Preparing teachers for diversity

Multicultural education knowledgebase, attitudes and preparedness for diversity by Teresa Wasonga

Wasonga, T. A. (2005). Multicultural education knowledgebase, attitudes and preparedness for diversity. The International Journal of Educational Management, 19(1), 67-74. Retrieved from


Over the last four school years, budget crisis, school closings and boundary rezoning have greatly altered the demographics of the school where I teach English language learners.  Participation in free and reduced-fee lunch programs has more than doubled from 27.2% to 70.1%; students that speak a language other than English at home increased from 10.5% to 34%; and the number of minority students grew from 38.7 % to 68.4%.  These rapid changes have left my school challenged to meet the needs of this newly diverse population. Through my action research, I want to study, develop and implement multicultural educational practices to improve the equity of students’ access to academic and social resources at our school.  This paper investigates the effects on attitudes and feelings of preparedness of pre-service teachers after taking a class in multicultural education to prepare them to teach diverse groups of students.

In 2005, Teresa Wasonga associate professor of leadership, educational philosophy and foundations at Northern Illinois University conducted a research study to determine the impact multicultural knowledge has on attitudes of pre-service teachers.  With the passing of time, student populations across the United States have become increasingly diverse. According to the study, the pool of new teachers is increasingly white, female, and middle class. The study questions how future teachers should be best prepared to successfully impact educational achievement for diverse students.  Watonga’s definition of diverse students includes “aspects of ethnicity, language, socioeconomic class, learning styles, disabilities, sexual orientation, race, and gender.”(Wasonga, p.67).

“The question in this study was to establish a nexus among multicultural knowledge, multicultural attitudes, and feeling prepared to teach children from diverse backgrounds.”(Wasonga, p.71). The second fundamental question was how much knowledge base in multicultural education and personal interactions with diverse cultures pre-service teachers need in order to alter their attitudes and feelings of preparedness about working with diverse students.

The subjects of the research were from three classes of senior year pre-service Caucasian female teachers, average age 23, enrolled in “Multiculturalism in education” a 500 level course at a Mid-west university.  They all took pre- and post-tests. Questionnaires included Multicultural Content Test-Educational (MCCT-E) to assess their knowledge, Multicultural Questionnaire (MC) to measure attitudes about educational diversity issues nationally and internationally, and a Preparedness Survey (PS) to rate pre-service teachers’ feeling of preparedness to work with diverse students. Descriptive statistics were used for data analysis. Researchers were looking for growth during one semester.

Findings from the post-tests showed that the one semester course in Multiculturalism in education increased the pre-service teachers’ knowledge about multiculturalism.  Also, pre-service teachers reported feeling more confident about working with diverse learners, except for children from same gender parents.  There was low to no correlation between multicultural knowledge and attitudes.  There were also no correlations between attitudes and preparedness to teach children from diverse backgrounds. The growth in knowledgebase did not have a direct effect on the pre-service teachers’ attitudes or beliefs about multiculturalism.

The author concluded from the research that a knowledgebase in multiculturalism is not enough to strongly influence teachers’ attitudes or change their practices. Wasonga refers to other studies that encourage strategies like personal experiences, sustained interaction with diverse students and extensive study of issues about diversity as means of impacting pre-service teachers’ attitudes and beliefs. (Gay,2002;King,1991;Schoorman,2002;Watts,1984.)

The article ends with suggestions for future teacher education programs. More integrated methods of teaching multiculturalism  should be included for pre-service teachers.  Wasonga also suggests authentic, direct, and significant interactions with diverse students.

I chose this article because I was curious about how effective learning about multicultural education would be in changing teacher’s attitudes about diverse students.  Based on the results of the study knowledge is not everything.  If I conducted a similar study among teachers at my school, I am curious about how daily interaction with diverse students, while learning about multiculturalism would shape their attitudes and practices.

The research methods were straight forward, clear, and detailed enough to duplicate.  I question the use of such a segregated population of all white young female students.  The group was so homogenous, that I also question if the research results could be applied to all pre-service teachers.  The population of my school is mostly white females with about ten percent of the teachers being male. There are no minority teachers or administrations. Some support staff members are minorities. The biggest diversity among teachers is in age and life and teaching experience among the teachers. Still, I was shocked that among the three graduating classes of pre-service teachers in this study all participants were all white, female, and around twenty-three years old. Would the findings have been different if the pre-service teachers group included a wider range of ages and was mixed with males?  How would the results from minority pre-service teachers vary from the all white group?

With widening gaps in achievement between minority and white students schools are scrambling to meet the needs of struggling students.  How can we create equity in our academic settings for all students? “To meet this challenge, teachers must employ not only theoretically sound but also culturally responsive pedagogy. Teachers must create a classroom culture where all students, regardless of their cultural and linguistic background, are welcomed and supported and provided with the best opportunity to learn.” (Richards, Brown, Forde, 2007).Pre-service teachers need to be exposed to multicultural education in more than just one course. Pre-service teachers need to not only read about, but experience firsthand through visiting, volunteering, and meaningful interactions with members from the communities where their future students live.  Experiences will help pre-service teachers confront fears, misconceptions, and prejudices they may hold.  The demographics of teachers and students should not be so disparate. Teacher Colleges should be filled with a heterogeneous grouping of pre-service teachers from diverse backgrounds.


Gay, G. (2002). Preparing For Culturally Responsive Teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2), 106-116.


Jones, R. L. (1984). Attitudes and attitude change in special education: theory and practice. Reston, Va.: Council for Exceptional Children.


King, J. E. (1991). Dysconscious Racism: Ideology, Identity, and the Miseducation of Teachers. The Journal of Negro Education, 60(2), 133.


Richards, H. V., Brown, A. F., & Forde, T. B. (2007).

Addressing diversity in schools: culturally responsive      pedagogy. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39(3), 64-68.


Schoorman, D. (2002). Increasing Critical Multicultural Understanding Via Technology: “Teachable Moments” in a University-School Partnership Project. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(4), 356-369.


Watts, W.A. (1984), “Attitude change: theories and methods”, in Jones, R.L(Ed.) Attitudes and attitude change in special education: theory and practice. Reston, Va.: Council for Exceptional Children. Pp. 41-69.





The following two tabs change content below.

Connie Hahne

Latest posts by Connie Hahne (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *