Wong esl teacher candidates’ perceptions of readiness


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Wong esl teacher candidates’ perceptions of readiness

  1. 1. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 1 ESL Teacher Candidates’ Perceptions of Readiness to Teach English Language Learners Chiu Yin Wong, Ph.D. Monmouth University Mary Cain Fehr, Ph.D. Mary Frances Agnello, Ph.D. Stephen M. Crooks, Ph.D. Texas Tech University In a qualitative study, teacher candidates were surveyed to assess their knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to teaching diverse students and their sense of readiness to teach English Language Learners in P-12 schools. This report includes results of two open-ended questions related to their self-perceived strengths and the challenges they expect to encounter. Responses were ranked according to a six-level developmental scale. The findings of the study showed that many teacher candidates with a specialization in English as a Second Language (ESL) have concerns about teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. Recommendations are made for ESL certification programs in teacher education. Key Words: ESL, English Language Learners, Diverse students, Teacher Perceptions, Teacher Preparation
  2. 2. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 2 The topic of whether teachers are adequately prepared to face a dramatic shift of student demographics in the U.S. public schools has received a great deal of attention in the literature of teacher education. A number of studies (e.g., Fueyo & Bechtol, 1999; Mueller, Singer, & Carranza, 2006; O’Neal, Ringler, & Rodriguez, 2008; Sharma, 2007) thus far have reported that teachers do not feel prepared in terms of meeting the learning needs of their students with culturally and linguistically diverse students. Currently, there are more than three hundred languages spoken in the U.S. with Spanish, Vietnamese, Hmong, Cantonese, and Korean being the top five non-English languages spoken (MLA, 2010; OELA, 2005). Albeit many teacher education programs offer courses related to multiculturalism and diversity, courses that focus on English language learners (ELLs) for all pre-service teachers are rare (Valentin, 2006). How do teacher candidates cope with the needs of students with cultural and linguistic diversity? Are these future teachers prepared adequately to teach such students? What are their perceptions of their preparedness? What do they identify to be their strengths in regard to teaching students with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds? What do they perceive to be the challenges? This article explores these questions. It also investigates the difficulties these teacher candidates believe they will encounter when teaching such students. Using data from the Diversity Awareness Survey (Fehr, Agnello, and Crooks, 2010), used at a large regional university in the southwest United States, the perceptions of a group of teacher candidates were examined. While the overall data set includes the perceptions of all program completers at a specific point in time, this report focuses only on the perceptions of those students who specialized in English as a Second Language (ESL). It also focuses on only two open-ended questions from the survey which includes many more questions.
  3. 3. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 3 English Language Learners in the United States The growth of public school enrollment has increased significantly over the last two decades. With the sharp increase in public school enrollment, the number of English Language Learners (ELLs) increased by more than 60 percent between the 1995-96 and 2005-06 school years (Gollnick & Chinn, 2009). Statistics indicates that along with enrollment increases, there are concurrent projections for an increase in students who speak a native language other than English (Fuller, 1992). According to the 2010 U.S. Bureau of Census, there are 36.7 million people who are foreign born, which represents 12 percent of the total population in the nation. It is projected that by the year 2016, there will be 53.3 million of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools (NCES, 2008a). The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 mandated that all children are to be included in the general education process and have access to the general education curriculum. However, ELLs can be at a disadvantage. They often fall into the low socio-economic group, perform poorer on academic subjects, and have a lower graduation rate than their English speaking peers (NCELA, 2008). Because the NCLB Act requires the states to report the educational progress of all students, attention to educating ELLs has grown significantly in the last decade (Kauchak & Eggen, 2011). As a result of the influx of immigrants to the United States, general education classroom teachers are sure to have students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in their classrooms. With a dramatic increase of ELLs in mainstream classrooms, are teachers prepared to teach these students? Preparation for Teaching English Language Learners A body of research (Feiman-Nemser & Remillard, 1995, 1996; Fuller, 1992; Howey & Zimpher, 1996; NCES, 2008b) has indicated that the majority of teacher candidates in the United
  4. 4. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 4 States are females. Their demographic profiles are similar in that they are primarily EuroAmerican, from the middle socio-economic class, and grew up in rural or suburban areas. Feiman-Nemse and Remillard (1995) also point out that of these teacher candidates, 93 percent are White. These teachers are faced with challenges teaching their diverse students probably because, as Feiman-Nemser and Remillard (1996) state, they have “limited exposure to people who are socially, ethnically, and culturally different from themselves” (p. 68). Traditionally, the focus of teacher education programs was to prepare teachers to teach their content areas. Teachers completing their teacher education programs are often sent to their classrooms with limited preparation for teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students (Cummins, 1997). Not until recently have teacher preparation programs included courses in multiculturalism and diversity as part of the programs. Despite the growing emphasis