Date of Award

Fall 12-20-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Hayward Richardson

Second Advisor

Dr. Joyce Many

Third Advisor

Dr. Jami Berry

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Susan Ogletree

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Robert Michael

Sixth Advisor

Dr. Floyd Beachum

Abstract

ABSTRACT

INVESTIGATING NOVICE WHITE TEACHERS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN CLASSROOMS: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION OF

CULTURAL RESPONSIVENESS

by

Debra J. Barrineau

This study deconstructed the degree to which novice White teachers in an elementary school in a rural middleGeorgiadistrict were aware of and prepared for the challenges inherent in teaching in a predominantly African American classroom. Four novice, White teachers participated in the study. The student population of the school was 72% African American, nearly 10% White, and more than 17% Hispanic. Using a phenomenological approach, data were collected using an open-ended questionnaire in order to determine the teachers’ perceived academic and non-academic needs of their students and to explore how their awareness of the needs of their students influenced the educational experiences the teachers provided in their classrooms. Classroom observations were utilized in order to determine how the teachers related to their students and the manner in which they demonstrated responsiveness to the students’ academic needs, through the activities they provided.

The teachers demonstrated only a limited ability to understand the academic and non-academic needs of their students, due mainly to a lack of understanding of the cultural dynamics of the African American students residing in this rural community. Through a lack of ability to build necessary bridges within the school community, the teachers failed to establish a trusting relationship with parents, which would have helped mitigate the disconnect between the environment of the school and the environment of the students’ homes. In addition, the teachers’ efforts to support their students through multicultural activities were merely superficial. Some of the teachers were more focused on the perceived needs of the students than on using the rich heritage of students in order to build a community of learners that would foster greater levels of academic success. The findings of this study will benefit those interested in cultural responsiveness by suggesting the need for teacher preparation programs to increase the academic and experiential focus on cross-cultural teaching. It will also benefit school districts by suggesting the need for ongoing professional development and focused induction programs for teachers who are teaching cross-culturally.

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