Chapter 8. Build the capacity of teachers to deal with diversity

Teachers are considered key actors in schools and training institutions in supporting immigrant students reach their full potential. However, increasingly diverse schools and classrooms require a strong capacity from teachers. Teachers might be aware of the importance of supporting immigrant students and are willing to do so, however, many may lack the necessary skills to offer effective support. Therefore, teachers need to receive initial teacher training and professional development opportunities to respond to the specific needs of immigrants, and adapt their teaching practices to more diverse classrooms. This chapter examines policies and practices that can help build the capacity of teachers to manage diverse classrooms. Examples include: hiring professionals that reflect the student body, integrating diversity and inter-cultural topics into initial teacher education, offering continuous professional development in diversity, supporting teachers in diverse classrooms and preparing school principals for diversity in schools.

    

The growing number of immigrants and their diverse learning needs place considerable pressure on education and training systems to serve as vehicles of integration. Teachers are key actors in schools and training institutions in helping immigrants reach their full potential. Teachers can promote the cognitive and social-emotional development of immigrants, support students and adults who are not proficient in the language of instruction, and act as a bridge between schools and parents or the wider community. However, increasingly diverse schools and classrooms require a higher capacity from teachers. Teachers might be aware of the importance of supporting immigrant students and are willing to do so, however, many lack the knowledge and necessary skills to offer effective support.

Therefore, it is important that teachers receive initial teacher training and professional development opportunities, as well as systemic support to respond to the specific needs of immigrants and adapt their teaching practices to more diverse classrooms. This chapter will examine a set of principles that can guide the design and implementation of policies and practices to build the capacity of teachers to manage diverse classrooms. Examples include: integrating diversity and intercultural topics into initial teacher education, offering continuous professional development in diversity, hiring professionals that reflect the student body, supporting teachers in diverse classrooms and preparing school principals for diversity in schools.

Student-teacher interactions

All efforts to integrate children with an immigrant background depend on well-skilled and well-supported teachers who incorporate the diversity of their student populations in their instructional approaches to help all students achieve (OECD, 2018[1]). Positive student-teacher interactions play an important role in integrating students with an immigrant background.

Unfair treatment by teachers

Immigrant students need support from teachers in order to fully benefit from the learning opportunities that are available to them. Students with an immigrant background have more positive attitudes and higher academic motivation if teachers care about them and support their learning.

However, Figure 8.1 shows that students report frequent unfair treatment by teachers. In 16 countries, the percentage of students who reported that teachers frequently treated them unfairly in the previous 12 months was higher among immigrant students than native students. On average across OECD countries, the difference was approximately 6 percentage points, with significant differences across countries. In most countries, first- and second-generation immigrant students were equally likely to report frequent unfair treatment by teachers (OECD, 2018[1]).

Unfair treatment by teachers can decrease both the academic and social resilience of immigrant students. In the majority of OECD countries, the percentage of students who attained baseline levels of academic proficiency was lower among students who perceived unfairness by their teachers compared to other students. On average across OECD countries, the difference was about 8 percentage points (OECD, 2018[1]).

When considering students’ emotional and social well-being, the correlation is more pronounced. On average across OECD countries, students who reported that their teachers had frequently treated them unfairly during the previous 12 months were 11 percentage points less likely to feel a sense of belonging at school, 10 percentage points less likely to report feeling satisfied with life, and eight percentage points less likely to report low levels of schoolwork related anxiety. Evidence shows that poor student-teacher relations have a strong impact on several aspects of students’ well-being as well as their academic performance.

Figure 8.1. Students reporting unfair treatment by teachers, by immigrant background
Figure 8.1. Students reporting unfair treatment by teachers, by immigrant background

Notes: Students who reported frequent unfair treatment by their teachers are those who answered “a few times a month” or “once a week or more” to at least one of the questions of how often, during the previous 12 months: “Teachers called me less often than they called on other students”; ”Teachers graded me harder than they graded other students”; “Teachers gave me the impression that they think I am less smart than I really am”; “Teachers disciplined me more harshly than other students”; “Teachers ridiculed me in front of others”; and “teachers said something insulting me in front of others”.

