Dealing with racist incidents: what do beginning teachers learn from schools?

Pearce, Sarah. 2014. Dealing with racist incidents: what do beginning teachers learn from schools? Race Ethnicity and Education, 17(3), pp. 388-406. ISSN 1361-3324 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article focuses on how schools respond to racist incidents, and what new teachers learn from their involvement in those processes. It analyses four incidents involving the pupils of four beginning teachers. The article suggests that in each case, schools either partly or wholly avoided addressing the incident, and that this avoidance can be understood in terms of the colour and power evasive discourse, which is the dominant discourse on race in Western societies, and in most schools. One aspect of this discourse is that racism is defined on the basis of individual intentions, not outcomes. The article argues that it may be possible to adopt a more race cognisant approach with student teachers and staff in schools, building on nascent understandings of institutional racism, which shifts the focus to outcomes rather than intentions. The article demonstrates this approach, analysing each incident in terms of its consequences for the learning of the new teacher, and for the promotion of race equality in the school. While the small number of incidents may initially appear heartening, their negative impact on both teacher confidence and children's understanding may be significant. The findings suggest that in the changing context of initial teacher education in England, approaches to supporting both schools and new teachers in this often misunderstood area are much needed, and that one way forward may be to give teachers time and support to critically reflect on and discuss their experiences.

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Special Issue: Initial Teacher Education: Developments, Dilemmas and Challenges


beginning teachers; institutional racism; race; racist incidents; student teachers; whiteness

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


May 2014Published
7 November 2013Published Online

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Date Deposited:

22 Jul 2014 06:21

Last Modified:

20 Nov 2020 11:13

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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