Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Gary E. Bingham

Second Advisor

Natalie King

Third Advisor

Renee Scwartz

Fourth Advisor

Brian Williams

Abstract

The elementary years are a critical time for all students to learn science and 21st century skills needed to function and flourish in a scientifically advanced world. Despite such importance, research consistently documents that students of color have less access to science opportunities and receive lower quality K-12 STEM education (Atwater 2000; Prime, 2019). These factors, along with the low priority generally given to science education at the elementary level, present significant challenges to the field. As the student population becomes increasingly diverse, the teaching workforce continues to remain predominately White. Research reveals that African American teachers play an integral role in advocating on behalf of African American students and creating more equitable science learning experiences that infuse their cultures into the learning environment (Upadhyay 2009; Xu, Coats, & Davidson, 2012). Yet, the voices and practices of exemplary African American teachers of science have not been given enough attention.

Thus, this qualitative, multi-case study employed a critical race theory (CRT) perspective to examine five exemplary African American teachers' instructional and pedagogical science practices to students who share similar cultural and racial backgrounds. These exemplary teachers were identified by snowball sampling using community referrals (Biernacki & Waldorf, 1981). Semi-structured interviews and classroom observations served as the primary sources of data, with fieldnotes and researcher memos triangulating the data. Cross-case analysis (Merriam, 2009) and thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) provided robust findings regarding the teachers’ philosophical approaches, agency in the classroom, positionalities as extensions of students’ families, and deep commitments to the representation African Americans in the science curriculum and classroom. These findings have implications for how narratives around Black elementary teachers of science are constructed and have the potential to inform both research and practice.

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