Teaching multicultural literature in Idaho's secondary schools: Dimensions and obstacles
The purpose of this dissertation study was to ascertain the extent to which Idaho public school English teachers have incorporated multicultural literature in their classroom practices, the attitudes they have about that inclusion, and the challenges or obstacles they have encountered in doing so. The study employed both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analyses methods. A survey questionnaire was distributed to a stratified sample of 298 of the 1302 Idaho literature teachers in secondary schools. The responses were used to determine the range and extent to which teachers were incorporating multicultural literature. From these responses, criterion-based samples were drawn to examine how teachers who include multicultural literature differ from those who do not and how teachers who have a large population of minority students respond to the issue of incorporating multicultural literature. Seven participants from each of the three criterion-based groups were interviewed. The qualitative component of the study was concerned with how teachers make decisions about the use of multicultural literature, how they carry out those decisions, and the particular challenges or obstacles they encounter to that endeavor. By comparing teachers who chose to incorporate multicultural literature with those who did not, the study identified factors that hinder the inclusion of multicultural literature.
Critical findings from the survey included: (1) Of the secondary Idaho English teachers, 53.5% focused on multicultural literature 10% or less of available literature class time. (2) Considerable discrepancy existed between valuing multicultural literature and actually incorporating it in the curriculum. (3) An increase in percentage of students who are members of a minority population did not correlate with an increase in the proportion of time focused on multicultural literature. (4) The primary reasons teachers identified for including multicultural literature were to broaden students' perspectives, to change students' attitudes, to expose students to this body of quality literature, and to affirm students' heritage. (5) The course anthology is the most common resource for multicultural literature. Results of the survey include lists of most frequently taught titles and authors. (6) The primary obstacles suggested by teachers included lack of available resources, curriculum issues, time availability, and lack of knowledge.
Critical findings from the interviews described differences between teachers who reported a high level of involvement with multicultural literature and those who reported a low level of involvement. These two groups differed markedly in how they responded to political concerns and practical considerations and in terms of the philosophical perspectives and theoretical assumptions they held. For example, teachers who included multicultural literature the most practiced constructivist methodologies as they engaged students in reader-response activities. They made curriculum decisions based on the needs and interests of their students. In contrast, teachers who described a low level of involvement with multicultural literature focused curriculum around the classroom anthology and practiced content-driven pedagogy. Their curriculum decisions were based on pressures or requirements from outside the classroom. Additionally, it was discovered that teachers who included multicultural literature the most reported some "precipitating experience" that predisposed them toward incorporating multicultural literature.
Findings of the study hold implications for teacher preparation and inservice programs and others interested in expanding the use of multicultural literature.
0282: Multicultural education
0279: Language arts