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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Teachers

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In the article “Teachers in Transition,” Sandra M. Lawrence and Beverly Daniel Tatum present conclusions drawn from a research study they conducted on the impact of antiracist professional development on classroom practice. They address the presence and role of racism in our society and in our education system. In particular, they wanted to determine if antiracism education actually change the behaviors of educators in a way that is effective to their students. This problem is worthwhile to examine because awareness must be a part of the knowledge base to better prepare pre-service and in-service teachers within the context of real-world situations. The article makes a good contribution because it addresses the need for the centrality of antiracism in the teacher education reform agenda, it provides first-hand accounts exploring the need to combat racism from varied vantage points at teacher education institutions, and puts forth views to guide antiracist teacher education practice. This article is a valuable resource because it fosters contemplation of the connection of the many manifestations and implications of racism and racial inequality to educational practice.


The sampling technique used in this study was asking participants of a voluntary desegregation program who had taken the course, Anti-Racist and Effective Classroom Practice for All Students, if they were willing to participate in ongoing research regarding the course and choosing 84 suburban, white teachers. This knowledge could be adapted and used by other faculty in different disciplines to incorporate multiculturalism and antiracist curriculum into their teaching since the goal is to stimulate change in teachers attitudes toward diversity and in their ability to infuse their particular curriculum with multicultural antiracist concepts, strategies, and materials. However, selection bias is a possibility because the teachers who are in a voluntary desegregation program may not be representative of the population of teachers in the Boston area. Also, the sampling may have been improved if the participants were not only from suburban areas but from urban areas as well because urban areas usually have more diverse populations.


Lawrence and Tatum analyzed writing sample data of the participants with specific interest to descriptions of explicit antiracist actions the participants had taken in and out of school. This was an appropriate choice because the study was to trying to evaluate the impact of an antiracist professional development program on teachers thoughts about racism and their antiracist educational practices. Using some form of standard testing would have been inappropriate in measuring the teachers actual educational practices. The data were analyzed according to antiracist actions that were exhibited by the teachers during the course.


The treatment used in this study was the course, Anti-Racist and Effective Classroom Practice for All Students, which was given to all participants. “The need for professional development efforts to help white educators expand their perspective and deepen their understanding of the ways in which race and racism have affected their own education as well as that of their students is evident” (Lawrence and Tatum, 17). The treatment is appropriate because the course was not attempting to displace white culture from the position of dominance but to help white teachers acknowledge their own racial identity and see that the identity is gained at the expense of people of color (Lawrence and Tatum, 17).


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I think that this study is descriptive with a narrow focus. Its aim is to determine the relationship between the independent variable, professional development, and the outcome variable, teacher practices. The study does not attempt to establish causality but to show associations between these variables. The authors did not attempt to omit other variables that may have affected the teachers antiracial professional development and its usefulness in the classroom.


Of the eighty four white participants whose documents were analyzed, forty-eight described 14 specific actions they had taken during the course 5% of the actions involved improving relationships among teachers, students, parents; 7% constituted curriculum transformations; and 0%of the antiracist actions involved changes at the institutional level regarding support services for students of color (Lawrence and Tatum, 17). The authors concluded that the course succeeded in breaking the silences about racism in schools and it made visible the personal, cultural, and institutional manifestations of racisms in schools. Lawrence and Tatum also states that this course directly affected how the teachers thought systematically about useful materials, classroom experiences, and assignments that make racism more understandable and easier to connect to the developmental needs of the children. However, maintaining one’s momentum as an antiracist educator without support and opportunities for continued growth is difficult (Ayvazian, 15). Lawrence and Tatum recommend that school districts who implement the type of professional development described in their study need to provide ongoing opportunity for discussion and support in order to ensure that antiracist educational practices will continue.


“Although everyone has a culture, many times members of the culturally dominant group of a society may not even think of themselves as cultural beings. For them, culture is something that other people have, especially those that differ from the mainstream in race or ethnicity” (Nieto, 000). I think this article is particularly important for educators, since white cultural norms are systematically enforced without any recognition that these norms are present in the schools. The course given in this study made the attempt to help white teachers become aware of how their own identity in white culture directly affected their educational practices with students of color. I believe that providing pre-service and in-service teachers with antiracist or multicultural professional development will improve their understanding of a diverse community and improve pedagogical patterns. I think that one of the weaknesses of the article was that the sample was chosen from a group that acknowledged the fact of racial inequality in schools and this is probably not representative of the general population. Multicultural Education addresses the dimensions of curricular content integration, knowledge construction, prejudice reduction, an equity pedagogy, and the creation of empowering school cultures (Banks, 1). The research in this article can be used as a model for implementing multicultural education in schools for teachers, students, and school districts


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