Theses Doctoral

"They Get Diversity": Teacher Preparation for K-12 Student Diversity in the Hispanic Serving Institutional Context

Gerst, Tara Eve

The dearth of K-12 teachers of color remains a resounding issue of equity and social justice. Given that more potential candidates of color are enrolling in Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to avoid the negative experiences at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) that discourage them from entering the field, this qualitative study explored teacher preparation at two 4-year public Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).

The goal was to better understand: (a) how HSIs work against the barriers that have historically excluded teachers of color, (b) how teacher educators at HSIs respond to the diversity of college student abilities and prior academic experiences, and (c) how teacher educators at HSIs conceptualized and taught about the increasing racial, ethnic, and ability diversity of today’s K-12 students. Drawing on data at the individual, classroom, institutional, state, and federal levels, this study both centered the voices of teacher educators and college students of color and analyzed their narratives in relation to larger systems of power and privilege. From this analysis, two broader questions emerged. First, what does it mean to serve historically marginalized students who wish to be teachers? The study demonstrated that even institutional contexts that work to be welcoming spaces for college students of color contend with the historical legacies of whiteness and ability as property in teacher education, as the majority of graduated teachers across both racially diverse schools were white.

Second, is there something to “get” when it comes to diversity in teacher education, and how do we know that students “get” it? As teacher educators of color complicated essentialist narratives of urban schools, teachers of color, students of color, and students with disabilities, tensions emerged around the impact K-12 teachers and schools have on society, dilemmas when college students’ needs clashed with their future K-12 students’ needs, and pedagogically sound ways to respond to understandings of diversity that work against equity and social justice. The role of care emerged as essential in simultaneously upholding the democratic ideals of schooling and productively responding to pathologizing discourses about people of color, moving beyond critical critique in teacher education, and (re)prioritizing the humanity of both K-12 and college students.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Naraian, Srikala
Knight-Manuel, Michelle Georgia
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
March 2, 2022