Factors that influence African American women's decisions to enter elementary and special education teaching


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Factors that influence African American women's decisions to enter elementary and special education teaching
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xv, 257 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
McCray, Audrey Davis, 1960-
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Special Education thesis, Ph.D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Special Education -- UF   ( lcsh )
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1997.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 245-255).
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Also available online.
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by Audrey Davis McCray.
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University of Florida
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Copyright 1997


Audrey Davis McCray

This dissertation is dedicated to my family:

To the memory of Mary Idella Turner Davis,
My mother who taught me the meaning of mothering

To James Otis Davis,
My father who gave me unfailing support

To James Anthony, Veronica, Dempsey, and Daryl,
My siblings who gave me encouragement

To Whittney and Christopher,
My children who provided me with the impetus to continue


I would like to recognize the contributions of the members of my dissertation committee: To Dr. Paul T. Sindelar, Chair, and Dr. Karen Kilgore, Cochair, for the countless hours that they listened to partially articulated ideas and read drafts of chapters, and for their intellectual understanding and patient teaching of the issues that enabled me to remain critical of my own work and persevere; Dr. Elizabeth Bondy for her helpful comments and understanding of the personal challenges I faced during this process; Dr. Vivian Correa for her understanding of family issues and diversity and helpful suggestions; and Dr. Cecil Mercer for his support of my research and encouragement throughout my doctoral studies. I would like to thank each member of this committee for the guidance, support, and friendship provided me during these difficult years.

I would also like to thank the personnel and teacher education students of Grambling State University, Jackson State University, and Prairie View A & M University. A very special thank you to the Grambling dean (Dr. C. A. Baham) and director of field experiences (Dr. Tamara Roberts), Jackson State department heads (Drs. Anita Hall, Celeste Jefferson, and Richard Middleton), and Prairie View faculty (Dr. Douglas Butler). I am most grateful to Dr. and Mrs.


Floyd Coleman for their hospitality and the great meals following long days of interviewing. Without the cooperation of these individuals, this study would not have been possible.

A very special thank you to the faculty and staff of the Special Education Department at the University of Florida, but especially to Dr. Cary Reichard and Ms. Sherry Knight for enabling me to meet critical deadlines although I was hundreds of miles away from the campus. I am also thankful to my colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin for their support and encouragement during the final stages of this dissertation. Mr. Jimmy Jackson was instrumental in helping me to collect data at Prairie View; Drs. Herb Reith and Randy Parker assisted me with data analysis; Drs. Natalie Barraga, Diane Bryant, Robert Marion, Jim Schaller, and Keith Turner offered encouragement; and Dr. Denise DeLaGarza shared with me Patricia Hill Collins, work on Black feminist thought that undoubtedly will shape my thinking and research for years to come.

I would also like to thank the staff and faculty of the Southeastern Louisiana University, but especially to Drs. Wm. Glenn Morgan and Elizabeth Evans. Dr. Peggy Anderson of the Metropolitan State University in Denver is gratefully acknowledged for her friendship and personal interest in my professional development. Also, I acknowledge Drs. Catherine Morsink and Simon Johnson, whose encouragement


provided me with impetus to begin the doctoral program. Finally, Dr. Joan Curcio deserves credit for my dissertation topic, and I thank her for the discussions about gender issues and studying women in higher education.

To my dear friends in this Ph.D. process, thank you is not sufficient. Lisa Raiford, Cheryl Beverly, Ellen Ratliff, Crystal Kemp, and Janis Young were there to cheer, to push, to offer solace, and, always, to help.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the support of my family. To my father, James Otis, who provided financial support, comforting hugs, and hours of telephone conversation when I needed them. My eternal thanks to my father.

I would like to acknowledge my husband, Gilbert, and

his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Leon McCray, for their support, and thank Cliff and Jackie McCray for including our children in their Sunday trips to the theater and beach.

I would like to thank my children, Whittney and

Christopher, for their patience and sacrifices, and just because they are a mother's dream; my sister and her husband, Veronica and Winfred Watson, for listening when I needed a sympathetic ear, and for serving as surrogate parents to my children; my brothers and their wives, James Anthony and Linda, Dempsey and Rose, and Daryl and Nikki, for long distance support; my maternal grandparents, Charlie and Lillian Turner; my nieces and nephews (Anna, Brandi,


Orenthius, James III, Troyletta, Taylor, Sydney St.Claire, Corey, Dempsey, Jr., Kayla, Donavan, Crystal, and Breanna); my aunts, uncles, and cousins, for their support over the years.

