Den doble meningsdannelsen av begrepet Kulturellt mangfold i lærerutdannerdiskurser
Kulturelt mangfold anses å være en viktig del av vestlige utdanningssystemer. Hvordan blir kulturelt mangfold forstått i praksis?
Begrepet "kulturelt mangfold" har vært gjenstand for mye internasjonal utdanningsforskning. Allikevel så er det ikke forsket mye på hvordan begrepet forstås, ei heller begrepets innhold. Det er liten forståelse av hvordan begrepet forstås i lærerutdanner-diskurser. Vi vet lite om kunnskapene og verdiene som ligger til grunn for lærerutdannernes formidling.
Denne artikkelen tar sikte på å bidra til økt innsikt i bruken-, og meningsdannelsen, av begrepet kulturelt mangfold i lærerutdanner-diskurser. Artikkelen baserer seg på semi-strukturerte intervjuer med tolv lærerutdannere. Forskerne legger diskursteori og kritiske hvithetsstudier (CWS) til grunn for sine analyser.
Et viktig funn som presenteres i artikkelen er at lærerutdannerne forholder seg til en form for dobbel betydning av begrepet: på den ene siden forholder de seg positive til-, og ønsker, kulturelt mangfold. Samtidig knytter de begrepet opp til forestillingen om annerledeshet eller "de andre".
The Double Meaning Making of the Term Cultural Diversity in Teacher Educator Discourses
Cultural diversity is assumed to be a central component of Western education and even though it has been extensively investigated in international research on teacher education, little knowledge exists about its usage and meaning making in teacher educator discourses. This article provides insights into the usage and meaning making of the term cultural diversity based on semi-structured individual interviews with a total of twelve teacher educators from two Norwegian teacher education institutions. Drawing on the theoretical perspectives of discourse theory and critical Whiteness studies, we find that the term cultural diversity is used in a double meaning making pattern: Cultural diversity is presented as desirable and positive by teacher educators, yet it is also aligned with the notion of otherness. We discuss some possible methodological tools with which teacher educators can detect meaning making patterns and thus counter the production and reproduction of socially unjust discursive patterns.
Corresponding author: Sandra.Fylkesnes@hioa.no
Cultural diversity is assumed to be a central component of Western education and has been quite extensively investigated in international teacher education research (Gay, 2010; Leeman, 2008; Sleeter, 2008; Virta, 2009). However, the research rarely addresses how the term cultural diversity is understood or what content the term refers to (cf. Fylkesnes, 2018a). Less is known about how cultural diversity is used and understood in teacher educator discourses. Furthermore, most research on teacher education and cultural diversity has focused on student teachers’ shortcomings, attitudes, and knowledge (Cochran-Smith et al., 2015). We know little about the knowledge and values held and communicated by teacher educators. This is important, as teachers’ dispositions affect their pedagogical decisions (Eberly, Rand, & O’Connor, 2007; Robinson & Clardy, 2011) in ways that may also affect social justice (Mills & Ballantyne, 2010). Moreover, recent reviews of teacher education research still find that a discursive pattern featuring a lack of conceptual clarity persists (Cochran-Smith et al., 2015; Fylkesnes, 2018a). This has implications for teacher education regarding social justice and work against discrimination. For example, the term cultural diversity, because of its lack of conceptual clarity, may constitute a discursive ideology of White supremacy (Fylkesnes, 2018a).
In most Western contexts, White teachers and minoritized students have diverging everyday experiences. In Norway, most teachers (including teacher educators and student teachers) are generally ascribed (by themselves and others) an identity as members of the dominant social group (White), meaning that they share this group’s overall norms and values. However, minoritized students are usually ascribed an identity as the Other (Gullestad, 2002; Thomas, Haug Changezi, & Enstad, 2016). As conceptualizations of terms in discourses, constituted by knowledge-producing institutions, work through educational curricula and practice (Afdal & Nerland, 2014), to interrogate the usage and meaning making of the term cultural diversity is relevant and important because it helps us to understand how teacher educators can better prepare student teachers for pedagogical decisions that promote social justice in their future work as teachers.
This article aims to contribute to insights into the usage and meaning making of the term cultural diversity in teacher educator discourses as produced by twelve teacher educators in two Norwegian teacher education institutions. The question guiding the article is: How is the term cultural diversity used and understood in discourses produced by a group of teacher educators? We draw on theoretical perspectives from critical Whiteness studies (CWS) and discourse theory. Importantly, this study focuses on one aspect of the social structures through which Whiteness works (discursive patterns).
