Freire’s critical pedagogic perspective emphasizes the potential of every individual, and gives an idea of what kind of processes could empower those who do not feel empowered, perhaps through inequalities imposed by diversity (Berglund and Johansson, 2007). Teacher educators are in a unique position to enact this message of empowerment and to distil this as expected practice among the teacher students we teach. One process advocated by Freire's critical pedagogical perspective is 'conscientization', a type of learning that is focused on perceiving and exposing contradictions as a foundation from which to take action (ibid.) – but are teacher educators ready and able to deliver such an approach? Just how good is their training in diversity and are they putting acquired skills and knowledge into practice?
Previous studies (Webb, 2008) on the topic of diversity and diversity management, spanning organizational contexts as well as social and regional spheres of the European Union, show that in order to conduct significant and effective diversity management , methodological starting points, approaches, and any interventions must be integrated across organisations, social and regional spheres. I.e. there needs to be cross-cutting coherency and standardisation. Ten years later, this is still important. Perhaps as teacher educators we have the greatest opportunity to bring this vision to fruition. But what are our curricula for doing so?
Stenhouse (2012) asserted that accounts of teacher educators' understanding of matters of diversity were lacking in the literature, and highlighted that few investigations beyond those explicitly focused on diversity courses specifically address teacher educators' multicultural education training, backgrounds, and experiences. Citing Banks (2009), Stenhouse (2012) went on to point out that teacher educators have been found to not be fully preparing kindergarten to grade 12 teachers to navigate the diversity represented in the “sociocultural maze of schools and their students”. This has perhaps gone hand in hand with other systemic deficiencies pertaining to diversity and its management in wider social spheres.
While previously considering the context of the European Union, it was evident that there was a substantial gap in a lack of frameworks, approaches and methods that could step up to the challenge of conducting diversity management at the integrated regional level to encompass the social as well as the organizational contexts of diversity (Webb, 2008). Since that time, legal frameworks have been developed that provide a greater imperative for all to respond to diversity in non-discriminatory ways, either directly or indirectly: none more so perhaps than teachers and their educators. As such, a range of questions become important:
Can this be made more systematic? How do teacher educators integrate skills and knowledge on diversity into their own practice? How does it both inform their practice and shape their interactions with students?
In the European Union (EU), there is a series of legislation, policies and activities that promotes equality, non-discrimination and diversity (European Commission, 2017). In the United Kingdom (UK), there is the Equality Act 2010. This includes a list of protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Part 6 of the act covers education in depth, with reference to schools, further and higher education, general qualifications bodies, adjustments and educational charities and endowments. In appendices there are 4 schedules that in particular refer to education. Of these laws and their requirements, how familiar are teacher educators with these? How regularly do they receive training to keep their knowledge current, and also to apply and inform their practice as teacher educators? What methods do they use to both embed this knowledge and required skills for teachers as part of their own curricula and lessons? How effectively are they transferring knowledge and skills as teacher educators to those in their care as student teachers? What impact is this making in the practice of those teacher students?
A need for further research to find answers to these questions by survey is necessary in order to create a coherent, systematic and standardised platform and curricula for EU teacher educators to engage in ongoing professional development and have ongoing access to appropriate resources and supports, as their American counterparts do (O’Hara and Pritchard, 2008).
Berglund, K., and Johansson, A.W. (2007). “Entrepreneurship, Discourses and Conscientization in Processes of Regional Development”. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 19 (6), pp. 499-525.
European Commission (2017). “Communication of the Commission: A Better Workplace for All: From Equal Opportunities Towards Diversity and Inclusion”. Brussels, 19.7.2017, C(2017) 5300 final.
O'Hara, S., Pritchard, R.H. (2008). "Meeting the Challenge of Diversity: Professional Development for Teacher Educators", Teacher Education Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 43-61.
Stenhouse, V. L. (2012). “Teacher Educators’ Understanding of Diversity: Painting a Picture through Narrative Portraits”, Multicultural Education, vol. 19, no. 4, pp, 14.
Webb, C. (2008). “Proposing the Need for an Integrated Diversity Agenda for European Business, Management & Social Policy at the Regional Level”. Full paper accepted to the Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity track of the 8th European Academy of Management (EURAM) Conference 2008, ‘Managing Diversity: European Destiny and Hope’, 14-17 May 2008, Ljubljana & Bled Slovenia.