Date of Award

Fall 1-2-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Lou Matthews, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jennifer Esposito, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Rhina Fernandes Williams, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Shonda Lemons-Smith, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Asa Hilliard, Ph.D.

Abstract

ABSTRACT

JAMAICAN GIRLS’ ETHNIC IDENTITY AND THE MATHEMATICS CLASSROOM: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC CASE STUDY

by

Sandra Vernon-Jackson

Changing demographics in the U.S. student population have led educators to focus increased attention on issues of equity in the mathematics classroom. This focus has sparked many discussions on the experiences of ethnically diverse students, particularly those of African descent. It has been suggested that improving equity in the mathematics classroom will require further investigation on how the linguistic, ethnic identity, racial, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds influence the learning of mathematics. In light of this, there is a scarcity of scholarly literature that examines the impact of ethnic identity on the educational experiences of Jamaican-born girls in

mathematics. The purpose of this study was to explore the influences of ethnic identity on the learning perspectives of four Jamaican-born females as they negotiate their mathematics schooling experiences in the United States. More specifically, the research questions were (1) What is the nature of the participants’ perceptions and attitudes

towards their identities as mathematics students and (2) How are the participants’ actions and behaviors in the mathematics classroom informed by their ethnic identity?

Framed in a multiple case study design, the study utilized Collins’ (1990) Black Feminist thought and ethnic identity theory as the theoretical framework. Three individual interviews and one focus group interview were conducted with the participants, as well as two interviews with their mathematics teacher and two interviews with their parent(s). A constant comparison method (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) was

utilized to analyze the data. The nature of these participants’ perceptions of Jamaican ethnic identity was seen as a source of motivation and empowerment as they negotiated their individual mathematics classrooms. These participants appeared to have negotiated their mathematics learning by ascribing to specific actions and behaviors that were informed by the nature of their perceptions of “Jamaicanness”. Findings from the study suggest that perceptions of ethnic identity could facilitate mathematics ability by building confidence and promoting and building mathematics collaboration

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