Little research exists on teacher educators and cultural diversity, both internationally, as well as within the Norwegian context (Bates, Swennen, & Jones, 2011; Dowling, 2017). As most research on teacher education and cultural diversity generally focuses on student teachers, recent developments in teacher education research point to the need for a greater focus on teacher educators (Cochran-Smith et al., 2015; Dowling, 2017; Goodwin et al., 2014; Hallett, 2010; Jacobs, Assaf, & Lee, 2011; Murray, 2014; Timmerman, 2009; Tryggvason, 2012; Williams, 2014). Whilst some studies have addressed how teacher educators often feel unprepared in terms of teaching cultural diversity-related issues (Gorski, Davis, & Reiter, 2012), others find that there is not necessarily a correlation between teacher educators’ self-understanding and their cultural diversity awareness (Brown, 2004). Generally, the importance of teacher educators’ knowledge when preparing student teachers for a culturally responsive understanding is underscored (Richards, 2011). The relatively scarce body of research focusing on teacher educators, particularly on their cultural diversity dispositions, mirrors international teacher education research more generally (Cochran-Smith et al., 2015). Given how teacher educators’ dispositions affect their pedagogical decisions (e.g. Eberly et al., 2007; Robinson & Clardy, 2011) in ways that ultimately affect social justice (Mills & Ballantyne, 2010), more insight into such processes could increase our knowledge about how to develop teacher education programmes that promote equity and social justice.
In this article, we draw upon theoretical perspectives from discourse theory and CWS. The main tenet of discourse theory (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001) is that the way a term is used and thereby filled with meaning in certain contexts has implications for how people act upon it: “How we are seen determines in part how we are treated; how we treat others is based on how we see them; such seeing comes from representation” (Dyer, 1993, cited in Gillborn, 1995, p. 18). Herein, we define a discourse as “a system of representation” (cf. Hall, 1992, p. 287) that provides a particular kind of knowledge that allows for certain representations whilst denying others. A set of representations often found in discourses are binary oppositions (MacLure, 2003). Such discursive constructions imply a system of representation that portrays positive representations of Us against negative representations of the Other (MacLure, 2003; Said, 2003; Van Dijk, 2006). These representations define the identity and difference boundaries—for those considered members and non-members of the dominant social group, for inclusion and exclusion, entitlements and restrictions, endowment and appropriation, and hence for dominance and subjugation (Goldberg, 1993, Goldberg, 2009).
A central CWS tenet is the recognition of Whiteness as a post-colonial and imperial legacy of race and racism. Even though, traditionally, the Whiteness concept has not been used when analysing socially-constructed systematic racial injustices in the Norwegian and wider Nordic context, the concept has recently gained further interest and acceptance (Loftsdóttir & Jensen, 2012; Van Riemsdijk, 2010), also within the field of education (see Atabong, 2016; Dowling, 2017; Mikander, 2016). To draw on a CWS perspective in the analysis of teacher educator discourses in the Norwegian context is relevant and important. Despite Norwegian educational law demanding that all forms of discrimination should be eradicated (Lovdata, 2013), Norwegian schools continue to discriminate based on ethnic background (Dowling, 2017; Westrheim, 2014). Within CWS, race, a legacy of the modern categorization project, is understood as a concept embedded in Whiteness that describes the foundation of the socially-constructed phenomenon upon which people are grouped and given status according to a hierarchy. Importantly, the categorizer, the superior (White) race, is always positioned at the hierarchical apex (Dyer, 1997; Gullestad, 2004). Racism, within CWS, is understood as discrimination based on racial membership that manifests in minimal, subtle, omnipresent, systemic, ordinary and commonplace practices (Gillborn, 2005, 2008; Leonardo, 2002; Picover, 2009). Racism, as such, may be understood as subtle discursive patterns that categorize Us and the Other (Said, 2003). What is relevant to this article is that a major site for such representations and interpretations is, as Bonilla-Silva (2006) has pointed out, knowledge-producing educational institutions.
As argued elsewhere, the reasons for such a lack of interest might be related to ideas of a general Nordic identity as based on the so-called Nordic model and Nordic Exceptionalism that results in a “pedagogy of amnesia” (Leonardo, 2004), and on how the term race is generally considered taboo (Dowling, 2017; Fylkesnes, 2018b).
Importantly, Whiteness as a discursive ideology of White supremacy is generally produced in a dysconscious manner. By dysconscious, we refer to the workings of Whiteness as an uncritical and distorted way of thinking about race that accepts culturally-sanctioned assumptions, myths and beliefs, which in turn support and tacitly accept dominant White norms and privileges (King, 2004, p. 73). Whiteness, as such, manifests through subtle discursive patterns disguised as linguistic cues that draw attention to race by representations of the Other as inferior and different (McVee, 2014; Said, 2003). These representations always co-occur with assumptions that reflect ideas of a superior and homogenous (White) Us. If the concept of Whiteness, understood as ideas of a superior and homogenous White Us, is related to the context of Norway, it could be argued to work in similar racialized ways as the imagined sameness of Norwegianness (cf. Gullestad, 2001, 2002).
