An innovative teacher education program helps OSU students prepare to teach in a multicultural classroom by providing on-the-job experience.

Student teacher in multicultural classroom
Student teacher in multicultural classroom

Jean Moule, an assistant professor of education at Oregon State University, knows from first-hand experience that there can be a cultural gap when teachers step into a classroom and encounter a diverse group of students. Bridging that gap is something that teacher preparation programs struggle with around the country. Moule, an African-American educator, has come up with a solution that has turned into a rewarding partnership between OSU and Portland’s Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. She has developed an “immersion” program that takes OSU student teachers into Portland to teach in the school’s predominantly African-American classrooms.

This is the fifth year the program has been offered, and Moule said the students become aware that there may be differences in learning that are based not only on cultural background, but family situations, age, environment and other factors. The program expanded in 2002 to include Grant Elementary in Salem, a K-8 school in Salem with a bilingual immersion program.

“When these OSU students come out of this program, they’ll not only teach their subject matter better,” Moule said. “They are going to know how to treat students as individuals with unique learning experiences. And I expect the experience will explode whatever stereotypes they may have had going in.”

The students spend three weeks on-site teaching in the multicultural schools. “This is a really dynamic partnership that is a win-win-win-win situation for all involved,” Moule says. “As an African-American faculty member, I can talk about diversity in classrooms all day long, but it doesn’t compare with gaining that actual experience.

“Some of the students were a little reluctant about spending three weeks away from campus and their families, but most of them found it a tremendously rewarding experience,” she added.

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