Statistically significant differences between immigrant and native students are shown next to country/economy names. For the OECD average, this number refers only to the subset of countries/economies with valid data on both groups of students.

Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the percentage of immigrant students who reported unfair treatment by teachers.

Source: OECD, PISA 2015 Database.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933939923

Teacher feedback

While students with an immigrant background might feel unfairly treated by their teachers, Figure 8.2 shows that they were more likely to report receiving frequent feedback from their teachers than native students. On average across OECD countries the percentage of students that reported receiving frequent feedback from their teachers was six percentage points higher among immigrant students compared to native students. After accounting for science performance, the differences were reduced; however, most differences remained statistically significant, indicating that immigrant students did not receive more feedback just because their science performance was worse.

When considering well-being outcomes, students were more likely to report a sense of belonging at school if they received academic feedback from their science teachers. On average across OECD countries, the effect was a two percentage-point increase in the likelihood of feeling a sense of belonging at school and five percentage-point increase in the likelihood of being satisfied with life (OECD, 2018[1]).

Receiving regular feedback from teachers can improve the academic and social resilience of immigrant students. Teacher feedback also has a strong motivating effect on students. On average across OECD countries, students who reported receiving frequent feedback from their science teachers were three percentage points more likely to report high achievement motivation. Teacher feedback tends to increase the likelihood that students will report low levels of schoolwork-related anxiety (OECD, 2018[1]).

Evidence shows that greater teacher support for immigrant students can significantly improve their well-being outcomes and moderate the effect of poor academic performance on their well-being.

Figure 8.2. Immigrant-native differences in receiving teachers' feedback
Differences in the percentage of immigrant and native students who reported that they receive frequent feedback from their science teacher
Figure 8.2. Immigrant-native differences in receiving teachers' feedback

Notes: Only countries with valid estimates of immigrant-native gaps before and after accounting for science performance are displayed.

Statistically significant differences are marked in a darker tone.

Students who reported receiving frequent feedback from their science teacher are those who answered “many lessons” or “every lesson or almost every lesson” to at least one of the statements: “The teacher tells me how I am performing in this course”; “The teacher gives me feedback on my strength in this subject”; “The teacher tells me in which areas I can improve”; “The teacher tells me how I can improve my performance”; and “The teacher advises me on how to reach my learning goals”.

Countries and economies are ranked in descending order of the percentage of immigrant students who reported that they receive frequent feedback from their science teacher, after accounting for their science performance.

Source: OECD, PISA 2015 Database.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933939942

Teachers’ need for professional development

The previous findings reflect that even though teachers often seek to help immigrant students succeed in school (by giving them frequent feedback on their work), they may lack the skills to do so in a way that is effective and well received by immigrant students.

Figure 8.3 shows the interaction between student feedback and perceived unfair treatment by teachers. In countries and economies in the top left quadrant (Costa Rica, Finland, Lithuania, Macao [China], Norway and Singapore), immigrant students appear to be relatively supported by their teachers: they reported receiving additional feedback compared to native students and reported being treated fairly by their teachers. Immigrant students in countries and economies in the bottom right quadrant (Brazil, Croatia, the Netherlands and Turkey) reported receiving little additional feedback from their teachers compared to native students, and reported feeling that they are treated unfairly by their teachers. These countries might consider implementing policies that support teacher-training initiatives designed to improve teachers’ ability to support and assist immigrant students.

In countries listed in the top right quadrant (Belgium, Denmark, the Slovak Republic and Sweden), teachers appear to be aware of the importance of supporting immigrant students, since these students reported receiving more feedback than native students. But teachers in these countries appear to need additional training in how to provide assistance to immigrant students without stigmatising them.