Focusing on the use and meaning making of the term cultural diversity in teacher educator discourses, we draw mainly on the analytical concept of binary oppositions, the dichotomous systems of representations of Us and the Other (MacLure, 2003; Said, 2003; Van Dijk, 2006). Such systems may be found in discursive patterns of othering, that is, the discursive patterns that name and define the racially Other (e.g. Loftsdóttir & Jensen, 2012; Said, 2003). Discursive patterns of othering are at the center of all identity formation (Goldberg, 2006) and are closely related to the processes of objectification (Essed, 1991)—the discursive pattern of othering based upon someone looking different. This form of othering implies that the Other does not naturally belong and is not part of what is regarded as ordinary (Essed, 1991). Moreover, the discursive patterns of othering may be traced via interrogating discursive patterns of assumptions, that is, how discursive patterns may expose taken-for-granted values that are understood as universal and normal (Fairclough, 2003). Assumptions are central to the construction of all identities and make particular social identities salient (Goldberg, 2006). As part of discursive Whiteness patterns, the identities made salient are all other identities than that of Whiteness (Frankenberg, 1993). As such, the identity of Whiteness appears as if (Leonardo, 2004) it is invisible and thereby produces what Frankenberg (1993) refers to as normalization, that is, the invisible assumed standards of Whiteness (the dominating hegemonic norm) against which otherness is measured.
Before initiating this study, approval was given by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (NSD). In the following, we describe the sample, outline the data collection process and the analysis.
The data analysed for this study consists of transcripts of semi-structured individual interviews with twelve teacher educators from two teacher education institutions in Norway. These institutions are referred to as institution A and institution B, where institution A is one of five Norwegian teacher education institutions that upholds a multicultural programme profile. Even though the multicultural profile is not explicitly promoted by institution A, it is nonetheless evident in how its programme and subject-specific plans more frequently use terms such as the multicultural, multilingual, immigrant, cultural and linguistic diversity, linguistic minority, minority and diversity compared to institution B (e.g. Fylkesnes, 2018b). The teacher educators consisted of eight females and four males with similar academic backgrounds. Four teacher educators from institution A and five teacher educators from institution B held a master’s degree in Educational Studies, one teacher educator from each institution held a master’s degree in Special Needs Education, and one teacher educator from institution A held a master’s degree in Multicultural Education. They all taught the course Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge. This integrative course in the national Norwegian primary school teacher education programme is concerned with pedagogical theories and instruction. It composes one fourth of the total teacher education programme, is supposed to be an overarching course that unifies the other courses and the student teachers are expected to learn about foundational pedagogical theories (e.g. Vygotsky, Piaget, Dewey) and related didactical practices. The course is also meant to provide student teachers with an identity as teachers and to ensure that critical thinking is a central component throughout the educational programme (Ministry of Education and Research, 2010). All student teachers are obliged to take this six-semester 60 ECTS course. Given that the teacher educators interviewed in this study teach the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course, we assume them to be “experts” on teacher identity and critical thinking.
Author (a) recruited the informants, conducted the interviews and was in charge of the transcription process. The number of teacher educators interviewed was based on the principles of theoretical saturation (Guest, Bunce, & Johnson, 2006). The teacher educator interviewees were recruited in four steps, based on principles of purposive and snowball sampling (Patton, 2002). First, e-mails about the project with follow-up phone calls were directed to each institution’s leader. Then, the institutional leaders recruited staff members that they felt would be interested in the topic, and thus, willing to partake in the interview. Finally, direct e-mail contact with potential teacher educator interviewees was established and follow-up phone calls were made for the final planning of meetings.
The teacher educators were interviewed during the 2013-2014 school year. The interviewer (Author a) followed the ethical guidelines and stages of the interview inquiry, as suggested by Kvale and Brinkmann (2009), and focused on the teacher educators’ feelings of safety and on listening and asking encouraging questions when conducting the interviews. On average, the interviews lasted one and a half to two hours. They were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim, resulting in approximately 180 pages of transcript. The interviews were semi-structured, included different types of interview questions (cf. Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, pp. 135-136) and consisted of three parts (see Appendix 2). Part one addressed questions related to what teacher educators valued as important in their teaching on the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course. Part two addressed similar questions to those in the first part. However, in this second part the term cultural diversity was explicitly included. Part three addressed questions that encouraged teacher educators to both reflect on and compare terms repeatedly featured in Norwegian primary school teacher education policy and curriculum documents. This article focuses mainly on the second and third parts of the interview.
The transcribed interview material has been analysed as empirical data (Peräkylä & Ruusuvuori, 2017). This implies that the examples from the transcribed material of individual teacher educators’ usage and meaning making of the term cultural diversity illustrate variations in the features of the general patterns produced by them as a community. In our analysis, we drew on a structured three-reading strategy (adapted from Mausethagen & Granlund, 2012; Søreide, 2007, see Table 1). As part of the first reading, a word search was performed in the interview transcriptions to obtain an overview of the terms that appeared prominently and frequently in relation to the term cultural diversity. From these searches, excerpts were extracted for a deeper analysis of the usage of cultural diversity and its related terms. The second reading then focused on the extracted excerpts and on how cultural diversity and its related terms were used therein, particularly in relation to representations that invoked patterns of othering through objectification, assumptions, and normalization. The third reading aimed to detect discursive meaning making patterns of representation between the three parts of the interview as well as between the institutions (see Appendix 1, Table 1, for an outline of the three-readings strategy). To ensure validation, we discussed the preliminary findings as well as possible interpretations of this study with colleagues in different research settings (e.g. conferences and paper sessions) (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009).
In the next sections, we present the analysis through the following four double meaning making patterns: cultural diversity as (1) positive and costly, cognitively challenging and non-Norwegian; (2) a positive and important multicultural resource and “less developed” student teachers; (3) desirable for teacher education and photos of difference; and (4) the knowledgeable student teacher role and knowledgeless minority parents.
