Disrupting Norms to Increase Diversity of Teacher Candidates: Restraining Forces for Junior Faculty
Research in teacher preparation programs in Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) suggests that diverse and non-traditional students face barriers and challenges within teacher preparation programs (Widiputers et al., 2017). Diverse students include non-traditional students, first-generation students, students who have work responsibilities, who may have family or other care-giving responsibilities, students with disabilities, students living in poverty, and may also include culturally and linguistically diverse students. Issues such as unpaid practicum hours (similar to an internship), conflicting course and work schedules, attendance policies, due dates/late work policies, course expectations that value verbal participation, office hours not available when students are available, and how often courses are offered (e.g., yearly vs every semester) negatively impact diverse student populations. Many of these decisions are made at the preference of administration and tenured and established faculty while others are left-over from a time when students did not have to balance the work and family requirements many students face today.
As we attempt to increase representation of students in teacher prep programs, the policies and practices to meet their unique situations have not been equitably incorporated into the daily practices in higher education. This continues to maintain of the status quo rather than increasing the diversity of teachers in the workforce as the diversity of teacher candidates has not increased to represent the diversifying population despite efforts (United States Department of Education, 2016). Many junior faculty may engage or attempt to engage in disrupting the status quo to create and implement policies that respond to students' needs that result in increased support for students from backgrounds that are disproportionately impacted by traditional practices. Junior faculty can serve as change agents if IHE can recognize the tremendous time and effort that goes into making sustainable change within the college and surrounding educational systems. Recognizing the barriers to junior faculty and providing support to do this challenging work and remain on target for promotion and tenure is critical. Tenure protections ensure faculty can be leaders in sustained change and establishes them as leaders within IHE and in their professional fields and disciplines. Establishing support systems, especially from administration, within the university and community can support junior faculty and accelerate the timeline or target systems open and more responsive to change.
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