First Advisor

Priya Kapoor

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Student teachers, Multiculturalism



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 191 p.)


"Diversity" has become a word associated with many professions, institutions, and contexts, paired with words such as standards, consultants, training, awareness and others. However, the researcher focused on how diversity is defined or conceptualized by pre-service teachers at Portland State University. Diversity is especially important as it relates to educators and pre-service teachers. Teachers will, today, be instructing children of different backgrounds and races more than ever in the past (Ross & Smith, 1992). And teachers conceptualizations and behaviors have profound impacts on student performance and success. In an effort to come to understand the ways pre-service teachers conceptualize "diversity," a literature search was conducted to identify past and present conceptualizations of diversity within the institution of education and more broadly. In addition, an open-ended survey question was administered, and two focused group discussions and three in-depth interviews were conducted. The survey question and transcripts from the focus groups and interviews were analyzed in an effort to identify emergent themes or units of meaning. Two major theoretical assumptions were utilized: lower-order concepts and constructivism. First, Chaffee's (1991) lower-order concepts, smaller units which comprise a larger unit of meaning, the higher-order concept, was selected. The education literature identifies language, learning style, teaching style, race, socio-economic status, ability, gender, and others (see APPENDIX B) as lower-order concepts for the higher-order concept "diversity." Second, according to constructivism, the human actively interprets and makes meaning of events (Delia, 1977) using constructs, pairs of bi-polar opposites. Individuals identify an event, experience or object and classify it along a number of relevant constructs in order to make sense of it in relation to similar phenomena. Within the education literature, the constructs, assimilationism I pluralism and ethnocentrism I ethnorelativism, good I bad, growing I dying and others have clearly been utilized to make meaning of "diversity." The researcher identified themes respondents appeared to correlate with the concept "diversity" and many complicated and conflicting messages as well (not unlike the "diversity" literature). Two of the emergent themes suggest additional lower-order concepts: "Structures" and "Mixed Messages." The emergent themes 'Teachable" and "Uncertain" suggest new constructs.


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