Findings: The double meaning making patterns
The transcribed interviews with teacher educators provided rich material for insights into the patterns of representation in the teacher educator discourses on cultural diversity. In our analysis of the transcribed interview material, we detected a general double, but interrelated, discursive meaning making pattern. While one part of this discursive pattern pointed to how the term cultural diversity was explicitly presented as something positive, important and desirable about teacher education, the other part more subtly represented it as negative, challenging, cognitively “less developed” and knowledgeless. Importantly, it was common in the double meaning making pattern to assume that cultural diversity was generally meant to refer to the Other (Said, 2003). In the following, we present our analysis of this double meaning making pattern.
Cultural diversity as positive: Cultural diversity as costly, cognitively challenging and non-Norwegian
One double meaning making pattern of the term cultural diversity emerged from the transcribed interview material through how the term was related to the following terms: the multicultural, multilingualism, bilingualism, resource, behavioural challenges, special education, dialogue, minority, integration, inclusion, another nationality and from a different country. These terms are interesting because, even though some invoke positivity (e.g. resource, dialogue), they generally allude to more negative ideas of, for example, costly school resource usage (e.g. behavioural challenges), cognitive challenges (e.g. special education) and assumptions of how cultural diversity refers to ideas of non-Norwegianness (e.g. the multicultural, multilingualism, bilingualism, minority, integration, inclusion, another nationality and from a different country). Moreover, a general feature of the teacher educator discourses produced at both institutions was how the terms cultural diversity and the multicultural were used interchangeably : While teacher educators at the multiculturally-profiled institution A tended to relate the term cultural diversity more frequently to the terms multilingualism and bilingualism, teacher educators from institution B more frequently related the term cultural diversity to the terms another nationality and from a different country. These relations of terms indicate that the discourse at institution A on the term cultural diversity circles around issues of language, whereas for institution B, they circle around issues of nationality. These were the only differences in the usage and meaning making of the term cultural diversity in the teacher educator discourses at the two institutions.
Cultural diversity as a positive and important multicultural resource: Cultural diversity as “less developed” student teachers
Another feature of the double meaning making pattern of the term cultural diversity was found in how it was represented both explicitly as a positive and important multicultural resource for the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course, but also through how it was simultaneously represented through assumptions of it being a less developed Other. The following excerpt, drawn from the second part of the interview where questions related to teaching about cultural diversity were addressed, exemplifies this double meaning making pattern:
In the teacher education, the pedagogy [course] must take responsibility for this [cultural diversity] and promote the resource dimension of it [cultural diversity] … even though we, unfortunately, we do not have that many students from other cultures. I have worked within the bilingual bachelor’s in teacher education, where we have 20-30 students that come from different cultures. Somalia, Iran, Japan and from all around. And they might originally be teachers. Some are perhaps doctors, but they want to develop, to educate themselves as teachers. Then a slightly different dimension appears. I wish that those 30 [bilingual bachelor’s in teacher education students] were part of ordinary primary school teacher education. That they were part of this [ordinary teacher education] and not a small satellite on the outside … that there were more [students] in ordinary teacher education who were multicultural. Then we would have had even more of that pedagogy and the multicultural aspect as a glue and many nice conversations around how to think pedagogically in different contexts. (Teacher educator, institution B)
In the above excerpt, to teach about cultural diversity is initially represented as something that the pedagogy course needs to take responsibility for, and it is represented as something that needs to be promoted as having a “resource dimension”. These representations may be understood as highlighting ideas of cultural diversity as positive, important and relevant to the pedagogy course. However, teaching about cultural diversity is also represented through assumptions of it being a concern related only to students who study in the bilingual bachelor’s course in the teacher education programme. Importantly, these students are described as coming from other and different cultures and countries, as multicultural and as representing “a multicultural aspect”. As such, these representations of teaching about cultural diversity appears to reflect ideas of it being conditioned by the presence of the Other.
Although the statement expressing a desire to include the 30 students from the bilingual bachelor’s in teacher education as part of the “ordinary primary school teacher education” programme might be interpreted as reflecting an inclusive idea, it may also be understood as representing an assumption of the existence of an ordinary teacher education programme. As such, an implicit idea of how these students and their education represents something unordinary compared to the assumed ordinary teacher education is introduced. Moreover, when the bilingual bachelor’s in teacher education students are represented as to “come from different cultures”, “multicultural” and as representing “a multicultural aspect” or related descriptions of the appearance of a “slightly different dimension”, these ideas may reveal another assumption of how students enrolled in the “ordinary teacher education” programme are assumed to be ordinary. They are assumed neither to have “multicultural” or “different dimensional” features, nor as different linguistically, culturally, multiculturally or nationality, but to represent more or less homogeneity. Hence the statement: “we do not have that many students from other cultures”.