on including multicultural education and diversity courses in teacher education preparation programs, Villegas and Lucas (2002) raise the concern of the effectiveness of these courses in preparing teacher candidates to teach diverse students. Milk, Mercado, and Sapiens (1992) point out that most of the teacher education programs do not adequately prepare pre-service teachers to teach students with limited English proficiency, in spite of the dramatic shift of demographics in school population. Nearly two decades later, O’Neal, Ringler, and Rodriguez (2008) also raise the same issue in the field of teacher education, indicating that attention to preparing pre-service teachers for the learning needs of ELLs is necessary. Several studies have examined the level of preparedness of public school teachers teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. For example, Gandara, Jolly, and Maxwell (2005) studied whether teacher education programs prepare teacher candidates well on
  5. 5. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 5 instructing ELLs. The authors reported that teachers’ self-efficacy in teaching ELLs correlates with how well they are prepared. By the same token, O’Neal, Ringler, and Rodriguez (2008) and Sharma (2007) investigated teachers’ perceptions of their ability to teach ELLs in the mainstream classrooms. Results of these two studies indicated that the teachers did not think they were adequately prepared to work with ELLs even after the completion of their teacher preparation programs. Research clearly shows that the number of ELLs have increased rapidly in recent years, yet teachers who are well-prepared to meet the needs of these learners are deficient (NCELA, 2008). This presents a challenge for teacher educators (Futrell, Gomez, & Bedden, 2003). Understanding teacher candidates’ perceptions of their readiness to teach ELLs can provide a window into their thinking and perhaps, by association, their actual readiness. This information can highlight programs areas that need to be improved, as well as those that are already strong. Equally important, teachers often unintentionally hold biases towards students (Sharma, 2005), and these biases can impede the learning of English Language Learners. Understanding teacher candidates’ perceptions of their challenges and strengthens related to teaching ELLs is needed for effective program assessment and improvement. This was the one part of the purpose of implementing the Diversity Awareness Survey described below. English language learners in public schools will reap the ultimate benefit. Methodology In this study, the Diversity Awareness Study (Fehr, Agnello, and Crooks, 2010) was used to assess teacher candidates’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to teaching diverse students. The survey was administered at a large regional university in the Southwest to all education students at the completion of their teacher certification programs. This study is an
  6. 6. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 6 examination of the results of only those students graduating with an ESL specialization in elementary education in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, and Fall 2009. The survey consists of a section of demographic questions, a section of Likert scale questions, seven open-ended questions, and one scenario question. This report includes an analysis of two of the open-ended questions: (1) What strengths do you bring to teaching diverse students? and (2) What challenges do you expect to find in teaching diverse students? The data from several semesters was combined since the number of teacher candidates with the ELS specialization each semester is low, compared to the overall population of teacher candidates taking the survey. This approach created a larger sample size (n=.32). This survey produces a very large and complex body of data which can be disaggregated in many ways to focus on specific groups, specific questions, or both. This report focuses only on the teacher candidates with an ESL specialization and their self-perceptions of their strengths and potential challenges related to teaching diverse students. Participants All participants (n=32) were female, and all were being certified for the elementary grades with a specialization in ESL. All but four of them were in their early to mid-twenties, with the oldest participant being 44. According to participants’ responses to the ethnicity question in the demographic section of the survey, one participant was Black, not of Hispanic origin. Five were Mexican American. Three were Other Hispanic Americans, 23 were White, not of Hispanic origin. These ethnicity selections were made by participants from a drop-down menu. The options were based on an ethnicity reporting method used by the university. Data Collection
  7. 7. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 7 Teacher candidates took the Diversity Awareness Survey (Fehr, Agnello, and Crooks, 2010) at the end of their final semester in the teacher certification program. The survey was online, and participants accessed it via a Web link embedded in their e-portfolio template in TaskStream, an online tool used by students in the college to create their professional eportfolios. The survey takes about 30 minutes to complete. Students are allowed to take it from home or anywhere else, at their convenience as long as they complete it by a designated deadline. The survey was created with an application titled Select Survey. Responses were anonymous. Data Analysis The survey data is analyzed each semester by a research team that includes specialists in both quantitative and qualitative research. The data analysis reported here was conducted by two of the research team members and a doctoral student. Rubrics (Figures 1 and 2) were used to categorize the responses to the open-ended questions reported here. The categories represent a developmental continuum in relation to teaching diverse students. In addition, individual responses are examined to detect more subtle information about the teacher candidate’s beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, and readiness to teach students who are culturally and linguistically different from themselves. Interrater reliability was achieved by analysis of the data and comparison of analyses by research team members and the doctoral student.