Figure 8.3. Interaction between feedback and perceived unfair treatment by teachers
Figure 8.3. Interaction between feedback and perceived unfair treatment by teachers

Notes: Dimension 1 (rows) sorts countries into three equally-sized groups based on the difference in the percentage of immigrant and native students who reported receiving frequent feedback from their science teacher, after accounting for their science performance. Immigrant students tended to report more frequent feedback, so a large gap favours immigrant students. Dimension 2 (columns) places countries into three equally-sized groups based on the difference in the percentage of immigrant and native students who reported frequent unfair treatment by their teachers. Immigrant students were more likely to report unfair treatment, which is a “negative” outcome.

Students who reported frequent unfair treatment by their teachers are those who answered “a few times a month” or “once a week or more” to at least one of the question of how often, during the previous 12 months: “Teachers called me less often than they called on other students”; ”Teachers graded me harder than they graded other students”; “Teachers gave me the impression that they think I am less smart than I really am”; “Teachers disciplined me more harshly than other students”; “Teachers ridiculed me in front of others”; and “teachers said something insulting me in front of others”. Students who reported receiving frequent feedback from their science teacher are those who answered “many lessons” or “every lesson or almost every lesson” to at least one of the questions about how often: “The teacher tells me how I am performing in this course”; “The teacher gives me feedback on my strength in this subject”; “The teacher tells me in which areas I can improve”; “The teacher tells me how I can improve my performance”; and “The teacher advises me on how to reach my learning goals”.

Source: (OECD, 2018[1]) The Resilience of Students with an Immigrant Background: Factors that Shape Well-being, OECD Reviews of Migrant Education, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264292093-en.

Data results indicate that teachers adapt their behaviours when teaching students with an immigrant background. This could occur because teachers understand the specific needs of immigrant students and try to provide them with adequate support. It can also result from implicit expectations teachers hold for the students and their academic potential and career possibilities. Moreover, teachers might hold stereotypical notions about different immigrant groups, which can lead them to treat students differently within this group.

Figure 8.4 shows that, on average, one in ten teachers participating in the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) reported the need for additional professional development when teaching in multicultural settings. Thus, when it comes to immigrant students and students who do not speak the language of assessment, teachers often feel the need for additional systemic support. For example, in Brazil, Italy and Mexico, over 25% of teachers reported that they feel they need more assistance in understanding how to address and support their students’ needs in multicultural classrooms. This could be a sign that either teachers in these countries wish to continue improving their skills or that they are not satisfied with the training they received (OECD, 2017[2]).

Figure 8.4. Teacher's need for professional development in a multicultural setting
Figure 8.4. Teacher's need for professional development in a multicultural setting

Note: The data from the United States should be interpreted carefully because the United States did not meet the international standards for participation rates.

Source: OECD (2013), Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS): 2013 complete database, http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?datasetcode=talis_2013%20 (accessed 7 December 2018).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933939961

Knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for diverse classrooms

To be able to manage diverse classrooms, teachers need to be equipped with relevant knowledge, capabilities, dispositions, values and skills. Examples include knowledge and understanding of diversity issues, reflectivity about identities, perspectives and practices, as well as teacher agency and autonomy, empathy, and pedagogical judgement and tact (Forghani-Arani, Cerna and Bannon, 2019[3]).

Furthermore, strong communication and listening skills, creativity and problem solving are crucial for teachers when working in diverse classrooms. Some knowledge of cultural anthropology, social psychology, child cognitive development, Content and Language Integrated Learning and second language acquisition are desirable knowledge areas that should be developed during initial teacher training. Teachers would also benefit from being encouraged to develop attitudes such as curiosity, open-mindedness, awareness of others, tolerance and having high expectations for students (OECD, 2017[2]).

