The Supporting English Learners Course
To illustrate how the broader context of education at the provincial level, along with University ofToronto- and OISE-level initiatives, has guided the constant refinement and renewal of one mandatory course within the MT program, I focus on the Supporting English Learners course which is oifered in the second year of the MT program once teacher candidates have completed at least eight courses and two practicum experiences in two settings. Since 2016, 60 cohorts of teacher candidates, that is, about 1,800 teacher candidates have completed this course.
Learning and Assessment Strategies in the Supporting English Learners Course
The core content as well as the main learning/assessment strategies that appeared in the original course outline in 2016 have evolved thanks to the input and experimentation and collaboration of 14 different instructors. As a course lead, I have met with instructors on a regular basis to find out about their experiences with different cohorts ofTCs preparing to teach different grades and subjects. Our discussions can be mapped onto Dimitrov and Hague’s 2016 model for Intercultural Teaching Competence as the topics we explored were for the most part related to the foundational, facilitation and curriculum design competencies of this model. In fact, we have considered how the core topics and teaching, learning and assessment strategies in the Supporting English Learners course help TCs develop the intercultural teaching competencies required to work effectively with diverse students learning English. The activities we have gradually added to the course have sought to create learning opportunities involving the exploration of self, an increased awareness of the varied life experiences of newcomer students and their families and critical reflexivity. Figure 6.7 provides a brief description of five of the core strategies in the Supporting ELs course and shows how these are embedded in the Intercultural Teaching Competence model. Each of these five core activities supports teacher candidates in developing several of the foundational, facilitation and curriculum design competencies included in Dimitrov and Haque’s 2016 model for Intercultural Teaching Competence.
As an instructional team, we have also discussed how our own personal and professional identities impact on the way we approach teaching this course and what topics we may emphasize as a result of our complex identities. As such, although we are mindful of the core content and strategies, we have become aware of how our unique identities influence how we relate to teacher candidates in preparing them to work with diverse learners in schools.
FIGURE 6.7 Core Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategies in the Supporting English Learners Course
Although the socio-political landscape continues to shift in Ontario, the rise of transnationalism and the high level of immigration that have led to the diversification of the population, have proved to be positive forces for change in teacher education. In particular, education and teacher education policies at the provincial level, along with university and faculty level initiatives have finally aligned in support of the development of teacher education for equity and diversity within the framework of the Master ofTeaching Program at the University ofToronto.
Using an autoethnographic lens, I have attempted to give a glimpse into how the forces have aligned in support of a more equity- and diversity-oriented graduate teacher education program. However, as I continue to work with my colleagues to create and sustain a strong program where teachers can learn to work effectively with diverse learners, I worry about a number of issues that plague most teacher education programs in Canada.These include (1) an over-reliance on sessional instructors who are precariously employed, (2) tensions that arise as we strive to be respectful of the academic freedom of instructors while also being accountable in terms of the content requirements of professional programs leading to certification and (3) the locus of decision making as many decisions about teacher education programs are made by continuing faculty because of the high turnover of sessional faculty who, often, are not remunerated for work beyond teaching.
As I have not been able to deconstruct ever)' aspect of the evolution of the program, it may seem that the transformation process is straightforward.
However, it is only through intensive and continuing collaboration at many levels that teacher education for equity and diversity can grow. Safe spaces for faculty, teacher candidates and school partners to disclose concerns related to equity and diversity' must exist and structures to support redress in these situations must be put into place as well. In addition, the systemic inequities in universities must be addressed by creating more permanent positions in faculties of education and recognizing the need to compensate sessional faculty for their labour which goes beyond teaching particular courses. It is definitely not enough to have courses with clear expectations aligned with frameworks such as Teaching for Equity (Grudnotf et al., 2017) or models such Intercultural Teaching Competence (Dimitrov & Haque, 2016) to claim that a teacher education program is truly preparing teacher candidates to be inclusive practitioners working with their diverse students in a socially just manner. Moving toward teacher education for equity and diversity' is a multidimensional process which demands time, commitment and high levels of collaboration, continuing professional development opportunities related to equity and diversity as well as systemic change that recognizes the many inequities in university-based teacher education programs.
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PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS' CRITICAL DISPOSITIONS TOWARDS LANGUAGE