Diversity & Cultural Relevancy in Education

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Yvette Lapayese
    Combining African-Centered and Critical Media Literacy Pedagogies: A 21st Century Approach Toward Liberating the Minds of the Mis-Educated in the Digital Age

    Since the slave trade, African Americans have been the most media-stereotyped race of people. From that time, multiple forms of media have been used to convince Blacks of their inevitable servitude and Whites of their supremacy (Burrell, 2010), as a means of transferring physical slavery to mental slavery (Akbar, 1998). Additionally, African Americans have been the victims of a Eurocentric educational system essentially designed to "mis-educate" (Woodson, 1933)--to further oppress and devalue African and African American contributions to our global history. This qualitative research study aimed to analyze an existing curricular model known as Rise Above the Noise , which combines two educational pedagogies, African-centered (Murrell, 2002) and critical media (Morrell, 2008; Thoman, 2003a), and is designed to appropriately educate and mentally liberate African Americans whose ancestors were displaced by slavery. I adopted a critical race methodology (Delgado, 1995a;Yosso, 2006), utilizing video interviews, counterstorytelling, journaling, and a focus group as data collection tools, and analyzed data according to Banks' (1982) model for appropriately educating the mis-educated (as cited and summarized by Akbar, 1998), known as D-R-C (deconstructionist--reconstructionist--constructionist). Using a convenience sample of five African American young adults (ages 18-30) from Los Angeles, CA who were considered socioeconomically disadvantaged, I attempted to discover how the implementation of a combined African-centered/critical media literacy pedagogy could impel participants to transform their current life circumstances.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mary McCullough
    How Teachers Use Culturally Responsive Pedagogy with Latino Students: A Casestudy of Three Latina Teachers

    Looking for best teaching practices has always been an important issue for educators. Teacher education programs, school districts, and researchers have gone to great lengths to train teachers to teach "better." Yet, students are still not performing well in school, specifically minority students. The achievement gap and dropout rates only get larger between Latino students and their White peers. According to National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES, 2002), in the United States the drop out rate for Latino students is 23.8% compared to 6.8% for White students. With such disparities occurring, what is being done to address this large, under-performing population? What do Latino students need in order to succeed in the American school system? One of the known ways to help Latino students succeed is culturally responsive teaching (Banks, 2006).

    Are culturally responsive teaching practices the best pedagogical approach for Latino students? And if so, do teachers understand what these practices entail? This inquiry was a qualitative study highlighting the teaching practices of three self-identified culturally responsive teachers working in an inner-city school that is predominately populated by low performing Latino students. This study involved observations and interviews with three teachers and employed ethnographic methods highlighting not only what culturally relevant teachers implement in classroom practices with Latino students, but also how these practices help teachers' efficacy improve.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Marta Baltodano
    Latino Middle School Students Read to Learn Critical Literacy: Social Justice through Action Research

    This action research study explored if changes in the reading curriculum, specifically implementation of critical literacy approaches that acknowledge bicultural students, increase student learning as perceived by teachers and students in a Catholic elementary school, where students have been chronically performing at the lowest level in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. By using critical pedagogy (Darder, 1991; Freire, 1970; Giroux, 1983; Macedo, 1994; McLaren, 1988) as a theoretical framework, this action research project investigated the effective elements of critical literacy (Cadiero-Kaplan, 2004; Shor & Pari, 1999) that promote academic learning for Latino middle school students in a low-income Catholic elementary school. This study explored the approaches and perceptions of novel studies, as a form of literacy, to increase student learning in reading at a low-income, urban, Catholic elementary school. Classroom observations, teacher interviews, teacher lesson plans, student work, student focus groups, and a teacher focus group validated the findings that critical literacy approaches positively impacted student learning in reading. Changes in the school and reading curriculum, specifically the implementation of literacy approaches that acknowledge bicultural students, increased learning for Latino middle school students as perceived by teachers and students in this low-income, urban Catholic elementary school. Teachers implemented effective elements of critical literacy, including direct vocabulary and grammar instruction, analysis of literary tools, incorporation of Spanish, varying forms of assessment, and inclusion of student voice, through the use of novel studies. The school and classroom environments further promoted academic learning for Latino middle school students with high expectations, strict humor, and predictability where teachers, who viewed their students with promising futures, taught as a form of service. Although the school and teachers incorporated literacy practices, teachers fell short of practicing critical literacy because they failed to examine the underlying social ramifications of hegemonic forces.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Yvette Lapayese
    African American Female Educators and African American Male Students: The Intersection of Race and Gender in Urban Classrooms

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Brian Leung
    Resiliency of Latino High School Students: The Impact of External and Internal Factors

    This study investigated factors promoting academic resiliency within Latino students at an urban high school in the Los Angeles area. The criteria of "on-track" to graduate served as the operational definition of academic resilience. A total of 92 students completed the survey. Of these, 57 were on-track to graduate and 35 students were "not on-track" to graduate. The California Healthy Kids Survey: Resiliency & Youth Development Module (WestEd, 2008a) was the instrument employed to obtain quantitative data using three external protective factors (caring relationships, high expectations, and meaningful participation) and three internal protective factors (social competence, autonomy and sense of self, and sense of meaning and purpose). An additional demographic section was also included.