Moreover, the description of how some of the bilingual teacher education students “might originally [already] be teachers” or even “perhaps doctors” who “want to develop” by studying for a bilingual bachelor’s degree, points to possible degradation assumptions and ideas of this Other. Representing the Other as wanting to develop without explaining this idea further can moreover be understood as reflecting ideas of how the Other is generally assumed to be less developed. Importantly, this assumption may in turn rest on ideas of a developed Norwegian context. Such dichotomous ideas of Us and the Other can be seen as concurring with the Norwegian political practices of not accrediting educational degrees from outside of the Norwegian educational system (particularly of degrees from outside of what are considered “Western” countries), in that they both might evoke ideas of the Norwegian education system being superior.
Furthermore, in the above excerpt, the general idea represented is how teaching about cultural diversity is partly a matter of how, by introducing the Other—by its very presence —such teaching is made possible. In other words, introducing bilingual bachelor’s in teacher education students to the “ordinary teacher education” the pedagogy subject is assumed to automatically provide the pedagogy course with a “slightly different dimension” or a “multicultural aspect” to be utilised for the stimuli of “nice conversations around how to think pedagogically in different contexts”. Interestingly, these representations may rest on assumptions of how the student teachers in the “ordinary teacher education programme”, because of their assumed homogeneity, are understood to be irrelevant as possible contributors to teaching about cultural diversity.
Cultural diversity as desirable for teacher education: Cultural diversity as photos of difference
A third feature of the double meaning making pattern of cultural diversity was its representation as desirable for inclusion in teacher education and teacher educators’ teaching, but also, assumptions that it represented difference. The excerpt below is also drawn from the second part of the interview where questions addressed teacher educators’ ways of teaching about cultural diversity:
We could have integrated it [cultural diversity] more. I try to integrate it [cultural diversity] in different ways, however, with examples. Photos that, for example, of course, when you have an ordinary theme and you bring in photos of different pupils, where you see that they have a different background. That is one way of getting it [cultural diversity] in because then you see it [cultural diversity]. (Teacher educator, institution B.)
In this excerpt, teaching about cultural diversity is represented as something that teacher educators (“we”) could generally have integrated more in their teaching, in “different ways” and “with examples”. As such, teaching about cultural diversity is represented as important to teacher education. Here, as in the two prior examples, cultural diversity appears to be, othered through assumptions of it referring to persons who are considered Other. However, in contrast to the prior example, cultural diversity does not refer to living persons who, with their cognitive ability, could perhaps contribute to pedagogical conversations. It is reduced to objects or artefacts: photos of visibly different pupils.
Similar to the prior example, the ideas presented in the excerpt above might imply how teaching about cultural diversity involves transforming “an ordinary theme” into one on cultural diversity simply by bringing in photos of pupils in which one “sees that they have a different background”. This representation of cultural diversity rests on at least two main assumptions. First, the idea of how, by simply introducing the Other to an “ordinary [teaching] theme”, this “ordinary theme” may be transformed into one about cultural diversity. This idea can furthermore rest upon another related assumption that there are themes in teacher education that are assumed to be “ordinary” and that cultural diversity generally does not exist—at least not in the form of a visibly present Other. Hence, cultural diversity is assumed to represent something unordinary. Second, the presented idea of how one can “see” pupils’ “different background[s]” otherness an idea that conflates visible with different background and thus assuming that the following: if you look Other, then you must have a different background. Since looking Other and having a different background is not necessarily the same thing, this logic raises the relevant questions as to whether one might actually “see” different backgrounds of pupils in photos of them, or whether these differences rather allude to the photographed pupils’ unordinary and therefore visible different bodily features (e.g. skin complexions, styles of clothing, or other visual markers). Importantly, this second assumption, similar to the first, can also imply that pupils who do not look Other in photos are assumed not to have different backgrounds.
Moreover, the description of how photos are one way of “getting it [: cultural diversity] in” to ordinary teacher education might point to an idea of how teaching about cultural diversity is more a concern with the means rather than the matter: It appears as if it does not matter what is taught about cultural diversity, but rather that something actually is taught. In other words, through this description, teaching about cultural diversity invokes ideas of it being an instrumental and uncritical enterprise.