Evidence from the field including examples of policy and practices to ensure immigrant students are well supported by teachers

This section highlights efforts to improve teaching capacity for pre-service and existing teachers, as well as efforts aimed at other members of the school community for managing diversity. The policy responses described, as well as country examples at various levels (individual, school and system), provide possible opportunities and practical applications that can be tested and evaluated to ensure the successful integration for all.

Integrate diversity and intercultural topics into initial teacher education programmes

Teachers require certain knowledge, skills and attitudes to be effective in diverse classrooms, which can be developed in initial teacher training. This can happen by integrating diversity into the curriculum, approaching diversity as an asset, linking theory and practice, creating spaces for action, reflection, study and anticipation in handling diversity, and incorporating relevant technologies for innovative teaching (Forghani-Arani, Cerna and Bannon, 2019[3]).

Effective teacher education programmes for diversity integrate diversity directly into the curriculum rather than as ad hoc or separate courses. Examples of effective programmes in Europe that specialise in educating teachers for diverse classrooms include: Master of Intercultural Education (Marino Institute of Education, Ireland), Master of Educational Treatment of Diversity (University of Latvia, Charles University in Prague, Ludwigsburg University of Education, and National University of Distance Education), and Master of Multicultural and International Education (Oslo and Akershus University College for Applied Sciences, Norway) (European Commission, 2017[4]).

Pre-service teachers also require training that integrates theory and practice, and helps relate conceptual knowledge to practical experience in diverse classrooms. Service learning and cultural immersion can provide relevant field experience in teacher education (Boyle-Baise and McIntyre, 2008, p. 310[5]). Cultural immersion experiences help educators venture outside their cultural “comfort zone” and transform their understanding of others (Yuan H., 2018[6]).

For example, the Indiana University School of Education in the United States offers a cultural immersion experience to its student teachers through the “Global Gateway for Teachers” programme. The programme provides pre-service teachers with opportunities to prepare for teaching diverse groups of students by placing them in schools located in the Navajo Nation American Indian Reservation, urban settings in Indianapolis and Chicago, and multiple international locations in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Since its inception in 1970, many studies have highlighted the positive impact of the programme on pre-service teachers’ professional and personal development. Positive effects include a more empathetic understanding of the world and its people, an appreciation for other cultures and an awareness of both global and domestic diversity (Kirkwood-Tucker, 2009[7]).

Another example is the Canadian programme “Éveil aux langues et ouverture à la diversité linguistique” (ELODIL) [Awareness of English and openness to linguistic diversity], facilitated by the University of Montreal, Canada, which offers training programmes and support plans focused on language and communication for current and future teachers in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and in rural regions (Armand, 2014[8]). The programme enables teachers to adopt good practices that facilitate student learning and promotes their commitment to recognise students’ linguistic and cultural background as a resource, not as an obstacle. The programme increased the likelihood teachers develop and experiment with efficient teaching practices, which in turn helped student teachers develop positive attitudes towards diversity as well as metalinguistic abilities. The training facilitated the recognition and legitimisation of the different immigrant children’s languages of origin in creating multi-ethnic environments, and in the specific context of Quebec, helped the learning of French and the awareness of the social and identity role of French as a common language (Armand, 2014[8]).

Innovative teacher education programmes for diversity use technology to facilitate learning about diversity and help increase the cultural awareness of prospective teachers (Davis, Cho and Hagenson, 2005[9]; Bowser, 2008[10]). For example, the eTutor programme in Australia promotes a greater understanding of other cultures among pre-service teachers. Introduced by the RMIT School of Education in Melbourne, the programme creates an online environment using technology where pre-service teachers can interact with students from different countries on a virtual teaching platform through blog posts, comments and videos. The programme aims to increase the intercultural and technological capacities of teachers by allowing them to explore different cultures in ways that are safe, supportive, inclusive, challenging, and engaging (Carr, 2016[11]). A majority of the participants underwent a positive attitudinal shift; the pre-service teachers, many of whom had started with an ethnocentric view, finished with an ethno-relative view, demonstrating empathy and caring for children of different cultures (Carr, 2016[11]).

