Working with Racially, Culturally, and Linguistically Diverse Students, Families, and Communities: Strategies for Preparing Preservice Teachers

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Patricia Ann Edwards
Kristen L White


One of the most important skills preservice teachers must develop is their ability to build on the knowledge that students bring into classrooms, particularly the knowledge that is shaped by their family, community, and cultural histories. Teacher educators prepare preservice teachers to enter the profession with up-to-date knowledge and skills for improving reading, writing, math, assessment, and other essential components to create excellent schools and responsive classrooms; yet, few prepare teachers to work with racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse students, families, and communities. While teacher educators may agree that parents are important participants in the educational process, they need to move beyond simply acknowledging the importance of parents to accepting the responsibility for preparing preservice teachers to understand the importance of engaging parents in their child’s education and possess the skills to do so. In this article, the authors present a variety of strategies that teacher educators can employ to assist preservice teachers in working with families and children from cultural, ethnic, linguistic, racial, and social-class backgrounds different than their own.

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Author Biography

Patricia Ann Edwards, Michigan State University

Dr. Patricia A. Edwards, a member of the Reading Hall of Fame, is a Professor of Language and Literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University.  She served as a member of the IRA Board of Directors (1998–2001), as the first African American President of the Literacy Research Association (2006-2007), and as President of the International Literacy Association (2010-2011).  She has published articles in highly refereed journals, authored two nationally acclaimed family literacy programs and seven books. Her most recent book New Ways to Engage Parents: Strategies and Tools for Teachers and Leaders is the winner of the 2017 Delta Kappa Gamma Educators Book Award.  Dr. Edwards was also named as the 2017-2018 Jeanne S. Chall Visiting Researcher at Harvard Graduate School of Education.