Cultural diversity as the knowledgeable student teacher: Cultural diversity as knowledgeless minority parents
A fourth feature of the double meaning making pattern of the term cultural diversity was found through how the term was related to ideas that stressed the importance of the teacher role being one that involved minority parents in their children’s initial learning. However, it was also found, similar to the preceding examples, through assumptions made about minority parents being knowledgeless, that is, devoid of knowledge. The following excerpt, drawn from the second part of the interview where questions were asked about what important and relevant knowledge student teachers should bestow in relation to cultural diversity after completing the full 60 ECTS pedagogy course, exemplifies this meaning making pattern:
It is a precondition [for educational success] that the parents have both cultural and academic capital. There are many minority parents that do not have this … I believe that there actually are quite a lot of problems with a traditional cultural way of thinking, related to being a parent and making sure that the child receives the best possible preconditions for succeeding in school … [student teachers need] to actively involve them [: minority parents] in how to, in the best possible ways, work with their child at home during the initial reading and writing stage, including bilingual development, whereby the parents are analphabets, but [student teachers need to] get them to understand what a literacy hindrance within the home means. What it means for a child to sit down and read aloud to her mother. That her mother recognises [the importance of what it means for a child to sit down and read aloud to her mother], even though she does not understand the text herself. What kind of meaning does this have for reading and writing development? It means a great deal. Many [minority] parents are not aware of that. (Teacher educator, institution A)
In this excerpt, in contrast to the two previous excerpts, cultural diversity is presented neither as important, nor as a positive resource. Here, the important and relevant knowledge that student teachers should bestow about cultural diversity after completing the full 60 ECTS pedagogy course is represented as a concern with certain preconditioned expectations directed towards pupils’ parents. For example, “parents [need to have] both cultural and academic capital”. Moreover, the relevant knowledge student teachers should bestow about cultural diversity is also that “many minority parents do not have …cultural and academic capital”, and that they have a “traditional cultural way of thinking” that is related to “quite a lot of problems”, particularly when this is related to “being a parent and making sure that the child receives the best possible preconditions for succeeding in school”. This important and relevant knowledge about cultural diversity that student teachers should bestow is also coupled with descriptions of how they, as teachers, need to involve minority parents actively in how to work with their child at home during the initial reading and writing stage. Such descriptions could be understood as promoting cultural diversity as a matter related to the teacher role of acting in socially inclusive ways based on principles of equity. For example, the student teacher may be understood as having important knowledge about a society consisting of a variety of parents with different preconditions, some of whom might require extra teacher support. However, these same descriptions, because they are initially related to minority parents and their descriptions, may also be understood to point to similar discursive patterns of othering and degradation as those shown in the preceding excerpts. The othering and degrading representations of the minority parents are found through descriptions of minority parents as having traditional ways of thinking or being analphabets, and therefore it is assumed that minority parents are not able to understand what their assumed literacy hindrance means to their children’s initial reading and writing stage. As such, these same parents appear to be represented as people who are knowledgeless of the things that student teachers are expected to know, for example, about how to assist their children during the initial reading and writing stage. However, what is interesting here is how the assumption of being analphabet is coupled with assumptions of cognitive (in)abilities. Such representations of the minority parents may be understood to promote subtle ideas of them as a group that is not only uneducated and knowledgeless, but moreover also possibly less able to comprehend certain things related to their children’s cognitive abilities. Thus, such descriptions might invoke how this parental group represents particular challenges for the teacher (e.g. they might be users of extra teacher resources). When it comes to the important and relevant knowledge student teachers should bestow about cultural diversity after completing the full 60 ECTS pedagogy course, it seems to be that the student teacher should know her role as a knowledgeable teacher that should inform the knowledgeless minority parents.
The above presented double meaning making pattern of the term cultural diversity, we argue, may have implications for teacher education when it comes to social justice. In the next section, we discuss to how teacher education may better prepare student teachers for pedagogical decisions that hinder discursive meaning making patterns of othering and, instead, promote discourses of social justice in their future work as teachers.
In this article, we have found that the double meaning making pattern of the term cultural diversity is featured by being both something explicitly positive, important and desirable for teacher education, yet also more subtly assumed to be something more negative and challenging: It is represented as a “less developed” and knowledgeless Other (Said, 2003). By extensively focusing on naming and defining the Other (Said, 2003), the workings of Whiteness primarily make salient other identities than Whiteness (Frankenberg, 1993), and thereby it appears as if Whiteness is invisible (Leonardo, 2004). As such, the findings of this article have illustrated how Whiteness works through teacher educator’s dysconsciously (King, 2004) produced discourses. When cultural diversity is explicitly represented as something positive, important and desired in Norwegian teacher education, this pattern of meaning making, precisely because it may rest on subtler assumptions and meaning makings of cultural diversity, can be interpreted to mirror the “ideal” Whiteness ways in which cultural diversity ought to be represented. Importantly, this ideal representational surface shields the more non-ideal subtle ways that the term cultural diversity was also found to be represented in the teacher educator discourses—through the different ways of othering that we have identified. Dowling (2017) argues that it is challenging to counter something that is not explicit. The methodological approach in the present article makes the subtle patterned meaning making of cultural diversity and the workings of Whiteness explicit and thereby possible to counter.
In the teacher educator discourses, the double meaning making pattern of the term cultural diversity did not appear through clear binary oppositions that, on the one hand promoted merely positive representations of Us, and on the other hand merely negative representations of the Other (MacLure, 2003; Said, 2003). The double meaning making that assumed cultural diversity as referring to the Other was part of a “messier” discursive system of representation (Fylkesnes, 2018a, 2018b) that we argue has the effect of confusing the already subtly-produced non-ideal ways of representing cultural diversity. For example, when cultural diversity was represented as a multicultural resource, this representation might most likely be understood as a positive representation. This is very important to emphasize as we believe that teacher educators wish to approach it in positive and inclusive ways.
