Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Caitlin Dooley, Ph.D. - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Daphne Greenberg, Ph.D. - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Floretta Thornton-Reid, Ed.D. - Committee Member

Fourth Advisor

Shonda Lemons-Smith, Ph.D. - Committee Member


Presently, over five million English-language learners (ELLs) are being educated in U.S. schools, and by the year 2020, more than half of the public school system population in the U.S. will be from families whose native language is not English (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2005). Culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) (Ladson-Billings, 1995) provides a framework for classroom teachers to meet the needs of diverse learners. This ethnographic case study describes what CRP looks like for young ELLs and how a pre-kindergarten school teacher and her bilingual paraprofessional successfully implement CRP. This study: (a) examined the manifestation of culturally relevant pedagogy in a pre-kindergarten classroom for English-language learners, and (b) investigated the ways two teachers promoted three central tenets of CRP in their pre-kindergarten classroom: (1) academic success; (2) cultural competence; and (3) critical consciousness. The research questions were explored by collecting fieldnotes during 20 classroom observations, 3 individual interview transcripts, 3 individual member-checking transcripts, and 15 classroom documents. Findings were based on an open-coding analysis process and a priori coding to demonstrate examples of culturally relevant pedagogical practices and beliefs. The data suggests five major principles of CRP for young ELLs: (1) Oral multilingual classroom language experiences for young children occurred frequently; (2) Monolingual and bilingual teacher collaboration was beneficial for teachers and young children’s language and cultural development; (3) Children’s funds of knowledge were employed and integrated into classroom learning experiences; (4) Peer-to-peer interactions promoted language learning, literacy, and cultural understandings; and (5) Teachers’ and children’s acknowledgement of cultural similarities and differences were built upon. Furthermore, teachers promoted academic success by not accepting student failure and making students responsible for the academic success of their peers; cultural competence is established when teachers encourage children to interact effectively with others from different cultures; and critical consciousness is fostered when children know their authentic stories, are able to stand up for themselves, and ask questions about the world around them. These findings provide a greater understanding of CRP for young ELLs, specifically in a pre-kindergarten context, and hold important implications on future research on CRP.