Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Gloria Boutte


In this study I utilized critical autoethnography to examine my role as a White, male implementing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP) in an early childhood music classrooms. Five research questions were posed: (a) In what ways does White supremacy appear in an elementary music school curriculum? (b) What curricular transformations occur when I, as a White teacher, seek to make my curriculum more relevant to students of Color? (c) What dispositional transformations occur when I, as a White teacher, seek to make my music curriculum more relevant to students of Color? (d) What happens when students of Color engage in a curriculum that deviates from a traditional Eurocentric-normalized elementary music class? and (e) What happens when White students engage in a curriculum that deviates from the traditional Eurocentric-normalized elementary music class? Findings from this study can contribute to the knowledge base regarding the role that culturally relevant music instruction plays in the education of elementary students of Color and White students. Results and processes from this study were presented using three manuscripts that will be presented for publication. The first article conceptualizes ways that CRP can be used in what I describe as Culturally Relevant Music Pedagogy (CRMP). I chronicle my process of transforming an elementary music classroom into a more relevant space for all students, particularly minoritized students. CRMP was introduced as a syntheses of three components: (a) critical music pedagogy; (b) critical pedagogy; and (c) my own experiences with culturally relevant pedagogy in music classrooms. I explicated three processes for engaging in culturally relevant music pedagogy beyond theory and into practice: (a) being intentional in music selection; (b) developing relationships with students; and (c) going beyond the school. The second article is a practitioner article offering guidance to teachers who implement CRMP. A music unit based on the celebration of Kwanzaa was shared. Drawing from critical pedagogy and critical music education, I engaged students in developing meaningful connections and cultural and critical awareness. In the third, research-focused article, I shared insights from the five-month critical autoethnography which documented my implementation of culturally relevant pedagogy with predominantly African American first grade students. Four main themes were found: (a) unpreparedness as a teacher; (b) disconnection with the music curriculum; (c) guilt about feelings and actions regarding an equitable pedagogy; and (d) the need for internal growth in equity pedagogies and teaching diverse populations. While this study was sometimes uncomfortable because I had to wrestle with my complicity in White supremacy, doing so was instrumental for my growth as a teacher and human being. In order to be a more effective, equity-centered teacher, I had to fully examine my own beliefs and practices. As I continue to engage in this work, I hope to be more effective a teacher and future teacher educator. My hope is that others can use this study as a template to engage in their own processes toward centering students, especially students of Color, in their teaching. A wonderful element in studying yourself is that one can engage with this work at any time and at any place.


© 2024, Adam Michael Steele