Our findings have implications for teacher education with respect to the promotion of social and racial justice in Norwegian teacher education. Generally, the extensive subtle representations of the term cultural diversity through assumptions of it as Other is problematic when seen in relation to how promoting social justice and countering acts of social exclusion are crucial aspects of education and schooling today (Conklin & Hughes, 2015; Lovdata, 2013). However, the usage and meaning making of the term cultural diversity through patterns of othering and exclusion produced in teacher educator discourses, despite also having patterns of explicit claims of cultural diversity as something positive, relevant, and important for teacher education, can arguably further constitute already established assumptions that produce discourses promoting racial injustice. We, therefore, believe it is important to ask what kinds of critical thinking about discourses regarding the term cultural diversity teacher educators and student teachers could be provided with.
Given that teachers’ dispositions affect their pedagogical decisions (Eberly et al., 2007; Robinson & Clardy, 2011) in ways that ultimately affect social justice (Mills & Ballantyne, 2010), how we are viewed determines in part how we are treated, and how we treat others is based on how we view them as based on representations (Dyer, 1993, cited in Gillborn, 1995, p. 18). What the student teachers learn about cultural diversity through their teacher education programme may have influence on their future teaching and may also have implications regarding how pupils learn about the workings of Whiteness. From a pupil’s perspective, social justice-related experiences of inclusion, othering, and exclusion are something they learn through their everyday experiences at school, not necessarily through what is explicitly said or done, but perhaps more profoundly through what is said and done subtly and in a dysconscious manner (King, 2004). Moreover, pupils’ perceived experiences of Whiteness most likely diverge based on their socially-ascribed identities. Pupils who are ascribed (by themselves and by others) an identity of Whiteness, in that they share the dominant social Norwegian (and mainly White) group’s overall norms and values, probably learn about a more encouraging positive outlook regarding their possibilities in life than do minoritized pupils. Therefore, teacher educators, who may influence student teachers, could be given opportunities to learn how to deconstruct and counter ways in which minoritized pupils are othered in society, for example, through implicitly produced patterns of othering, produced in institutions, and oftentimes, dysconciously by themselves.
The teacher educators interviewed in this study generally highlighted cultural diversity as something positive, relevant, and important. At the same time—as most of Us do—they also produced dicursive meaning making patterns of othering and exclusion by the ways in which cultural diversity was found to always assume an identity as a degraded, objectified, “less developed” and knowledgeless Other (Essed, 1991; Said, 2003). Given that conceptualisations of terms in discourses constituted by knowledge-producing institutions work through educational curricula and practice, and that discourses produced in the academy over time become commonplace to students (Afdal & Nerland, 2014; Bangeni & Kapp, 2007), it is important for future teachers to gain knowledge about the discursive legacy of Whiteness. For teacher educators to be able to provide student teachers with critical knowledge about the concept and enactments of Whiteness, they would also need critical theoretical and analytical concepts that could work as useful tools for navigating the discursive production in their own teaching. Specifically, teacher education institutions could, for example, provide teacher educators with critical theoretical and analytical tools for deconstruction that enable them to question and disrupt the way in which Whiteness is normalized through the discourses produced (also by themselves) within institutions. Awareness of such double meaning making patterns of cultural diversity might also encourage all actors within education to start to question and to take steps towards altering their own discursive positionality.
This article has shed light on the usage and meaning making of the term cultural diversity according to teacher educators at two Norwegian teacher education institutions. Drawing on perspectives from CWS and discourse theory, we found that cultural diversity was represented through what we describe as a double meaning making pattern. Herein, the term cultural diversity, despite being explicitly claimed to be something positive, relevant, and important to teacher education, was nonetheless also extensively found to be assumed an identity as Other (Said, 2003). We have argued that the double meaning making patterns of cultural diversity, on the one hand, mirror the ideal Whiteness ways in which the term cultural diversity ought to be represented, but on the other hand, these patterns also shield the more non-ideal subtle ways in which cultural diversity was also assumed to be about the Other. Thus, we have highlighted the possibility of how discourses might also produce social and racial injustice. The discursive productions of othering, because of their implicit features, can be challenging to counter. However, by this article, we have also offered some methodological and analytical tools that may contribute towards making these implicit patterns explicit and thus assist in countering similar discursive productions. Teacher educators may make use of these tools in their pedagogical endeavor for social justice.
Table 1: A three-reading strategy
|Aim||Analytic Strategy||Empirical Research Questions|
|1st reading||Get an overview of terms, concepts, and content related to cultural diversity||
Choice of words
|What terms are prominent and frequently used in the transcribed interview material?|
|2nd reading||Identify how cultural diversity is used through representations of closely related terms||
How are cultural diversity and its related terms described?
How is cultural diversity represented as similar and different to other used terms and concepts and their descriptions?
|3rd reading||Provide an overview of the main meaning making patterns of cultural diversity across the three interview parts as well as between the two institutions||
Discursive patterns of representation
What main discursive pattern of representation of cultural diversity exists in the different parts of the transcribed interview material?
Are there any differences between the two institutions?
Inspired by Mausethagen & Granlund, 2012; Søreide, 2007
Appendix 2: Interview guide (This guide has been translated form Norwegian by author a.)
Interview Guide: Primary School Teacher Educators (Individual interviews)
As you have read about in the informed consent (that you have just signed), this interview is concerned with primary school teacher educators’ understandings of cultural diversity. The interview will last approximately one hour, it will be recorded and your identity will be kept confidential in the transcribed material.
