Prekindergarten Teachers' Multicultural Knowledge, Skills, and Classroom Environment
Bartelo, Katharine A.
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As more students from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds enter the educational system, teachers are faced with the increasing need to consider classroom diversity. It has been established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children's (NAEYC) developmentally appropriate practices construct that multicultural diversity should be an integral part of an early childhood curriculum. Creating a classroom environment where preschool teachers use multicultural knowledge and skills to model acceptance of cultural diversity can provide a base for future appreciation of multiple ethnic cultures. The purpose of this study was to explore multicultural knowledge and skills of teachers' working in prekindergarten programs, and how these elements were reflected in the classroom environment. In addition, the study looked at possible relationships between multicultural knowledge, skills and demographic variables, such as NAEYC accreditation, universal pre-kindergarten, ethnicity, teaching experience, degrees held, and multicultural education training. Fifty- one prekindergarten teachers completed the Teacher's Belief Survey (Spanierman et al., 2011). Further, their classrooms were observed for multicultural materials employing the Gayle-Evans Adapted Multicultural Checklist. Four teachers were interviewed to gain further insight into the teachers' thoughts regarding multicultural knowledge and skills. Findings from the quantitative phase revealed significant relationships between: (1) multicultural knowledge and skills; (2) multicultural knowledge/skills of teachers working in NAEYC-accredited/non-accredited preschools, and (3) multicultural training and multicultural knowledge/skills. The qualitative results suggested that prekindergarten teachers believed that: (1) multicultural education should begin at or before the prekindergarten level; (2) pre-service course work in multicultural education was not considered applicable to their classrooms; and (3) it is an important part of their job to make students aware and comfortable with diversity. These results suggest the need for future research with classroom observations to determine how teachers actually implement their multicultural knowledge and skills in their classroom teaching. Also, research looking at classes being offered at the higher education level and what are the benefits, if any, to in-service teachers. Finally, future research around early childhood students and their reactions to diverse cultures and ethnicity should be considered.
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