  8. 8. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 8 Findings In responses to the two open-ended questions reported here, participants in this study identified their perceived strengths and their perceived challenges related to teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. Responses were coded for emerging themes. Using rubrics, they were also ranked according to the developmental characteristics of the responses, with level 1 representing a participant with a negative attitude (or one who did not provide a coherent response), through level 6 which represents a participant who is highly knowledgeable, anxious to teach diverse students, and prepared to transform teaching and learning, and seeking the opportunity to teach diverse students. Question 1: What strengths do you bring to teaching diverse students? Figure 1 Perceptions of Strengths Level Description of Developmental Level 1 Belief that teaching diverse students is undesirable or that no special skills are needed to teach them well. (Or no answer or a meaningless answer.) Personality factors: open-mindedness, understanding, patience, respect, wanting students to feel safe and comfortable. Little reference to academic success, only comfort. Interest in teaching diverse students. Enthusiasm, willingness to try new teaching approaches. 2 3 4 5 Past exposure to diverse groups of people. Awareness of the benefits of being around diverse people at an early age. Willingness to learn from students and genuinely embrace diversity. References to strategies learned in multicultural and ESL classes and culturally responsive teaching, as well as to creativity, research, hard work, and excitement about teaching diverse students. # % 1 3% 7 22% 5 16% 9 28% 10 31%
  9. 9. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 6 Sees diversity as a central premise of teaching. Considers the opportunity to teach diverse students a privilege. Seeking the opportunity. 9 0 0 According to the results generated from the question about strengths, five themes emerged after compiling and analyzing the data set: personality, related experience, self-identity, training from the teacher education program, and strategies. The majority of the participants attributed their strengths of teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students to strategies learned in their coursework and on previous experience with and exposure to diverse people. Sixteen percent of the participants attributed their strengths to self-described personal qualities include patience, caring, understanding, open-mindedness, and willingness to learn. They believed that having a personality trait which promotes understanding and respecting their diverse students is important. The excerpts below illustrate what the participants believed to be their strengths in terms of personality. P1: I feel that my best strength is respect. Respect holds the key to acceptance and acknowledgment of students’ personal accomplishments. P8: I am very open-minded and I am willing to learn as much as I can to keep students engaged and motivated. P12: I have patience and respect for other cultures and diverse students. I enjoy learning about others and using any information. P24: I am extremely patient and realize that things take time. Diverse students need to be given the opportunity to do things in their own time. I am also very caring, loving, and passionate about teaching and opening doors to our future. With that in mind, I want success for every student!
  10. 10. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 10 Many participants found having experience in teaching and helping students with diverse backgrounds in the past to be their strength. These teachers feel that their experience with diverse students enables them to be better teachers in the future. For example, a few of the participants expressed: P7: I have had the opportunity to work with low income students and very high income students so I understand how to work with both. P11: I have had experience with students of all different ages and backgrounds through school and my job. I have become compassionate towards students who may not have the same culture or beliefs as I do. P17: I have been [sic] many years of field base, observations, and student teaching experience combined with working with different diverse students and I believe this will be a benefit for me. I have worked with all socio-economic level students, various ethnicities, backgrounds, and learning style students. Additionally, several participants believed that their experience of traveling in another culture have prepared them to be better teachers. The following excerpt reflects such a belief. P6: I have studied abroad before. I have a high respect for those who are culturally diverse. I think that everyone can learn so much from students with different backgrounds. I will be sure to be culturally responsive in my teaching because I understand how beneficial it can be. Self-identity is another theme that emerged in the participants’ perceptions of their strengths in teaching in culturally and linguistically diverse students. Some participants felt that their own diverse backgrounds help them understand how to teach diverse students. Their responses include:
  11. 11. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 11 P3: Coming from a different ethnicity P5: I come from a middle class Mexican American family and I can relate to those students who have similar life styles that I had when I was growing up. P21: I come from a diverse background. P23: I come from a background of many low economic families and understand these learners’ prior experiences. In addition to personality factors, teaching or travel experience, and self-identity, eight out of 32 participants mentioned the instruction they had received. They believe that the courses in diversity offered in the teacher education program as well as the mentoring provided in their student teaching experiences prepared them well for teaching students with diverse backgrounds. The excerpts below indicate some of their perceptions of how their knowledge from their coursework prepared them. P9: I have taken several classes in teaching multicultural students and diversity in the classroom. These classes have prepared me with some great ideas and resources to use in the classroom. I also do a split of my student teaching in and [sic] ESL pull out program and was exposed to students from many different cultures. P16: I have also taken classes on different methods and strategies for teaching diverse students. P22: I believe that I am a well-rounded person, because I am ESL certified and I think I have a better understand as to why diverse students learn different ways. P30: I have had several multicultural classes, ESL classes as well as training in culturally responsive teaching.
