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Preparing teachers for diversity

by Apr. 5, 2011, 12:20 PM

Donna Ford (Steve Green)
Donna Ford (Steve Green)

Research from Peabody College faculty members Donna Ford and Rich Milner about historically persistent yet unresolved issues in teacher education is featured in Studying Diversity in Teacher Education, released by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) January 2011.

In the book, Ford and co-author Michelle Trotman Scott of University of West Georgia examine how to prepare teacher education candidates to work with students with disabilities and gifts and talents.

“Too few teachers are prepared to work with African-American students in need of special education or gifted education services,” said Ford, a professor of special education who focuses on gifted education with an emphasis on minority children and youth. “When students with special or unique needs fail to have teachers who are culturally responsive – non-discriminatory, equity-minded, and committed to their students — a lose-lose situation ensues in which students, teachers and the larger society pay a hefty price.”

“Teacher educators must equip their students to be culturally competent,” Ford continued. “I don’t think we have a choice to do otherwise.”

Rich Milner (Wolff Hoffman)
Rich Milner (Wolff Hoffman)

Milner shared his research on successful efforts in teacher education to diversify teachers.

“As the nation’s schools become increasingly diverse with students, teacher education programs are challenged and charged to diversify the teaching force,” Milner, an associate professor of education who studies urban education, teacher education, and race and equity in society and education, said.

“Teachers in the U.S. remain overwhelmingly white and middle class, and research suggests that students’ social and academic performance improves when they are taught by a diverse group of teachers. While the urgency and need to diversify teachers is well-known, moderate progress is being made. Students of color — namely African American and Latino students, English language learners, and those living in poverty, especially, are those who suffer most from this lack of diversity.”

Milner co-authored his chapter with Christine E. Sleeter of California State University Monterey Bay.

Research on diversity in teacher education has only emerged since the 1980s, with thoughtful literature being produced in these recent decades. This research shows teacher educators need to be challenged to create a new, interdisciplinary model for multicultural teacher education, cultivated as a field with issues of equity at its core.

Ford and Milner are two of 31 contributing scholars who provide research on diversity in teacher education and demonstrate how research can inform its consideration. The book features three main parts in 20 chapters that encompass historical, current and future perspectives on diversity in teacher education research.

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