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Understanding Diversity: How Do Early Childhood Preservice Educators Construct Their Definitions of Diversity

Because of the increasing diversity of ethnic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic groups in public schools, the preparation of teachers for multiethnic, multicultural settings is a critical issue facing teacher educators. This study investigated preservice early childhood education students' definitions of multicultural education, sources of information from which they constructed their definitions, how multicultural education was actually implemented in school, and their perceptions of the ways multicultural education should be implemented. Participating in the study were 103 students at different points during a 4-year undergraduate program. Their responses to a 4-item open-ended questionnaire indicated that students' definitions illustrated minimal understanding and conceptualizations of multicultural education limited to issues related to race and ethnicity. A majority of respondents constructed their definitions from college courses, suggesting that universities may have tremendous influences on student attitudes toward diversity. Participants witnessed multicultural education on a limited basis in the school sites and were confronted with incongruencies between the diversity perspective advocated in university course work and in their field experiences. (Contains 29 references.) (KB)

  • Contributor: Reiff, Judith C., Neuharth-Pritchett, Stacey, Pearson, Carol A.
  • Date Published: 04-00
  • Year: 2000

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