    A t -test for independent samples indicated a significant mean difference between Latino students on-track to graduate and not on-track to graduate for two of the protective factors: participants on-track to graduate reported a stronger sense of meaning and purpose and higher expectations than did Latino students not on-track to graduate. A Pearson Correlation matrix showed that each of the primary relationship pairings was significantly correlated. A chi-square test determined that gender and on-track to graduate were found to be independent of each other, as were various Latino origins and academic resiliency. The findings revealed no significant difference between academic resiliency and household composition, languages spoken, or maternal/paternal educational level. Furthermore, Latino participants born in another country were more likely to graduate than Latino students born in the United States.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Yvette Lapayese
    Rethinking Critical Consciousness: Latina Teachers, Latina Girls, and Alternative Education Spaces

    Latinas face many challenges within public schools. They are a marginalized group that has struggled to overcome the effects of practices that have created entrenched cycles of poverty and educational failure. The development of a critical consciousness has been proposed as a means of resisting and transcending oppression. Freire (1970) defined conscientização, or critical consciousness, as "learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against oppressive elements of reality" (p.19). This study reexamined the development and nature of critical consciousness through the use of critical feminist methodologies. Standpoint theories assisted in the development of counter-stories that challenged androcentric perceptions of consciousness.

    This qualitative study examined how some Latina teachers, working with Latina students, were able to transform an after-school club, lunchtime meetings, and a daylong conference into opportunities for Latina students to reexamine their role and position in their family, culture, American society, and develop a critical awareness or consciousness.

    What emerged from the findings was an approach used by these particular Latina teachers that elevated the affective domain to footing equal to the intellectual. The participating teachers created a matrix of connection with students that challenged a masculine perception of consciousness. They used socially and culturally located histories and experiences to develop a gendered critical consciousness. What was observed and heard throughout the research process was the unearthing of a consciousness that was decidedly enmeshed in the private arena of the body and identity, in addition to the public domains of politics and economics.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jill Bickett
    The Avoidance of Race: White Teachers' Racial Identities in Alternative Teacher Education Programs and Urban Under-Resourced Schools

    Due to the lack of research on White teacher racial identity development and White graduates of alternative teacher education programs teaching in urban under-resourced schools, this study aimed to: examine how White graduates of alternative teacher education programs perceive race and racism in their urban under-resourced schools, explore the impact of their alternative teacher education programs on their racial identities, and evaluate their abilities to deepen their racial identities in the context of their urban under-resourced schools. Critical examination and analysis of the experiences of White teachers, through the lenses of Critical Race Theory, Critical White Studies, and Howard's Racial Identity Development Model, provided insights on how quickly expanding alternative teacher education programs across the nation are failing to adequately and critically address White teachers' racial identity development. Well-intentioned participants recognized a noticeable racial mismatch, did not perceive race or racism in their urban under-resourced schools, lacked exposure to critical coursework, felt unprepared to work with racially dissimilar students, faced difficulties processing their experiences, and showed minimal evidence of having well developed racial identities. Alternative teacher education programs are recommended to prioritize race issues and racial identity development by providing opportunities for White educators to perceive race, adequately preparing and supporting White teachers, and implementing Howard's (2006) Racial Identity Development Model.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Antonia Darder
    Sweet Spirit: The Pedagogical Relevance of the Black Church for African-American Males

    African-American student achievement is a pervasive problem for school communities. This qualitative research explores the Black Church's role in the bicultural development of six African-American male students. Using the critical theory of biculturalism this study seeks to determine what aspects of the Black Church experience influence the African-American male's ability to navigate the school environment and participate in school. This dissertation study utilized to complementary methodologies, testimonies, and witnessing, to document the students experiences in the school and church communities. Data analysis included holistic-content analysis. Findings indicate the Black Church was an effective vehicle for the empowering process of biculturation. Thought its critical teachings, cultural responsive care, and engaged pedagogy, the Black Church affirms the bicultural students and helps them contend with their personal experiences with oppressive individuals and structures. The findings support the need for the Black church to participate in the education reform efforts affecting African-American students. The findings also support a renewed focus on engaging teachers in the utilization of culturally responsive care in their interactions with African-American students.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Victoria Graf
    Underrepresentation of African Americans in Gifted and Talented Education Programs: Teachers' Beliefs and Knowledge about the Referral and Placement Process