Offer continuous professional development focused on diversity and facilitate peer-learning between teachers in the workforce

Collaboration and exchange of good practices are important aspects of teacher professional development and can have positive effects on capacity building (Burns and al., 2016[12]). Continuous professional development programmes can help student teachers manage diversity as they transition to the teaching workforce and once they are in the profession by providing opportunities to learn and practice new strategies.

For example, the National Agency for Education in Sweden offers professional development courses in collaboration with various Swedish universities. The courses allow teachers to become certified for teaching additional subjects, such as teaching Swedish as a Second Language. There is also a professional development course called “The Global Classroom” that targets all teachers regardless of subject matter to strengthen teaching methods in multilingual classrooms and interactions with newly arrived students (Skolverket (National Agency for Education), 2018[13]).

Another example is the Intercultural Learning in the Classroom Project in the Netherlands, launched by the Dutch Ministry of Education to develop the intercultural skills of teachers across all education sectors. Teacher educators and teachers collaborated in workshops to develop intercultural activities and to implement them in real classrooms. The Intercultural Learning in the Classroom Project successfully helped teachers move away from culturalism in the classroom. Additionally, teachers began to view intercultural education as a pedagogy of tolerance that requires empathy, communication skills and a safe classroom environment (Leeman and Reid, 2006[14]).

A third example stems from the European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL), which offers condensed professional development to teachers, educators and school principals on intercultural competences to teachers. Participants are empowered to deliver the training themselves, which allows the knowledge to spread through a multiplier effect. Participants are also introduced to a toolbox that was designed especially to help teachers integrate intercultural learning in their own curricula. The toolbox is developed in four sessions: tools based on the whole-school approach, cross-curricular tools, specific subject activities and tools to support international mobility (OECD, 2017[2]). More information can be found at: http://intercultural-learning.eu/teacher-training/.

Besides professional development, peer-learning can also help teachers prepare for managing diverse classrooms. Evidence shows that mentoring and being mentored provide important benefits (OECD, 2005[15]).

For instance, New Zealand has induction and mentorship arrangements for new teachers. The mentorship arrangement has clearly established guidelines and regulations that explain the role of the mentor, mentee, and the school for the teacher’s first two years. Detailed information is also provided for teachers who serve New Zealand’s Indigenous population. The Induction and Mentoring in Māori-medium Settings (Te Hāpai Ō – Ko te Whakangungu me te Arataki i ngā wāhi Mātauranga Māori) aims to help teachers support Māori students, a historically disadvantaged group in New Zealand (Marie, Fergusson and Boden, 2008[16]). An important feature is that the induction and mentoring programme in New Zealand is built into the schedule of all new teachers. In addition to reducing total teaching time for all teachers in 2015-2016, the ‘Teachers Collective Agreement’ affords first and second year beginning teachers an extra 5 and 2.5 hours of time, respectively, to be used for induction and mentoring (Ministry of Education of New Zealand, 2015[17]; Ministry of Education of New Zealand, 2016[18]; OECD, 2012[19]). This time allotment, which is highly valued, provides more opportunities for new teachers to learn from their mentor. However, regulation mechanisms are needed as researchers have found that many teachers use the extra time for daily teaching tasks rather than professional development activities (Anthony et al., 2007[20]).

Recruit professionals that reflect the student body

Having teachers with an immigrant or minority background can be beneficial not only for students with immigrant, ethnic or racial minority backgrounds, but also for all students. Diverse teachers can serve as role models and provide greater understanding for students with different needs and backgrounds. However, the qualifications of teachers with an immigrant or minority background are often not recognised by host countries, which prevents them from working in schools there (OECD, 2017[2]).

