Assessing Business and Marketing Teachers' Attitudes Toward Cultural Pluralism and Diversity

Elaine Adams
Helen C. Hall
University of Georgia

Abstract

Student populations within business and marketing classrooms, like our nation, continue to grow increasingly diverse. Teachers' attitudes are critical to meeting the educational needs of learners from diverse backgrounds. This study used the Pluralism and Diversity Attitude Assessment (PADAA) to investigate business and marketing teachers' attitudes toward issues related to multicultural education. The PADAA uses four sub scales (Appreciate Cultural Pluralism, Value Cultural Pluralism, Implement Cultural Pluralism, and Uncomfortable with Cultural Pluralism) to describe respondents' attitudes toward cultural pluralism and diversity. Business and marketing teachers tended to reflect positive attitudes about the issues examined. However, they did express resistance toward classroom implementation of cultural pluralism as well as uncomfortable feelings about diversity. Results from this study will be useful to preservice and inservice career and technical educators, teacher educators, and school administrators attempting to understand and expand multicultural perspectives within career and technical education.

Teachers and students live and work in a culturally-pluralistic and diverse society. Fundamental challenges facing today's educators include their abilities to respond to an increasingly diverse nation, workforce, and student population. Teachers' attitudes toward and about issues of cultural pluralism and diversity will impact and shape the forms of multicultural education provided to tomorrow's society and workforce ( Hernandez, 1989 ; Stanley, 1992 ). Business and marketing teachers who understand and embrace multicultural education are in a position to prepare students to become successful in the new millennium. Multicultural education is a way of teaching ( Birkel, 2000 ) that describes an educational experience and system inclusive of a variety of participating cultures ( Payne & Welsh, 2000 ). Multicultural education encompasses cultural pluralism as well as cultural diversity.

Cultural diversity is the condition that exists while cultural pluralism includes beliefs and values associated with promotion of equality for all people (Stanley, 1992 , 1996 ). Cultural diversity issues focus on conditional states related to age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, language, socioeconomic status, and exceptionality ( Grant & Ladson-Billings, 1997 ). Cultural pluralism is an ideology that advocates the preservation and development of diversity within a society. "Cultural pluralism requires that the diversity of students and communities be understood, valued, and integrated in all aspects of the educational process" ( Grant & Ladson-Billings , p. 65). However, according to Butt and Pahnos ( 1995 ), teaching in a multicultural society and providing excellence and equality in education is not easily accomplished.

According to James Banks ( 1993b ), University of Washington professor of education, multicultural education consists of three major components: (a) an idea or concept, (b) an education reform movement, and (c) a process. "As an idea or concept, multicultural education maintains that all students should have equal opportunities to learn regardless of the racial, ethnic, social-class, or gender group to which they belong" ( Banks, 1995 , p. 390). As a reform movement, multicultural education aims to reform schools so that all students have an equal opportunity to learn. And, multicultural education is a continuous process with a goal to create "within schools and society the democratic ideals... such as justice, equality, and freedom" which are never totally achieved ( Banks, 1995 , p. 390).

During the 1960s, black civil rights movements in the United States inspired similar actions throughout the Western world. A major goal of these ethnically-motivated events was empowerment and liberation through education ( Banks, 1987 ). A variety of educational and curricular programs, projects, and innovations have been employed to encourage the acceptance, inclusion, and growth of multiculturalism within the public schools ( Banks ). However, much of the educational reform that has been implemented into American education is superficial, fragmented, and tends to encourage racism through cultural misconceptions and stereotypes ( Banks ). Educational structures continue to focus on Anglo and European development ( Banks ). The ideologies of American schools and educational programs have remained mostly homogeneous while the student population has grown enormously diverse ( Latham, 1997 ). Furthermore, despite the efforts of 40 years of desegregation in American schools, most students still attend schools that remain racially segregated ( Gay & Howard, 2000 ).

Progress has been made in the multicultural preparation of teachers, with a significant number of today's teachers having completed a required course in multicultural education when in college. A standard for multicultural education initially adopted in 1979 by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has been a major factor in stimulating the growth of multicultural education in teacher education programs. The original standard stated: "The institution gives evidence of planning for multicultural education in its teacher education curricula including both the general and professional studies components" ( NCATE, 1977 , p. 4). Today, unit standards identified by NCATE include a Diversity category. The standard in this category states: "The unit designs, implements, and evaluates curriculum and experiences for candidates to acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to help all students learn. These experiences include working with diverse higher education and school faculty, diverse candidates, and diverse students in P-12 schools" ( NCATE, 2001 , p. 10). Even though NCATE remains committed to diversity preparation for teachers, Gay and Howard ( 2000 ) contend that preservice teacher education programs continue to fall short when "...preparing teachers to meet the instructional challenges of ethnically, racially, socially, and linguistically diverse students in the 21st century" (p. 1).

