Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Shonda Lemons-Smith, Ph.D. and Olga Jarrett, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Barbara Meyers, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Philo Hutcheson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Susan Crim McClendon, Ph.D.

Abstract

The intent of this study was to explore the perceptions of Black middle and upper class preservice teachers as they relate to teaching and learning in high poverty urban schools. Participants included 11 senior early childhood education preservice teachers at a historically Black college in the southeast region of the United States. The study was conducted using qualitative inquiry. Background questionnaires, individual interviews, and a group interview served as the data sources.

While there is an extensive body of knowledge focused on the increasing number of White preservice teachers who lack experience with students in diverse communities, there are limited studies pertaining to the perceptions of Black middle and upper class preservice teachers who may lack experience with students in high poverty urban schools. In the Black community, color and social class have been inexorably linked for generations. Social class is conceivably one of the most significant sources of inequality in schools and was one of the first factors, after intelligence, researched by scholars as a source of difference in achievement.

The study answered the following questions: (1) What are the perceptions of Black middle and upper class preservice teachers regarding teaching and learning in high poverty urban schools? (2) To what extent do Black middle and upper class preservice teachers believe they can be successful teachers in high poverty urban schools?

The data demonstrated that Black middle and upper class preservice teachers (a) prefer to teach in communities similar to their own school experiences; (b) believe students from high poverty urban schools can achieve at the same level as students in middle and upper class schools, but are uncertain of the value their informal knowledge brings to the classroom; (c) recognize effective teaching strategies and best practices in classroom instruction; and (d) have mixed feelings regarding their ability to connect with students and parents in high poverty urban schools. Implications from the study include expanding the scope of field experiences for Black middle and upper class preservice teachers in high poverty urban schools and recognizing Black middle and upper class preservice teachers in teacher education research.

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