CGC Seminar Series
Canadian Teachers’ Understandings of Ethnic Diversity
Dr Carla Peck
Consultant, Centre for Governance and Citizenship, HKIEd; and
Associate Professor, Department of Elementary Education, University of Alberta
Date: 6 August 2015 (Thursday)
Time: 12:30pm to 2pm
Venue: Room B2-LP-23, Lower Podium, Block B2, HKIEd (Tai Po Campus)
In the past decade, issues related to ethnic diversity, tolerance and accommodation have increased in salience for educators, policy makers and the general public across the democratic world and in Canada in particular (Fleras & Elliott, 2002; Gérin-Lajoie, 2008; Osler, 2009; Reid, Gill, & Sears, 2010; Sears, Davies, & Reid, 2008; Wallis & Fleras, 2009). Since the 19th century in Canada, education has been a central institution for the implementation of policy in the area of diversity and multiculturalism. Joshee (2004) and others have documented shifts in educational policy and practice related to ethnic diversity in Canada over the years, from an emphasis on assimilation, to more contemporary efforts to promote understanding of, and respect for, diversity (Bruno-Jofré & Aponiuk, 2001; Richardson, 2002). An examination of curricula and standards in social studies education in Canada reveals a clear assumed progression from knowledge of diversity, through acceptance and respect, to justice. For most scholars and educators in the field however, knowledge of difference is not enough: “justice demands the public recognition and accommodation of diversity” (Kymlicka & Opalski, 2001, p. 1). The desired end then, is not only an understanding of difference, but also willingness to adapt, to accommodate and, to advocate for accommodation.
If knowledge is the starting point for both respect and justice, it seems strange that there is almost no research on how teachers understand ethnic diversity. We approach our work from the standpoint that before teachers can teach about ethnic diversity, they need to know something about it. In our study, we sought to map the qualitatively different ways that elementary school teachers understand ethnic diversity, paying particular attention to how they understood their own ethnic identity. In this presentation I will share findings from data collected in Alberta and New Brunswick and will explore implications of these findings for teacher education and professional development.
About the speaker
Dr Carla Peck is Associate Professor of Social Studies Education in the Department of Elementary Education at the University of Alberta. Before moving west, Carla taught grades 1 — 8 in rural New Brunswick. She is currently directing the Alberta portion of the pan-Canadian history education reform project, "The Historical Thinking Project". Her research interests include students' understandings of democratic concepts, diversity, identity, citizenship and the relationship between students' ethnic identities and their understandings of history. She has published articles on citizenship education and history education in the Canadian Journal of Education, Canadian Social Studies, and Citizenship Teaching and Learning, as well as in the pre-service teacher education book Challenges and Prospects for Canadian Social Studies (Pacific Educational Press, 2004).
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