Education Without Margins: an Exploration of Six Teachers’ Understandings and Enactment of Equity and Inclusive Education in Diverse Urban Classrooms
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Context: According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), approximately 40,000 immigrant students enter into the Canadian public school system each year; of those students, 80% are non-English speaking and 90% will attend schools in Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver (OECD, 2011). As a result of this level of immigration, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is one of the most richly diverse communities in the world. While visible minorities account for 20.6% of the total Canadian population, 46% of the GTA are visible minorities (Statistics Canada, 2014). Diversity is also increasing in relation to religion, language, and Aboriginal peoples, as well as same-sex marriages (Statistics Canada, 2014). Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore how in-service teachers’ identities impacts their practice in diverse urban classrooms, as well as to identify what types of professional development and school initiatives, if any, are occurring to address equity issues. Method: The conceptual framework for this study views equitable reform across the following three levels: the macro/institutional (school structure), micro/personal (teacher identity), and meso/instructional (practices). Six one-hour, semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers who are currently working in diverse urban communities in the GTA. Data were first coded deductively to explore the extent to which the data were consistent with variables arising from the literature and the conceptual framework. Following deductive coding analysis, inductive coding was used to interpret concepts and themes arising from the raw data that were not represented in the conceptual framework. Results: The findings suggest that, by validating and honouring diverse student identities and experiences, teachers can tackle equity issues in the classroom through culturally responsive practices that place the student at the center of the learning experience. If the goal of equitable reform initiatives is to transform the learning outcomes for minoritized groups, then teachers need to be supported in their endeavours to create transformative learning spaces that engage students in their own learning in authentic ways and also challenge social inequities both inside and outside the classroom.