  12. 12. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 12 P31: I have had a lot of training on teaching diverse students seeing as I will be an ESL teacher. I think I have been more prepared than most teachers walking into the classroom for the first time. Additionally, several participants perceived the strategies they plan to use in their future classrooms to be their strengths in teaching students with diverse backgrounds. The strategies include using a variety of teaching ideas and techniques, being honest about their mistakes, acknowledging students, and respecting them. The responses below portray this idea. P16: I include all three different learning styles in my lesson plans, which includes my visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners. P27: I will strive to have every child feel comfortable, accepted, and safe in my classroom. I will adapt whatever I need to meet the needs of my diverse learners. P28: I bring the ability to try different ideas and techniques to find what works best for each student. I am not afraid to admit when I’m wrong and I am able to know when something is not working and try again. The majority of the participants described their strengths to teach culturally and linguistically diverse students to be, in part, characteristics they brought with them to their teacher education programs: patience, enthusiasm, and acceptance, exposure to other cultures through travel, and being individuals from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds themselves. They also acknowledged the experiences their teacher preparation programs provided: experience working with diverse learners, coursework in the teacher education program, and having learned a repertoire of strategies to use in their future classrooms. Question 2: What challenges do you expect to find in teaching diverse students?
  13. 13. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 13 In this rubric, level descriptors represent a developmental continuum of knowledge, skills, and dispositions from self-concerns in the lower three levels, to more student-centered concerns in the upper three levels. Figure 2 Perceptions of Challenges Level Description of Developmental Level 1 Negative attitude toward teaching diverse students, no response, or a meaningless response. Little understanding of the importance of changing one’s teaching methods to accommodate diverse students. Fear of appearing inadequate. Willing to learn new ways of teaching and learn from the students, but concerned about cultural differences, language barriers; concerns about communicating with parents, fear about having inadequate skills to ensure student success. Appreciative of teaching and learning from diverse students. Concerns about inadvertently offending students or parents. Concern about students’ safety. Willing, but not seeking opportunities to teach diverse students. Realistic about challenges, but focused on ensuring that all students can be successful regardless of race, ethnicity, language, gender, disability status or socioeconomic level. Open, but not necessarily eager to teach diverse students. Not actively seeking opportunities to do so. Eagerly seeking opportunities to teach help diverse students succeed. Eager to do transformative teaching, regardless of challenges. Regards the concern for student success as a positive challenge; not discouraged by it. 2 3 4 5 6 # % 0 0 7 22% 20 63% 2 6% 3 9% 0 0 Three themes emerged from the participants’ perceptions of the challenges they expected to encounter when teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students: language barriers, lack of experience in teaching diverse students, and lack of knowledge of teaching strategies, with the last two appearing to conflict with their statements of strength. The majority of the participants felt that language will be the main obstacle for them. Some of them expressed worries that they
  14. 14. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 14 may not be able to communicate with the students, whereas some of them were concerned about being incapable of communicating with the students’ parents due to language barriers. The excerpts below demonstrate this perception: P2: One challenge is communicating with parents. P6: I expect to find some challenges when teaching diverse students. There might be some academic challenges as well as language barriers. It might be difficult to communicate with parents as well. P16: [The challenge] I expect to encounter when teaching diverse students is communication. P28: I also think it might be a challenge to effectively communicate with some parents from cultures not of my own, especially if I do not speak their language. While some students in this study believed they were adequately prepared, others were concerned about their lack of experience and knowledge in teaching diverse students. Most of the students in this group expressed that not knowing how to meet each student’s needs was their challenge. The following responses illustrate the participants’ perceptions of the challenges they expected to encounter. P13: Challenges I expect to find in teaching diverse students include not knowing what they need when they need it. Also, I am not aware of all the cultural differences that exist so I think that may lead to misunderstanding in the classroom. P24: I think it will be tough in the beginning because I am not familiar with different cultures and ways of life…I am afraid I will say something that might offend them. P27: My biggest challenge will be to have every single child meet their goal.
