Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Diane Truscott - Chair

Second Advisor

Caitlin Dooley

Third Advisor

Susan Crim-McClendon

Fourth Advisor

Barbara Meyers


Heeding Hillard’s call for teachers to crack the walls of the matrix (inequitable schooling), this qualitative case study used Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory as a theoretical lens and methodological tool to investigate the reflections of three elementary pre-service teachers. The first research question examined participants’ reflections as they were learning about teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. The second question explored how these reflections connected to their developing culturally relevant beliefs and practices. To investigate these research questions the data sources collected for each participant included a pre/post Love & Kruger questionnaire, three individual semi-structured interview transcripts, eight written course documents, and two individual member written records. Cross case and within case analyses were conducted using a priori and open coding for all data and utilized the analytic strategy of relying on theoretical propositions. The theoretical proposition for this study was that teachers who reflected across systems of influences had more culturally relevant beliefs and practices. Findings from the cross case analysis suggested that (a) participants’ had shared patterns of reflectivity (b) drew upon multiple tools of references when confronted with less culturally relevant teaching in the field and program and (c) some course assignments facilitated participants’ reflection across systems more than others. The results from the within case analysis suggested that (a) participants’ racial identity experiences were the lenses they used to reflect on what being a culturally relevant teacher meant (b) some participants experienced cultural dissonance in the teacher development program as they considered culturally relevant pedagogy and (c) critical reflections across systems of influence revealed more developed understandings of culturally relevant pedagogy. This study offers insights about using critical reflectivity in developing pre-service teachers’ understandings of culturally relevant pedagogy.