The school population becomes increasingly diverse, and the issue of addressing such rapid demographic change is critical for the improvement of teachers’ professional competence and students’ academic achievements. The role of teachers’ attitudes towards the teaching and learning processes is of great interest in the field of education research, and many scholars suggest that teachers’ perception may significantly affect students’ performance (Stronge, 2010, p. 33). In a linguistically diverse environment, sometimes it can be difficult for the professionals to meet the needs and interests of diverse students adequately due to the inability to comprehend the cultural differences and peculiarities. The scarcity of understanding the cultural and linguistic diversity in teachers interferes with their professional performance and creates barriers to the academic and cognitive development of students. Therefore, the investigation of school specialists’ perceptions of teaching diverse students may help to fill the gaps in knowledge, increase the level of teachers’ proficiency, and achieve significant positive results in the implementation of inclusion programs within the education system.
Consideration of Demographic Contexts in Education
According to recent statistics, the number of linguistically diverse students in the USA has increased up to 11 million by 2009, and, as a result, the demand for accountability of both students and teachers has been added (Greenfield, 2013, p. 2). The No Child Left Behind Act requires school professionals to provide the students with a favorable class environment in which their development would be facilitated (Fusarelli, 2004, p. 71). At the same time, the policy encourages the shift from bilingual instruction practices towards exclusively English instruction in multiple mainstream educational settings, and it puts pressure on diverse students. Linguistic and other cultural barriers interfere with academic development, and
poor performance in classes results in students’ referral to special education programs (Greenfield, 2013, p. 2). Linguistic barriers are also regarded as a potential cause for the inability to identify gifted minority students and underrepresentation of the diverse students in gifted programs (Speirs Neumeister, Adams, Pierce, Cassady, & Dixon, 2007, p. 479).
The researchers pay great attention to the role of teachers’ demographic backgrounds in the formation of perceptions (Alter, Walker, & Landers, 2013; Greenfield, 2013). For example, the investigation of teachers’ gender and challenging behavior revealed that male specialists usually struggle with students’ inattentiveness while females often face the issue of disrespect (Alter et al., 2013, p. 53). On the broader scale, teachers’ personal characteristics, values, and beliefs may significantly affect the perception of students from distinct demographic backgrounds, their performance in class, and their abilities (Greenfield, 2013, p. 4). It was observed that the lack of understanding of how the cultural and environmental factors influence the cognitive performance in children, and a narrow conception of the expression of academic talents in diverse students may lead to the formation of an inadequate attitude towards the students (Speirs Neumeister et al., 2007, p. 479). But it was found that experience of working in the multicultural environments, learning a foreign language, or participation in a specific training for the education of linguistically diverse students may be the premises for the development of positive teachers’ perceptions and the establishment of sound student-teacher relationships (Greenfield, 2013, p. 4).
The study conducted by Thijs and Fleischmann (2015), introduces the concept of attachment as an essential element in building student-teacher relationship, student motivation, and goal achievement (p. 53). The developed sense of attachment between teachers and students increases the quality of learning practices and helps to evolve the sense of emotional security in students which increases the motivational impact on the academic performance. The cultural barriers and inadequate teachers’ perceptions create serious problems for the development of attachment and trust in students, but the consideration of psychological and emotional aspects of education may significantly improve the quality of instruction in the multicultural class environment.
Greenfield (2013) introduces the Sociocultural theory framework in her research paper (p. 1). According to this theory, the individual’s process of education is not separable from his/her social and cultural contexts (Greenfield, 2013, p. 5). Based on this perspective, the teachers need to raise awareness of the cultural differences and develop the educational strategies that would meet the interests and needs of diverse students. The consideration of the sociocultural components of the cognitive processes is very important in the creation of positive school environment aimed to provide learning accessibility and comply with high standards of education proficiency.
The evaluation of teachers’ perceptions and the identification of the most prevalent issues influencing the formation of attitude towards culturally diverse students serve many purposes. First of all, the assessment of the major problems correlated with the inadequate teachers’ perceptions may contribute to the design of effective interventions targeted to resolving of the identified challenges. The findings accumulated through the research will help to develop the professional training for teachers aimed to increase professional competence in the domain of multicultural education. The research of teachers’ perceptions may help to establish the criteria for the identification of developmental delays or giftedness in students, and may help to elaborate the homogeneous standards of professional conduct in the instruction of linguistically diverse students. It this way, it will be possible to increase the efficiency of the inclusion programs and perpetuate the positive educational outcomes.
Alter, P., Walker, J., & Landers, E. (2013). Teachers’ perceptions of students’ challenging behavior and the impact of teacher demographics. Education & Treatment of Children, 36(4), 51-69. Web.
Fusarelli, L. D. (2004). The Potential Impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on Equity and Diversity in American Education. Educational Policy Educ Policy, 18(1), 71-94. Web.
Greenfield, R. A. (2013). Perceptions of elementary teachers who educate linguistically diverse students. The Qualitative Report, 18(47), 1-26. Web.
Speirs Neumeister, K., Adams, C. M., Pierce, R. L., Cassady, J. C., & Dixon, F. A. (2007, Summer). Fourth-grade teachers’ perceptions of giftedness: Implications for identifying and serving diverse gifted students. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 30, 479-499,535-537. Web.
Stronge, J. H. (2010). Effective teachers = student achievement: What the research says. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
Thijs, J., & Fleischmann, F. (2015). Student–teacher relationships and achievement goal orientations: Examining student perceptions in an ethnically diverse sample. Learning and Individual Differences, 42, 53-63. Web.