  15. 15. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 15 P28: I expect to find challenges in knowing what is appropriate in different student’s [sic] cultures. Additionally, some of the participants expressed their concern about their lack of knowledge of teaching strategies to handle each student’s needs and manage a group of diverse students. The excerpts below illustrate this concern. P10: I won’t have enough ways to teach the students. P17: Planning for each student individually so they may learn to the best of their ability. I believe it may take some time to find out exactly what strategies or teaching styles will work for that particular student. P20: The teacher has to consider each individual student and their strengths and weaknesses, and background, culturally, economically, and linguistically, thus it would be a challenge to always do this when planning lessons. It is crucial and necessary to accommodate every learner even it if is a tough challenge when planning and teaching. The participants’ perceptions of challenges related to teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students appear to cluster under the overall theme of insufficient preparation, rather than personal traits, biases, or life experiences., They include having proficiency in only English, insufficient awareness of different cultures, too little experience in teaching such students, and inadequate knowledge of teaching strategies to feel successful as a teacher or to meet the needs of students with diverse backgrounds. Discussion
  16. 16. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 16 Overall, the participants in this sample, pre-service teachers with a specialization in ESL, consider themselves better suited and better-prepared than most teacher candidates to teach culturally and linguistically diverse students. The personality traits they mention as strengths, including respect, understanding, patience, and open-mindedness are certainly important. However, a belief that these dispositions alone will lead to the academic success of diverse students is naïve. These teacher candidates may not be fully aware of the crucial need for a solid foundation in culturally responsive teaching and specialized ESL strategies. In fact, many of the responses reveal the over-confidence that is often characteristic of teacher candidates, including the statement by one participant who deems his/her course-related field experiences as “many years” of experience, and the statement that he/she has worked with “all” socio-economic level students. More than likely, this teacher candidate will soon learn that there are many teaching situations that he/she has not experienced, and may feel less confidence. Self-identifying as a member of a non-mainstream culture or ethnicity is an important factor in the participants’ statements. These teacher candidates may have had personal experiences in trying to succeed academically with a teacher who did not know how to meet their needs. They may also know what it takes to reach their academic goals in spite of coming from a low SES group. Such insight is extremely valuable, and these participants probably have a much more realistic perception of teaching diverse students. They will probably build relationships with their students quickly, recognize their needs, and be more apt to identify ways to help them succeed. Participants’ responses to the question about their strengths, regarding preparation as a result of coursework and varied field experiences indicate confidence that specialized courses (diversity courses, ESL courses) have prepared them well, and indeed these teacher candidates
  17. 17. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 17 probably do have an advantage, but this question remains: Is it enough? One participant stated that he/she had been “exposed to students from many different cultures.” Exposure to diversity during field placements is good, but it is relatively short-term and does not create deep knowledge. Another participant stated that he/she had “taken classes on different methods and strategies for teaching diverse students,” but one might ask, “What knowledge and skills did you internalize from those classes, if any?” All in all, their self-assessments that they are better prepared than those teacher candidates without an ESL specialization are probably accurate, even if that preparation is still not quite enough. As with most teacher candidates, they will probably question the confidence that they now feel during their first few years of teaching. Two participants indicated that flexibility is critical to success in teaching diverse students. One stated the willingness to “adapt whatever is needed to find what works best for each student,” and another stated that he/she will “try different ideas and techniques.” These statements demonstrate the realistic view that they do not necessarily already possess all of the knowledge and skills they will need, but are prepared to be flexible, experiment, change, and grow in the specific context of their actual teaching situations. This honest humility and openness to adapt and improve is a strong indicator of likely success in teaching diverse students. On the other hand, one participant indicated an assumption that an understanding of learning modalities (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning) is sufficient preparation for teaching diverse learners. While it will help in general ways, it clearly is not adequate preparation to teach culturally and linguistically diverse learners. This teacher candidate demonstrates a serious lack of awareness of the kinds of specific strategies needed by an ESL teacher. Many participants stated that they feel language barriers to be a significant challenge in teaching diverse students. This does indeed represent a challenge, but these participants have
