The Nature of Cuturally Responsive Pedagogy in Two Urban African American Middle School Science Classrooms

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2004-05-19

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Title of Dissertation THE NATURE OF CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE PEDAGOGY IN TWO URBAN AFRICAN AMERICAN MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE CLASSROOMS

Michelle Harris Bondima, Doctor of Philosophy, 2004

Dissertation directed by Professor J. Randy McGinnis Department of Curriculum & Instruction

This ethnographic in nature study explores how two middle school science teachers who have classes populated by urban African Americans teach their students and how their students perceive their teaching. Since urban African American students continue to perform lower than desired on measures of science achievement, there is an urgent need to understand what pedagogical methodologies assist and hinder urban African American students in achieving higher levels of success in science. A pedagogical methodology that theorists posit assists subordinated school populations is culturally responsive pedagogy. Culturally responsive pedagogy is defined as a teaching methodology concerned with preparing students to question inequality, racism, and injustice. Teachers who use culturally responsive pedagogy respect the culture students bring to the class, and require that the teachers willingly do whatever is necessary to educate students (Nieto, 2000). The teacher participants were two female African Americans who were identified by their school supervisors as being highly effective with urban African American students. The researcher presented the teachers in separate case studies conducted over a data collection period of nine months. Data were collected by participant observation, interviews, and artifact collection. Data were analyzed by application of grounded theory techniques. Findings of the teachers' (and the students') beliefs about pedagogy that both assisted and hindered the students' performance in science were reported in a rich and nuanced storytelling manner based on multiple perspectives (teachers'; students', and the researcher's). Pedagogical methodologies that the teachers used that assisted their students were the use of cultural metaphors and images in science and applications of motivational techniques that encouraged a nurturing relationship between the teacher and her students. Pedagogical methodologies that hindered students varied by teacher. Metaphorically, the teachers differed vividly. One was a nurturing mother, sister, and friend who assisted her students to cross the cultural line between the science classroom and their home and community. The other was a stern disciplinarian who painted a picture of order and hard work as keys for her students' success in school science. The researcher, who promotes a social justice ideology, made implications and recommendations for science teacher education and public policy.

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