Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Instruction and Teacher Education


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Rhonda B. Jeffries


Examining Social Studies Teachers' Cultural Competence in a South Carolina Suburban Public High School: Implications for Diversity Training

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the factors that contribute to the cultural competence of social studies teachers in a South Carolina suburban public high school. With increasing numbers of racially, ethnically and culturally diverse student populations in public schools, and decreasing numbers of racially, ethnically and culturally diverse faculty, the teachers' level of cultural competence is critical to the students' engagement in class and their academic success within the school community. This study examined the social studies teachers' perceptions of the students, the social studies curriculum, the school's climate and demographics; the teachers' diversity training/preparation as pre-service teachers and their professional staff development opportunities for diversity training as in-service teachers. The study is a bounded, single case study, utilizing qualitative methodology.

The participants in this study included five public school social studies teachers. Data for the study were collected through the review of official school documents and individual, semi-structured interviews with the participants. Using Cross, Bazron, Dennis and Isaacs's (1989), cultural competence continuum, participants' interview responses were analyzed to determine where the participants might fall on the continuum. An analysis of the participants' perceptions of their students, the social studies curriculum, the school's climate and demographics provided further insight into the participants' diversity training/preparation opportunities at the pre-service and in-service teacher levels.

Findings suggest teacher preparation programs must ensure pre-service teachers have required, relevant experiences working with racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse student populations before exiting the preparation programs. Prior to exiting preparation programs and receiving certification to enter professional practice, pre-service teachers should receive certification which acknowledges they have reached an acceptable level of cultural competence. Findings support on-going, systemic professional staff development opportunities in diversity training at the school in-service teacher level on race, ethnicity and cultural diversity that is structured, focused, targeted, relevant and experiential. Specific research questions addressed in the study are:

1. Based on Cross's cultural competence continuum, where do social studies teachers in a South Carolina suburban public high school fall?

2. Regardless of where the social studies teachers fall on the continuum, what are the teachers' perception of the students and the school's demographics, culture and climate?

3. What are the implications for professional staff diversity preparation/training?


© 2010, Stephanie Lewis Catoe