, particularly those whose cultural, language, racial, and ethnic backgrounds are different from the teachers’ backgrounds, and those who live in poor urban and rural areas” (p. 57).

My current research in this area draws on my earlier work in moral education, with a particular focus on the moral attitudes and dispositions that might best facilitate teachers’ ability to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body.

Why This Project Matters

This research, which also informs much of my work in the Professional Development Program (PDP), spans both philosophy of education and teacher education. It is where I put the theory “on the ground,” so to speak, and is an attempt to contribute to conversations around the ever-changing landscape of public education in BC.

Where to Learn More

Chinnery, A. (2009). Premodern postures for a postmodern ethics: On resistant texts and moral education. (Featured essay) In R. Glass (Ed.), Philosophy of Education 2008 (pp. 43-50). Urbana-Champaign, IL:  Philosophy of Education Society.

This paper extends my earlier critique (2005, 2006) of the prevailing emphasis on empathy as a necessary precondition for ethical relationships across differences of race, class, culture, etc. I argue here for a revival of the virtues of modesty and humility, and for the use of a particular kind of literature in educating toward that end. While not specifically about teacher education, the argument I advance in this paper addresses what I and others (including Megan Boler, Elizabeth Spelman, and Sharon Todd) perceive to be a misguided reliance on empathy to address issues of social justice. I draw on rhetorician Doris Sommer (who in turn draws on Levinas) in order to argue for a revival of the virtues of modesty and humility, and for the use of a particular kind of literature in educating toward that end.

Chinnery, A. (2008). Revisiting “The Master’s Tools”: Challenging common sense in cross-cultural teacher education. Equity & Excellence in Education 41(4): 395-404.

This paper has more obvious and immediate implications for practice than my other publications. While not explicitly stated in the text itself, the paper is still centrally concerned with the need to take up our ethical responsibility to and for the other—in this case, those who have been historically marginalized. Recalling Audre Lorde’s (1984) classic essay, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” this article focuses on three commonsense notions within cross-cultural teacher education which, in my view, too often leave minority students bearing the burden of cross-cultural work at the expense of their own learning.

Chinnery, A. (2007). On compassion and community without identity: Implications for moral education. In D. Vokey (Ed.), Philosophy of Education 2006 (pp. 330-338). Urbana-Champaign, IL: Philosophy of Education Society.

In this paper, which is intended for both teacher educators and philosophers of education, I critique the rather romantic way in which the notion of ‘community’ is often taken up in classroom settings. In contrast to seeing community as based on perceived similarity, I draw on Zygmunt Bauman’s conception of community as a kind of “permanent coexistence with the stranger,” and I propose Levinas’ conception of compassion as a helpful framework for creating community in diverse classrooms in a way that does not deny or erase students’ differences.

To learn more about teaching in diverse classrooms, see the work of SFU faculty members:

Kumari Beck
Roumiana Ilieva
Marianne Jacquet
Özlem Sensoy
Dolores van der Wey

For practical resources, see:
The Rethinking Schools