  18. 18. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 18 completed coursework for an ESL specialization, so one might wonder why they do not feel more confident is finding ways to communicate. Perhaps they need more specific strategies for accomplishing this, such as recruiting translators within the community, or using translation software. If they have been taught such strategies, why do they still feel concern? Have they been given opportunities to communicate with non-English speaking parents in their field experiences? Should teacher education programs require coursework in a foreign language? Would that be enough? These are questions for teacher education decision makers to ponder. The fear of not knowing enough about other cultures to meet their diverse students’ needs was expressed by some of the participants. They mentioned lack of familiarity with different cultures, not knowing what is considered appropriate by other cultures, and the inability to recognize the needs of culturally diverse students. These are real challenges for all teachers, and teacher education programs should be doing a better job of graduating teacher candidates who feel prepared for cultural and linguistic diversity. It is the reality of what they will find in today’s classrooms, rather than the exception to the rule (although many teacher candidates naïvely expect to teach in a school just like the ones they attended). Some participants indicated concerns about inadequate knowledge of teaching strategies to meet diverse students’ needs. Their responses indicate valid concerns, and a few demonstrated the important recognition that they will need to customize their approaches to meet the needs of individual students, rather than assuming that a one-size-fits-all-diverse-students modification will be successful. Seeing students as individuals rather than members of a stereotyped group is critical to culturally responsive teaching and to student success. These participants will likely find ways to meet their students’ needs, even though they feel concern about it.
  19. 19. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 19 One caveat must be made in this discussion of survey responses: The teacher candidates in this sample do not represent the overall population of teacher candidates. They have had special preparation in an ESL specialization. A very few feel adequately prepared, but most do not. Some feel prepared in some ways but not in other ways. Most feel concerns of some type. The implication is that if teacher candidates who have completed specialized coursework in teaching diverse students feel unprepared in some ways, then the far greater numbers of teacher candidates without that specialization are probably seriously unprepared to meet the challenges in their future teaching situations. It is also interesting to note that the challenges perceived by these teacher candidates appear to put most of the responsibility for lack of readiness on the teacher education program, whereas they often credited themselves, their personality traits, and their previous personal experiences for many of their strengths. This would seem to indicate an external locus of control and a naïveté regarding the need for a personal commitment to changing themselves in order to be successful teachers of diverse students. Conclusions The findings of the present study indicated that even many of those teacher candidates with a specialization in ESL have concerns about teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. If they do not feel fully-prepared, those without an ESL specialization must feel even less prepared. In the study, the main concern that most participants expressed was the lack of strategies to accommodate their diverse students’ academic needs and to overcome the challenges due to various cultural and language backgrounds. Having knowledge of teaching strategies to accommodate the needs of diverse students is essential. Thus, teacher education
  20. 20. The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education Volume 8 (October 2012) 20 programs can offer courses that are specifically devoted to teaching strategies for ESL students and assign projects to investigate different cultures so that teacher candidates can compare their prospective students’ cultures with their own. In addition, it will be beneficial if teacher candidates can make very intentional and reflective application of their knowledge and strategies with ESL students and their parents in their field-based experience. As such, teacher education programs can partner with local school districts and communities in order for teacher candidates to have meaningful experiences working with ESL students and families. A cycle of sincere reflection on these experiences, faculty feedback, and modification in further use of strategies is necessary for full benefit. Such learning experiences can reduce perceptions of challenges that these participants identified. Teacher preparation programs need to focus on this gap in their coursework and ensure that all teacher candidates feel they have adequate knowledge and skills to help diverse students be successful. The findings of the study provide direction for future research. For example, it will be beneficial to conduct studies that follow up with these same teacher candidates in a year or two, to see if they believe their teacher education program prepared them adequately for teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students, and if not, what should it have provided? Another recommendation for future research is to compare the perceptions of this group of teacher candidates (those with an ESL specialization) to the perceptions of teacher candidates in general.
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