"Easier said than done": pre-service teachers and multicultural education



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This qualitative dissertation explores the beliefs of 15 pre-service teachers who completed their apprentice teaching semester in diverse early childhood classrooms. The pre-service teachers' beliefs about teaching in diverse early childhood classrooms and the experiences the pre-service teachers attributed to having influenced and/or challenged their prior beliefs are of particular interest in this study. An analysis of interview data resulted in four themes. The first theme explores the participants' focus on their beliefs about how students learn, the role of the teacher in students' learning, and the importance of building a classroom community when asked to describe teaching in diverse early childhood classrooms. The ways in which the participants marginalized multicultural education by limiting what it included and by reserving it for particular subject areas, grade levels, and groups of children is described in the second theme. The third theme details the experiences that altered the participants' prior beliefs about teaching in diverse early childhood classrooms, including seeing difference, confronting prejudices, observing teachers, and refining beliefs. In the final theme, I examine the instability found in the participants' beliefs with regard to language, difference, families, and holidays. A second phase of research, including interview, observation, and document data, resulted in two themes: adopting pedagogical approaches and reflecting on practice. These findings lead to three conclusions for this study. First, pre-service teachers' beliefs about teaching in diverse classrooms are more complex than previous research has suggested. Second, reflecting on beliefs and practice is essential to the development of multicultural education practices. However, reflection about diversity, by itself, does not help pre-service teachers with their practice during field placements. Pre-service teachers need opportunities to observe multicultural education practices to connect beliefs and theory to practice. Finally, teacher educators need to understand the prior experiences and beliefs of the pre-service teachers in their courses in order to plan a range of activities that meet pre-service teachers where they are and then take them where they need to go with regards to their beliefs about teaching in diverse classrooms, so that these activities are effective for providing an interruption of prior beliefs.