Several programmes exist that facilitate overcoming the barriers for teachers with an immigrant or minority background. In Europe, R/EQUAL, a project initiated in September 2018 and co-ordinated by the University of Cologne, Germany, focuses on international networking and the exchange of expertise in the field of higher education activities concerning recently immigrated and refugee teachers in Europe. Collaborating on the European level, R/EQUAL supports existing programmes at the Universities of Stockholm (Sweden), Vienna (Austria), Cologne and the University of Education Weingarten (both in Germany). At the same time, expertise gained from running a programme is shared with other institutions in higher education in Europe. Some examples of recommendations for building capacity with respect to a diverse teacher workforce include the involvement of ethnically diverse teachers in the recruitment of new hires to ensure a diverse representation in these selection pools and a greater attention to anti-oppression and social justice courses at the in-service level. Additional recommendations include: recognising that all students benefit from a diverse teacher workforce; a closer examination of policies and practices that limit or thwart hiring a diverse representation of teachers; ensuring opportunities for teachers to develop supportive communities of practice; and recognising the insider/outsider position of many historically marginalised teachers (Carter Andrews et al., 2019[21]).

The Education Science Foundations for Refugee Teachers (Bildungswissenschaftliche Grundlagen für Lehrkräfte mit Fluchthintergrund) is an innovative education programme specifically for refugee teachers at the University of Vienna, Austria. The programme allows refugees to re-enter their profession through an alternative certification with the aim to create a heterogeneous teaching workforce that better reflects the diversity in the Austrian student body (Biewer and Frey, 2017[22]). In addition to educational theory classes, the participants are enrolled in practical training at schools across Vienna, under close supervision of a mentor (Biewer and Frey, 2017[22]). Graduates are considered qualified under the Austrian educational system by means of a special contract to teach one subject in the secondary or upper secondary level on the condition that they hold a bachelor’s degree, B2 level of German and prior teaching experience (with the possibility of a full contract if additional requirements are fulfilled). The programme has already attracted international attention, winning the SozialMarie prize for social innovation in 2018 (Unruhe Privatstiftung [Unrest Private Foundation], 2018[23]).

Support for teachers and school administration in diverse classrooms (social workers, psychologists, language aides or other professionals)

Different sets of vulnerabilities that accompany direct and indirect displacement might affect students’ sense of self. Social workers and psychologists who also have experience working with immigrant students can provide extra support to teachers who teach in diverse classrooms.

For example, the Ministry of Education in Austria has employed Mobile Intercultural Teams (mobile interkulturelle Teams, MIT) since April 2016 to provide schools that have high percentages of immigrant students with extra support. Often a psychologist qualified to help children who have experienced trauma or difficulty in their lives accompanies the team (Scholten et al., 2017[24]). Support can include advice for teachers, individual casework with immigrant students, and workshops to improve class climate. Importantly, the MITs help parents of immigrant students integrate into the school community (Felder-Puig, Maier and Teutsch, 2016[25]) and often serve as a language bridge between students, parents, and the school (teachers, administrators, etc.) (Eurydice, 2018[26]). They go through two full days of training on the following topics: asylum and migration movements, school law and administration, trauma and trauma coping with children and adolescents, and psychosocial support systems at and for school (Felder-Puig, Maier and Teutsch, 2016[25]).

School leaders can offer teachers with support to deal with diversity in classrooms and schools. However, these professionals also require effective training for diversity. For example, in the United States, the Urban School Leaders Collaborative (USLC) is a cohort-based principal preparation programme dedicated to developing leadership capacity within the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), which serves a diverse population of families, the majority of whom are Hispanic and low income (http://education.utsa.edu/educational_leadership_and_policy_studies/). The goal of the programme is to prepare leaders who can work effectively in ethnically, racially, socially, and linguistically diverse educational environments. Through partnerships with local school districts and institutions of higher education, the participants have the opportunity to apply leadership theories and practices in real-world settings (Murakami and Kearney, 2016[27]).

References

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