Examining the cultural competence of preservice teachers

Year: 2016

Author: Macqueen, Suzanne, Ferguson Patrick, Kate, Reynolds, Ruth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Cultural competence is an important skill for 21st century teaching and learning, and as such it features in various international teacher standards and accreditation documents. Teachers must be culturally competent so they can cater for diversity in their classrooms, and also so they can prepare their students to live and work in a global economy/environment. Cultural competence is, therefore, an important skill for preservice teachers to develop. This is especially so given that diversity among teachers does not match diversity of students in schools. There are a number of instruments available to measure cultural competence. This study used one such instrument to measure the cultural competence of preservice primary teachers in a regional Australian university. The instrument used considers cultural competency as related to nine areas of diversity: culture, race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, language, identity and religion (Liang & Zhang, 2009). It aims to determine preservice teachers' beliefs about diversity, expectations of students from different backgrounds, and propensity to take action for social justice and against discrimination. Preservice teachers (n=598) who were mostly in the second, third or final year of a four year undergraduate program completed the survey. Comparisons are made to earlier research using the same survey with a similar cohort in the US. While results across the two samples were similar overall, there were also clear differences on two of the seventeen items from the Self-reflections and Teacher Expectations sections of the survey. This paper considers the similarities and differences between the two samples and suggests possible reasons for the differences, indicating directions for future research.