Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies


Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Tambra O. Jackson

Second Advisor

Stephen Thompson


The demographics of today’s schools are becoming more and more ethnically and linguistically diverse, as culturally diverse students comprise approximately one third of school populations (Ladson-Billings, 2005). However, the educational experiences of students of Color demonstrate a history of marginalization and inequity (Williamson et al., 2007) as far too many students of Color have maintained poor educational achievement outcomes. The effects of such disproportionally high levels of low academic achievement are extensive and can be witnessed across subject content areas, particularly in math, science, and literacy. To improve the academic performance of students who are culturally, racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse, improved methods of instruction and pedagogy that better facilitate learning among diverse student populations must be instituted (Ladson-Billings, 2005). Thus the need to provide summer science enrichment programs where students engage in scientific experimentation, investigation, and critical thinking are vital to helping students who have been traditionally marginalized achieve success in school science and enter the science career pipeline. This mixed methods study examined the impact of a culturally responsive approach on student attitudes, interests in science education and STEM careers, and basic science content knowledge before and after participation in a science course within the Upward Bound Summer Program. Quantitative results indicated using a culturally responsive approach to teach science in an informal learning space significantly increases student achievement. Students receiving culturally responsive science instruction exhibited statistically significant increases in their posttest science scores compared to pretest science scores. Likewise, students receiving culturally responsive science instruction had a significantly higher interest in science and STEM careers. The qualitative data obtained in this study sought to gain a more in-depth understanding of the impact of a culturally responsive approach on students’ attitudes, interests in science, and STEM careers. Findings suggest providing students the opportunity to “do” and learn science utilizing a culturally responsive approach was much more beneficial to their overall science knowledge, as it allowed students to experience, understand, and connect to and through their science learning. Likewise, culturally responsive science instruction helped students to foster a more positive interest in science and STEM careers as it provided students the opportunity to do science in a meaningful and relevant way. Moreover, results revealed students receiving culturally responsive science instruction were able to see themselves represented in the curriculum and recognized their own strengths; as a result they were more validated and affirmed in and transformed by, their learning.


© 2015, Brittany A. Garvin