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Exploring the development and practices of culturally responsive teachers: observations of and teachers voices in K-8 public education




Martin, Alex, author
Makela, Carole, advisor
Timpson, William, committee member
Coke, Pamela, committee member
Jennings, Louise, committee member

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In response to increased diversity in the United States, educational system teachers must be equipped with the skills to teach diverse learners. Multicultural education has been proposed as a framework in which to prepare the educational system and teachers for diversity. A critical component of multicultural education is culturally responsive teaching. "Culturally responsive teaching is defined as using the cultural knowledge, prior experience, frames of reference, and performance styles of ethnically diverse students to make learning encounters more relevant and effective for them" (Gay, 2000, p. 29). The theoretical and conceptual base of the cultural responsive teaching construct has been clearly articulated in literature. However, the developmental process of individual teachers in attaining cultural responsive practices is an area of needed investigation. This research looks to contribute to knowledge of cultural responsive development by examining teachers’ perspectives about development and practice of cultural responsive teaching. I utilized a collective case study approach to explore the phenomena of culturally responsive teaching in an interpretive and constructive method across a group of nine teachers. The culturally responsive practices of nine elementary/middle school teachers were examined in classroom observations and participant interviews. As a collective group common codes, categories, and themes emerged from data analysis of the nine teachers' culturally responsive practices. The collective case analysis revealed common culturally responsive teaching characteristics in teacher pedagogy, development, and mental approaches. Findings indicate that for teachers in this study, (1) culturally responsive teaching development is independent in nature and accrued outside teaching education support networks, (2) there are specific pedagogic practices associated with culturally responsive teaching, and (3) mindsets and thinking patterns of teachers are identifiable. These findings provide implications for the continued understanding and development of culturally responsive practices. There is a continued need for established cultural responsive teacher training that includes the development of cultural awareness, culturally responsive pedagogy, and mental strategies to address the needs of all students. Explicit pedagogical practices are associated with culturally responsive practice and should be developed in teacher preparation programming and on-going professional development. The identified mindsets and thinking patterns of these culturally responsive teachers provide examples of characteristics to be cultivated in aspiring and practicing teachers.


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