Date of Award

12-15-2014

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

First Advisor

Jan A. Yow

Abstract

Public school enrollment is increasing for African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaskan Native students. However, minority and immigrant children tend to perform lower academically than White, middle-class students. Hence, there is a growing need to reform pedagogical practices for underachieving student populations to have improved chances for school success. Culturally relevant teaching is an effective approach to addressing the social and academic needs of minority students. The purpose of this study was to examine culturally relevant teaching in high school statistics classrooms of predominantly African American students. Using a qualitative case study research design, this study examined two research questions: 1) What community referents (social, economic, religious, historical, or political) are perceived as important in conceptualizing culturally relevant practices in a high school-level statistics class? And 2) How do classroom interactions affect the implementation of culturally relevant practices in a high school-level statistics class? The study was conducted in three phases: Phase One consisted of identification of sites and recommendation of teacher participants. During Phase Two, demographic information about the three teacher participants was collected and teacher interviews were conducted. Documents were reviewed and coded for the purpose of identifying themes and patterns for further data analysis. Phase Three used classroom observations to help contextualize the results. The researcher utilized the research literature to define culturally relevant teaching and to aid in framing this study and its contribution to the research literature on culturally relevant teaching practices. This study provides evidence that culturally relevant teaching does exist at the secondary level in the statistics classroom. Observations and interviews of three successful high school statistics teachers of African American students revealed the ways that they perceive and enact elements of culturally relevant pedagogy. Culturally relevant characteristics of these teachers were demonstrated in four ways that replicated or extended previously published research literature. Teachers who practice culturally relevant teaching in high school-level statistics classrooms believe all students can learn, value the culture and language of their students and their families, and care about all students. These teachers also see their work as a calling and believe that they can make a difference in students’ lives and communities. Finally, the data also pointed to a fifth element of culturally relevant pedagogy. A novel conclusion of this study is that high school-level students in classes that are taught by teachers who use culturally relevant teaching seem to care for each other; they collaborate with and actively encourage one another in the learning process. Caring teaching methods along with collaborative learning foster a positive learning environment in which students are able to move towards success in learning statistics.

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