Preparing teachers for diversity: the role of initial teacher education

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A new study from the European Commission explores how best to prepare teachers for diversity in the classroom.

Students may have roots from around the world and speak a multitude of languages; but the teaching population remains largely homogenous and feels ill-prepared to teach students from such diverse backgrounds. Education systems need to make sure that teacher education opportunities equip teachers with the capacity to develop appropriate strategies for teaching and learning – especially relating to languages – as well as the ability to reflect on their own beliefs and cultural differences. 

This study has helped to consolidate existing knowledge across Europe and beyond, and to gather new evidence on how student teachers are prepared for diversity in the classroom and to teach about diversity in society. It explores how teacher education for diversity is understood in national contexts, and maps the existing policies and initiatives to prepare student teachers for diversity.

The researchers found that, while there is a growing tendency in some countries to recognise the benefits that cultural, linguistic, religious and social diversity can bring to schools and to society, diversity is still seen as a deficit in many countries.

Initial Teacher Education can better prepare student teachers by considering the competences of the teacher more broadly than their subject knowledge – provided that the competences for diversity in the classroom are well defined. The study shows that countries rarely include specific learning outcomes in terms of knowledge, attitudes and skills. This creates limitations in the way these competences are reflected in ITE curricula.

A supportive culture needs to be developed at all levels. Whilst there are clear areas for improvement, the study highlights the variety of initiatives and policies to increase ITE systems’ sensitivity to diversity and to incorporate more diversity content in Europe. It exemplifies this with 15 detailed case studies as examples of good practices in countries across Europe.

You can read more about the study here.