Rhetoric versus reality: how do teacher professional standards shape the development of culturally responsive practitioners?

Ninetta Santoro, Aileen Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The nature of teachers’ work and knowledge has undergone enormous change in the last two decades in most parts of the world. These changes have occurred in response to a number of factors including unprecedented levels of global mobility caused by voluntary immigration, what Stanley calls “development-induced migration” (Stanley, 2004 in Goodwin 2010, p. 21) as well as the forced migration of those escaping war and/or political turmoil. Culturally homogenous classrooms are increasingly rare in most places in Europe (Council of Europe 2011; European Commission 2013) and elsewhere such as the USA, Canada and Australia.

Such cultural and ethnic diversity has increased the complexity of teachers’ work. All teachers, regardless of their location, need to be able to work productively with culturally and linguistically diverse children. Such a professional imperative raises questions about what characterizes effective teachers, what constitutes effective teaching and what knowledge do teachers need in order to be culturally responsive practitioners.

Debates about what constitutes quality teachers in general, have dominated education discourse for decades. In many places in the world, such as in the United States, New Zealand, various provinces in Canada, England and various locations in Europe, teacher professional standards play an important role in defining 'quality'. They serve a number of functions including accountability measures that contribute to the regulation of the profession. They also make explicit the knowledge and skills required by teachers, thereby providing a framework for preservice teacher education curriculum and for graduate teacher professional development.

In this paper we are concerned with examining the ways in which cultural diversity and culturally diverse students are positioned within teacher professional standards and how standards address teacher knowledge and teacher practice for culturally diverse contexts. We also describe the framework for analysis we have developed to analyse the standards for graduate teachers from England, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. We conclude that despite the rhetoric about culturally responsive pedagogies that has entered into teacher education discourse, in general, teacher professional standards make little mention of specific knowledge and skills for teaching culturally diverse students. We raise concerns for teacher education policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


  • teacher professional standards
  • culturally responsive practitioners


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