    African American children are under-represented in gifted and talented education (GATE) programs throughout the United States. In order to investigate the reasons for this under-representation, this study examined whether the ethnicity of a child (specifically an African American) influences teachers' referrals and placement decisions to GATE, and teacher knowledge about the referral system to the GATE program. Data were collected through vignettes as well as through questions, individual interviews, and evaluation of GATE program referral documents. Analysis of the data revealed no significant difference between the referrals of African American students versus non-African American students to GATE programs. Additional data revealed that teachers were aware of the GATE program as a program for students with higher-level thinking skills, and a program that offers differentiated instruction. Teachers participating in the study acknowledged that teacher referrals and student scores on the California Standards Tests were key factors in the inclusion of students in the GATE program. Characteristics that teachers attributed to gifted students were creativity and the ability to perform well academically. Major themes on the referral documents revealed a mismatch between what teachers were looking for when identifying a gifted and talented student and what was prescribed on the referral applications. Recommendations that might improve the recruiting rates of African American students into GATE programs include a review of the referral documents for cultural sensitivity, teacher awareness of the phenomenon of under-representation, and professional development programs for teachers on the unique strengths of gifted African American students.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Magaly Lavadenz
    Afrocentric Pedagogy as a Transformative Educational Practice

    This mixed-methods study analyzed the effectiveness of the practices and attitudes of selected African American teachers who use culturally relevant and responsive Afrocentric pedagogies as the instructional foundation for improved academic outcomes with their African American students. The theory of Afrocentricity was used as the philosophical framework to study their pedagogy. Afrocentricity is a mode of thought and practice in which in African people are placed at the center of their own history and culture; engages them as subjects rather than objects; and approaches them with respect for their interests, values, and perspectives (Asante 1980, 2003). Concepts employed from this theoretical framework provided a lens for the triangulation of qualitative and quantitative data collected and analyzed. The setting for this study was a private Afrocentric prekindergarten through 8th-grade school. The participants in this study were 3 African American teachers. Data collected and analyzed supported using culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy to produce improved academic outcomes for students of color (Boykin, 1984, 1994; Hale-Benson, 1986; King, 1991; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Shujaa, 1995; Villegas, 1991).

    Findings suggested that in selected academic settings improved academic performance occurred for African American students when teachers used culture relevant and responsive pedagogy. The following themes were embedded in the pedagogy: self-determination, academic empowerment, cultural empowerment, and family/community empowerment. The findings implied a need for teachers and teacher-training institutions to re-examine, recommit, and re-institute culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy that respects and addresses the culture, education, and social improvement for positive academic outcomes for all children.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Shane P. Martin
    Toward a Pedagogy of Compassion: Extracting Principles of Education from Teaching a High School Multicultural Literature Class

    Based on the assumption by Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1993), educational scholars need insight on the "particulars" of what works for classroom teachers within the context of their own classrooms. This dissertation is a self-study that addresses my work as a high school Multicultural Literature teacher and the impact of how my own philosophical/theoretical belief system resulted in significant transformative learning experiences for students as demonstrated in their feedback.

    Using intercultural competence, value-creation pedagogy, and compassion as theoretical frameworks that encourage greater social cohesion and collective participation, I used auto ethnography as my primary method of investigation to treat data through an analytical, self-reflective, and interpretive lens within the cultural context of my classes. Types of data included personal memory, self-observational, self-reflective, and external data, such as end of the year anonymous student evaluations, personal memoirs, journal entries, notes, course documents, past student assignments, personal communications, and a blog, collected from my 13 years of teaching.

    By sharing and examining my ethical/moral-motivation in relation to the positive feedback from students, I demonstrate how my pedagogical interactions and relationships with students manifest through value creation/culturally responsive pedagogy, the empowered voice, intercultural dialogue, transformative learning, and the development and nurturing of empathy and compassion. The study shares personal insights into the elements and processes that contributed to the overwhelmingly positive feedback of students throughout the study. Recommendations suggest greater research and discourse in developing a pedagogy of compassion.

  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Karen Huchting
    A Close Look at the Effects of a Themed Magnet High School on the Occupational Identities, Access through Self-Advocacy, and The Career Maturity of Low Socioeconomic Minority Students

    The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of an experiential program on the occupational identity, access, and career maturity of Black and Latino students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Data shows these students to be underrepresented in STEM fields. Student interest and access are noted in the literature to be amongst the reasons minorities do not pursue a career in STEM related fields. Jobs within the STEM industry pay considerably more than non-STEM related jobs, access to these jobs can help individuals transform their socioeconomic status. Lack of access and exposure to these fields for low socioeconomic minorities then becomes a social justice issue. A mixed methods approach was applied which included surveys and interviews of junior students currently in an experiential careers program with a STEM emphasis. Composites and subscales were created and checked for internal reliability and consistency. Interview responses were recorded and coded based on theories of occupational identity and emergent themes. Findings suggest that most students within the experiential careers program exhibited high levels of occupational identity. The experiential learning model works well to support continuous learning and the identity development of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.