Teachers' Perspectives on the Education of Their Muslim Students in the GTA
1. How does a teacher in an inner-city, public, elementary school in Toronto understand her work with Muslim students?
2. What challenges does she face in teaching her Muslim students and how does she address these challenges?
Researcher: Dr. Sarfarov Niyozov
This study explored how an elementary public, inner-city school teacher understands her Muslim students’ educational and social needs, and how she addresses the challenges and opportunities she encounters in working with her students. As an extension of my study in high schools (Niyozov, 2010), this study is critical to dealing with increasing cultural and religious diversity in Canadian schools. It has implications for curriculum and teacher development as well as broader notions of citizenship and multiculturalism in Canada (Banks & Banks, 1996). Notably, teachers’ work with Muslim students remains an under-researched area, surrounded with unfavorable images and misconceptions about public schools and their teachers (Niyozov & Pluim, 2009; Zine, 2008). This study aims at rebalancing this portrayal.
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The framework consists of four over-arching and inter-connected categories including teachers’ worldviews, pedagogies, relationships, and biography. Each of these categories or themes has its own sub-themes, which guide the study. For example, “teachers’ worldviews” refers to teaching goals , reasons for teaching particular subjects in a particular school, roles in and outside their classrooms and schools, and their knowledge of Islam and Muslims (including students, parents, and communities) (Niyozov, 2010).
Research Questions and Methods
- How does a teacher in an inner-city, public, elementary school in Toronto understand her work with Muslim students?
- How does she recognize and address her Muslim students’ particular needs and aspirations?
- What challenges does she face in teaching her Muslim students and how does she address these challenges?
This qualitative study used interviews, observations, and follow-up conversations with one experienced female teacher, Monica. In 2009, when the data was collected, this teacher was teaching students who were Canadian but lived in non-English speaking environments. She was a special education teacher, team-teaching in an integrated classroom. Her primary task was to teach all subjects in accordance with the Ontario curriculum to her students. Teaching English and working on social skills were major parts of the curriculum. Her class had twenty-five students, eight of whom were special needs. Approximately 55 percent of the students were Muslims.
Each observation ( No= 3) lasted for one and a half to two hours, and each interview (5 altogether) lasted for forty-five to sixty minutes. The follow-up discussions (No=2) were either face to face or by phone conversation, and lasted for about thirty minutes.