Banks ( 1987 , 1993a ) identified some of the most prevalent reasons for persistent deficiencies in multicultural education: (a) schools that are not ethnically diverse or do not experience racial problems do not need educational reform; (b) lack of administrative support, effective teaching materials or inservice training; and, most importantly, (c) basic ideology. In many instances, teachers do not share the same economic or residential history as the students they teach ( Gay & Howard, 2000 ). Therefore, teachers need preparation in being effective as teachers of culturally- and ethnically-diverse students. Teachers preparing our youth for the workforce of this new millennium must possess ideologies that serve all students and are characterized by culturally-pluralistic knowledge, preparation, and commitment.

Theoretical Framework

Schools with a rich multicultural focus share a variety of foundational dimensions ( Banks, 1993b ; Birkel, 2000 ). The first dimension, content integration, is the extent to which teachers use examples, data, and information from a variety of cultures to illustrate the key concepts, principles, generalizations, and theories in their subject area ( Banks ). It is the positive interaction and integration of cultures into school subjects ( Birkel ). Teachers who understand and respond within this dimension are able to extrapolate and infuse contributions from many cultures into their teaching.

Purpose

Student populations in business and marketing education, like our nation, continue to grow increasingly diverse ( Foxman & Easterling, 1995 ). Business and marketing education has been successful at responding to the needs of a changing American society and workforce. It is now necessary for business and marketing education to meet the needs of an increasingly-diverse student population ( Foxman & Easterling ). Information about attitudes of business and marketing teachers towards cultural pluralism and diversity is essential in developing an educational environment responsible and responsive to a culturally-diverse nation, its students, and its workforce. Therefore, an assessment of business and marketing teachers' attitudes toward issues related to cultural pluralism and diversity was warranted, especially since a majority (88.5%) of career and technical education teachers, of which business and marketing teachers are apart, are Caucasian ( U.S. Department of Education, 2000 ).

Methodology

Participants

Results

It was the purpose of this study to generate findings regarding business and marketing teachers' attitudes toward issues of cultural pluralism and diversity. Means and standard deviations associated with each statement are included in Table 1.

Discussion

This study sought to provide an analysis of the attitudes of business and marketing teachers toward cultural pluralism and diversity, components important to the multicultural education process. It sought to delve into topics that have been in the forefront of educational discussions for the last 40 years. It was determined from the baseline frequencies and percentages generated from the data that a majority of the business and marketing teachers responding to the survey had positive attitudes about cultural pluralism and diversity. However, as is the case with most research studies, caution should be applied when interpreting the findings and generalizing the findings to other populations.

Conclusions

  1. Business and marketing teachers believe that all students should be provided equal opportunities for educational success.
  2. Business and marketing teachers believe that educational systems are able to assist diverse groups of students.
  3. Business and marketing teachers believe that diverse cultures make positive contributions in our society.
  4. Business and marketing teachers believe that cultural pluralism and diversity should be preserved and recognized as a positive educational resource.
  5. Business and marketing teachers believe it is appropriate for students to feel pride in their cultural heritage.
  6. Business and marketing teachers believe that students should learn to respect themselves and others.

Recommendations

  1. Business and marketing teachers may need to gain education and training in developing and infusing teaching strategies that emphasize the needs of diverse learners in their classes and programs.
  2. Business and marketing teachers may need assistance developing instructional practices that appeal to diverse student populations.
  3. Business and marketing teachers who feel uncomfortable when dealing with diverse student populations may need to obtain additional educational guidance preparation, and sensitivity regarding multiculturalism and diversity.
  4. Teacher educators need to emphasize multicultural education in their teacher preparation programs, increasing educational focus on the development and delivery of curriculum and activities appropriate and valuable for diverse student populations.

Implications

Cultural pluralism and diversity are elements important to the success of multicultural education, an ideology that seeks to encourage unity among a nation's people rather than separation ( Birkel, 2000 ). Contemplating the diversity that now encompasses our nation and schools, business and marketing teachers will need to provide their students with the education resources and vitality essential to meeting the challenges incumbent of a multicultural society.

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