The Evolution of Teacher Education for Equity and Diversity in the Master of Teaching Program
In this section, as an active participant on the landscape of the MT program, I consider the socio-political context in Ontario as well as the collaborative efforts of faculty, staff, school and community partners to understand how the MT evolved into a program that prepares teachers for equity and diversity.
The MT Program is a 20-month graduate teacher education program that combines the study of educational theories, evidence-based teaching practices for equity, opportunities to conduct and use research, four practicum placements in local schools as well as an optional internship in Canada or abroad at the end of the program. Figure 6.4 shows how I understand the socio-political landscape at various levels as it relates to the evolution of the MT as a teacher education program for equity and diversity.
Ontario College of Teacher Accreditation Resource Guide 2017
As mentioned previously, in 2017, the Ontario College ofTeachers published the Accreditation Resource Guide for the “enhanced” teacher education plan first introduced in 2013 with a mandated implementation in 2015.The enhanced program requirements included a new focus on equity and diversity as reflected in the section titles where various program components are described including (1) theories of learning and teaching and differentiated instruction, (2) supporting English-language learners, (3) supporting students with special education needs, (4) mental health, addictions and well-being and (5) Indigenous perspectives, cultures, histories and ways of knowing.
This excerpt from the Accreditation Resource Guide is illustrative of how these guidelines are aligned with the Teaching for Equity framework:
FIGURE 6.4 The Context of the MT Program
The intention is that graduates are able to work with all students, using student strengths and interests to promote their learning and development. Capacities to work with families and other professionals in support of students are also needed.
(Ontario College of Teachers, 2017, p. 21)
The Accreditation Resource Guide (Ontario College ofTeachers, 2017) is also very specific in terms of what should be included in particular courses along with suggested teaching, learning and assessment strategies. Figures 6.5 and 6.6 specify this information for the course on supporting ELs.
Like all teacher education programs in Ontario, the MT is reviewed on a cyclical basis and must demonstrate how it adheres to the Accreditation Resource Guide (Ontario College ofTeachers, 2017). In my various leadership roles over the past 30 years, I have become very familiar with the accreditation process and how it has evolved to support equity- and diversity-focused teacher education. In 2014, during the collaborative development of the Supporting English Learners course, my colleagues and I frequently referred to the list of suggested content as well as teaching and assessment strategies in the 2013 Enhanced Teacher Education guidelines (renamed the Accreditation Resource Guide in 2017) as these resonated for us. In fact, I rejoiced when I saw the specificity of the guidelines provided because I had struggled to find effective ways to put ELs on the landscape in teacher education. Initially, attempts to infuse English as a Second Language (ESL) across the teacher education curriculum were not successful for many reasons including the high turnaround of seconded and sessional instructors in the program, the belief of many of my colleagues that the needs of ELs did not need to be addressed in mainstream teacher education as well as the overcrowded
FIGURE 6.5 Suggested Content for the Course on Supporting English Language Learners (adapted from the Accreditation Resource Guide; Ontario College ofTeachers, 2017)
FIGURE 6.6 Suggested Learning,Teaching and Assessment Strategies for the Course on Supporting English Language Learners (adapted from the Accreditation Resource Guide; Ontario College of Teachers, 2017)
curriculum in our then 10-month teacher education program. The introduction of a stand-alone elective course called ESL Across the Curriculum was also ineffective because only about 70 teacher candidates from a pool of 1,000 had the opportunity to take this elective during their busy program.
Ontario’s Education Equity Action Plan 2017
As a teacher educator, I am always keeping my eye on initiatives of the Ontario Ministry of Education. As such, I was pleased when the Education Equity Action Plan (2017), which builds on the previous 10 years of equity work in Ontario, clearly stated the need to remove systemic barriers to ensure that school and classroom practices reflect and respond to the diversity of students and staff. The “School & Classroom Practices” section of the plan goes on to highlight how current structures, policies, programs and practices may place certain students at a disadvantage and provides a list of the most vulnerable students which includes
“racialized students, students experiencing poverty, Indigenous students, newcomers to Canada, students who identify as LGBTQ or Two-Spirited, children and youth in care, religious minorities, French language minorities, students with disabilities, and students with special education needs” (p. 14).
It is heartening to see that systemic barriers are clearly identified in the Education Equity Action Plan (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2017) and that there are specific indicators for educators, school administrators and the public to look for as the action plan is operationalized one year at a time. However, this excerpt from the plan illustrates that it would be difficult to identify the locus for a complaint regarding its implementation:
Responsibility and accountability for completing the action items rests with the Ministry of Education and its component divisions, branches and offices, including the Education Equity Secretariat, as appropriate for each item and activity.
(Ontario Ministry of Education, 2017, p. 21)
As a new premier with a more conservative education agenda was elected in 2018 and the pandemic closed schools in March 2020, it remains to be seen if the action items delineated in the plan for 2020 will be realized. In fact, the pandemic has increased the visibility of inequities in the education system at every level while making it very challenging to mitigate these.