Diversity Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions

Required Diversity Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions

of Candidates in the Professional Education Programs

At Missouri State University

PEC Diversity Committee
October 4, 2002

School systems hold the potential for promoting a democratic society that responds to its members and the changes among them (Banks, Cookson, Gay, Hawley, Irvine, Nieto, Schofield, & Stephan, 2001). One of the priority issues facing America is the restructuring of schools in ways that meet the needs of a pluralistic society, one whose communities face massive changes that include the following:

Demographic changes: the society continues to become older and more racially, ethically, and culturally diverse. Currently, one in every three students enrolled in an elementary or secondary school in the U.S. belongs to a cultural group other than White/European. In contrast, the teaching force remains predominantly White/non-Hispanic (Sleeter, 2001).

Educational changes: Education is becoming more individualized, more interdisciplinary, more application focused, and more holistic.

Individual changes: Children and adults must be able to function at higher levels of physical, emotional, and intellectual challenge and be able to contribute to a productive and caring global society. More than one in seven children between age five and seventeen speak a language other than English in their homes.

Another priority issue facing contemporary schools is the creation of strategies for countering the problem of ethnocentric monoculturalism, in education professionals (classroom teachers, counselors, administrators, and education clinical practitioners) as well as learners. Ethnocentric monoculturalismis a belief in the superiority of one’s culture or heritage as compared with others,’ and a parallel belief in the inferiority of other groups (e.g., their customs, values, ways of learning, and family practices). It poses a problem for education as it creates barriers to cross-cultural competence and understanding (Sue, 2001).

Ethnocentric monoculturalism has the potential to be destructive in our schools because, although it can be practiced by well-meaning professionals, it encompasses the power (implicit or explicit) to impose one’s beliefs and standards on less powerful others (i.e., children). This power or unequal status defines the roles of oppressor and oppressed and contributes to widespread misunderstanding and cultural bias among educators.

By contrast, sociocultural consciousness involves an understanding that people’s ways of thinking, behaving, and being are deeply influenced by race/ethnicity, language, and class (Banks, 1996). In this vein, it is suggested that prospective teachers must first become familiar with their own sociocultural identities - - before they can truly understand a diverse population of students (Banks, 1991; Zeichner & Hoeft, 1996).

Given the emerging social changes mentioned above, in addition to the central goal of sociocultural consciousness, professional educators are becoming challenged to accrue information and abilities to help them become knowledgeable about - - and responsive to - - the various cultural groups represented in their schools (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). Educators are also becoming challenged to prepare for navigating diverse school and community systems while protecting and teaching students whose cultures and ways of viewing the world differ from their own. With this broad set of challenges in mind, the following is a description of (a) comprehensive, curricular goals, and (b) specific multicultural education course-content for the preparation of culturally competent educators. We propose that Missouri State will train professionals who:

  1. create safe, inclusive schools, classrooms, and communities where differences are valued and where the norm is to nonviolently interrupt bias, prejudice, and discrimination
  2. create school environments where young people and adults at all levels of the organization talk about issues of diversity and how to resolve conflict, manage emotions and express feelings, with a new level of articulation and passion
  3. provide our school community with knowledge, responsible decision-making skills, and an appreciation of diversity by creating a safe, respectful learning environment
  4. bring about lasting changes in the attitudes and behavior of young people and adults relevant to managing emotions, resolving conflict, and honoring diversity

Toward these ends, Missouri State’s College of Education should both (a) integrate the proposed areas of knowledge, skill, and disposition into existing education courses, and (b) create a capstone course for all education majors, which focuses on the indicated (bold) items in the following lists.

Knowledge Base
Candidates should possess knowledge of the following:

  1. The construct of worldview and its application to various groups of learners
  2. The constructs of bias, stereotype, discrimination, and prejudice and their manifestation in U.S. society as well as the classroom
  3. Elements of effective cross-cultural communication
  4. Concepts of oppression, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, classism, and ableism
  5. Research relative to learning style differences across cultures as well as the complex characteristics of a variety of cultural groups in the U.S.
  6. Research relative to cross-cultural assessment bias in education
  7. Cultural identity and its application to various groups of learners
  8. Concepts such as White Racism and White Privilege and their pervasive impact on traditional educational setting
  9. Common barriers/challenges to effective cross-cultural education
  10. Culture-specific instructional strategies
  11. Specific elements of cultures with which one works and interacts (e.g., family structures, worldviews, etc.)
  12. Specific ways in which discrimination operates in community and school settings
  13. Impact of disabilities, immigration, poverty, and sociocultural powerlessness on students’ learning

Candidates should demonstrate facility with the following:

  1. Development of curricula tailored to the needs of diverse groups of learners
  2. Handling bias and discrimination among students and school personnel
  3. Communication and consultation techniques useful for working with diverse groups of learners, school personnel, and community members
  4. Inclusive and culturally sensitive language
  5. Development of activities designed to facilitate their students’ growth in cultural awareness and gender sensitivity
  6. Engagement in a wide variety of verbal and nonverbal teaching styles
  7. Exercise of institutional intervention skills on behalf of students when needed
  8. Taking responsibility to provide linguistic competence for students and families
  9. Methods of instruction that meet the needs of learners who are diverse in terms of abilities.


Candidates should demonstrate willingness to continue a lifelong pursuit of the following:

  1. Attitudes that include (a) valuing of difference, (b) appreciation for inclusive schools and classrooms, (c) valuing of inclusive and culturally sensitive language, and (d) celebration of cultural difference
  2. Awareness of own biases and prejudices and ability to suspend these in order to be nonjudgmental
  3. Awareness of oneself as an ethnic and cultural being
  4. Awareness of own background/experiences and how they influence learning process and attitudes
  5. Respect for indigenous practices and traditions
  6. Valuing of bilingualism
  7. Involvement with minority groups outside of work role (community events, neighbors, etc.)


Banks, J. (1991). A curriculum for empowerment, action, and change. In C. E. Sleeter (Ed.), Empowerment through multicultural education, pp. (125-141). Albany: State University of New York Press.

Banks, J. (1996). The historical reconstruction of knowledge about race: Implications for transformative teaching. In J.A. Banks (Ed.), Multicultural education, transformative knowledge, and action: Historical and
contemporary perspectives, (pp. 64-87). New York: Teachers College Press.

Banks, J. A., Cookson, P., Gay, G., Hawley, W. D., Irvine, J. J., Nieto, S., Schofield, J. W., & Stephan, W. G. (2001). Diversity within unity: Essential principles for teaching and learning in a multicultural society. Phi Delta Kappan, November, 196-203)

Sleeter, C. E. (2001). Preparing teachers for culturally diverse schools: Research and the overwhelming presence of Whiteness. Journal of Teacher Education, 52 (2), 94-106.

Sue, D. W. (2001). Multidimensional facets of cultural competence. The Counseling Psychologist, 29 (6), 790-821.

Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. (2002). Preparing culturally responsive teachers: Rethinking the curriculum. Journal of Teacher Education, 53 (1), 20-32.

Zeichner, K., & Hoeft, K. (1996). Teacher socialization for cultural diversity. In J. Sikula, T. Buttery, E. Guyton (Eds.)., Handbook on research on teacher education (2nd ed.), (pp. 525-547). New York: McMillan.