The interview is divided into three parts with an introductory section. In the first part of the interview, I address general questions related to what you value and regard as important in relation to teaching and learning on the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course. The second part of the interview focuses on cultural diversity, and the third part is a summary that focuses on terms and concepts that generally appear in primary school teacher education policy- and curriculum-related documents.
Main questions including follow-up questions
INTRODUCTION: Education and work experience(s)
|Main questions||Possible follow-up questions|
|1. What is your work experience/educational background prior to joining this institution?||What is your educational background? Degree? Subjects? Additional courses? How long have you worked at this institution for? Have you taught other courses before the one you are teaching now? If so, where?|
|2. What are the key features of your institution, your faculty and your department?||Why did you choose to work at this institution? How does it compare to your earlier work experiences?|
PART 1: Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge as a course in primary school teacher education
|Main questions||Possible follow-up questions|
|1. How would you describe the main features of the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course?||
What are the key features of this course?
In what way is this course similar or different from the other courses in primary school teacher education?
|2. If you reflect on the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course, on the way it was in general teacher education, how has it changed with the introduction of primary school teacher education 1-7 (2010)?||What is new with the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course? What is similar and different to the old pedagogy course? What role does this new subject have in primary school teacher education? Has its role changed?|
|3. What specific values do you regard as important to your work with the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course?||Why are these values important to you? What values are not really that important? Have your values changed with time?|
|4. What knowledge from your field do you consider important for the primary school student teachers to bestow after they have completed the full 60 ECTS Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course?||Why is this so important?|
|5. How do the primary school student teachers learn the best – through theory or practice?||
(e.g. in-school practice, reading theories, group work etc?)
Why? What are your colleagues’ views on this?
6. What texts and theories do you regard as important for the primary school student teachers to understand and be familiar with in order to perform their best when in their school practice?
|More precisely, what texts do you think students should read? What literature should be on every primary school student teacher Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course’s reading list? Why? What other theories could have been included? What texts could be excluded? Why?|
|7. What do the primary school student teachers meet with in their practice period?||For example, what can the student teachers expect to be met with regarding the following: the school, the pupils, colleagues, culture and society?|
|8. What experiences from the practice period do you regard as important for the primary school student teachers?||Why? In what way can such experiences further develop the primary school student teachers’ identity as professional pedagogues?|
|9. How would you describe the ways in which the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course contributes towards fulfilling the educational mandate?||How is the educational mandate addressed (as part of teaching and learning) in the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course?|
PART 2: Cultural diversity and the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course in primary school teacher education
|Main questions||Possible follow-up questions|
|1. As part of the new national curriculum for primary school teacher education detailed in the “National guidelines for primary school teacher education, level 1-7” (2010), there is a focus on cultural diversity. How do you understand this?||What do you think is meant by cultural diversity herein? What is it all about?|
|2. In what way(s) has the focus on cultural diversity changed in the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course when general teacher education was replaced by primary school teacher education (2010)?||What is new? What has remained the same? What space is given to cultural diversity as part of the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course?|
|3. If you teach about cultural diversity, how do you do it?||
How could you have done it differently?
Are you familiar with different methods regarding such teaching? How do your colleagues teach this topic?
|4. What knowledge about cultural diversity, in your opinion, is important for the student teachers to bestow after they have completed the full 60 ECTS Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course?||What is important? What is not that important? Has this changed over time? What aspects and dimensions of cultural diversity are important to bring forth?|
|5. What texts and theories about cultural diversity do you regard as important for student teachers to understand and be familiar with in regard to their work in primary schools?||
In your opinion, what texts should the student teachers read? What literature should be included on the Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course reading list? Why? Could any other literature also be included?
|6. What experiences from the practice period do you perceive as important for the primary school student teachers to have with respect to their future teaching about cultural diversity in primary schools?||Why? In what way can such experiences contribute to developing the primary school teachers’ sense of identity as professional pedagogues in a multicultural diverse society?|
|Main questions||Possible follow-up questions|
|1. Are there any circumstances in your institution, faculty, or department that set limits for your teaching about themes related to cultural diversity?||Do you regard this as positive? Negative? What perspectives does your department have on this?|
PART 3: Knowledge and concepts
|Main questions||Possible follow-up questions|
|1. What knowledge should the student teachers bestow after they have completed the full 60 ECTS Pedagogy and Pupil Knowledge course, in relation to …||
a. The pupil
b. The teacher role
c. The school
|2. Related to pedagogy, what do you think of when you hear the following words…?||
a. Sociocultural (-background)
c. Cultural diversity
d. Norwegian culture
e. Cultural heritage
g. Cultural tradition
j. The multicultural
|3. What are the similarities and differences between the following words…?||
b. Cultural diversity
What do you mean by…?
Could you say something more about …?
Could you describe, explain …?
What is your experience with…?
Considering this, what is most important to you; would you sum up your perspective on this? Is there anything you would like to add? Comments?
Thank you very much for participating in this interview!
* The interview generally focused on the main question and the follow-up questions were only posed if they were regarded as relevant to what the interviewee was saying. Variations in the follow-up questions were sometimes also used in order to maintain the flow of the conversation.
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