Lastly, I would like to thank Mary Idella, my mother. During our short 34 years together, she taught me many invaluable lessons of courage and tenacity and instilled in me the desire to know Jesus Christ and show love and mercy to others. It is that foundation that has given me the strength to withstand challenges and determination to help others. She left quietly, but her words, guiding hand, and friendship are everlasting.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ........................................... iv

LIST OF TABLES ............................................ xi

ABSTRACT .................................................. xiii

CHAPTER I ................................................. 1
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLF24 ............................... 1
Statement of the Problem ............................. 5
Purposes and objectives of the Study ................. 7
Rationale ............................................ 8
Delimitations of the Study ........................... 12
Overview of the Remaining Chapters ................... 13

CHAPTER II ................................................ 14
REVIEW OF LITERATURE ...................................... 14
Background for the Study ............................. 15
The Role of African American Teachers ........... 15
Factors That Influence Underrepresentation. ...... 17 Summary ......................................... 23
Factors That Influence the Decision to Enter
Teaching ............................................. 24
Motives for Teaching ............................ 25
Teacher Influence ............................... 28
Sociocultural Factors ........................... 30
Summary ......................................... 37
Preservice Teachers' Beliefs ......................... 38
Beliefs ......................................... 38
The Origins of Teacher Beliefs .................. 39
Summary ......................................... 42
Roberson's Aspiration to Teach Model ................. 43
Summary and Implications for the Present Study ... ... 45

CHAPTER III ............................................... 49
METHODOLOGY ............................................... 49
overview ............................................. 50
Survey Design ................................... 52
Settings ........................................ 53
Participants .................................... 55
The Aspiration to Teach Model ................... 59
Research Instrumentation ........................ 59
Pilot Study ..................................... 66


Data Analysis ................................... 70
Qualitative Research ................................. 74
Research Design ...................................... 74
Life History Interview .......................... 76
Participant Selection ........................... 77
Data Collection ................................. 78
Participant Interviewing ........................ 78
Data Analysis ................................... 84
Methodological Issues ................................ 87
Validity ........................................ 87
Generalizability ................................ 89
Researcher Bias ................................. 92
Ethical Issues .................................. 94

CHAPTER IV ................................................ 95
RESULTS ................................................... 95
Demographic Characteristics .......................... 96
Family and Socioeconomic Characteristics ............. 98
Family Structure ................................ 98
Parental Educational Attainment ................. 98
Parental Occupation Choice ...................... 103
Family Income ................................... 105
Schooling Characteristics and Educational
Background ........................................... 107
Perspectives Towards Teaching as a Profession .. ...... 116
Job-Related Factors ............................. 116
Personal and Individual Factors ................. 119
Institutional Factors ........................... 122
Commitment to Teaching ............................... 124
Entry Beliefs About Teaching ......................... 125
Beliefs About Student Diversity ................. 125
Teaching Efficacy Beliefs ....................... 130
Summary .............................................. 133

CHAPTER V ................................................. 137
RESULTS ................................................... 137
Participant Demographic Descriptions ................. 138
Vernetta ........................................ 140
Maxine .......................................... 142
Liz ............................................. 142
Faye ............................................ 143
Keisha .......................................... 144
Sharon .......................................... 145
Sociocultural Experiences that Influenced the ... ..... 146 Decision to Enter Teacher Education .................. 146
Parental and Family Attitudes and Expectations ....... 146
Obscure Influences ......................... 147
Controlling, Caring, and Protective ........ 148
Othermothers and Shared Mothering ............... 152
Experiences in the Black Church Community ............ 156


Church Functions ................................ 157
Community Churchwomen ........................... 158
Teaching Moments ................................ 160
Church Separations .............................. 161
Schooling Experiences and Beliefs about Teaching ... .. 163 Negative Schooling Experiences ....................... 163
Positive Schooling Experiences ....................... 171
High Expectations for Student Achievement ....... 171
Strict Discipline, Control, and Student
Success ......................................... 174
Authentic, Responsive, and Safe Learning
Environments .................................... 176
Caring and Protective Relationships ............. 179
White Teachers and Mothering .................... 181
Black Motherhood and Teaching
Teaching is Community Mothering ...................... 183
Recruiting Other African American Women .............. 187

CHAPTER VI ................................................ 190
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS ............................... 190
Overview of the Study ................................ 191
Summary of the Findings .............................. 193
Discussion ........................................... 197
Demographic and Family Characteristics .......... 197 Schooling Characteristics ....................... 201
Entering Perspectives and Beliefs ............... 202
Motives for Entering Teaching ................... 204
Teacher Efficacy ................................ 205
Sociocultural and Schooling Experiences ......... 207 Mothering ....................................... 208
Community Mothering ............................. 209
African American Women's Work ................... 210
Teaching as Community Mothers' Work ............. 211
Continuation and Good Teaching .................. 213
Conclusions About The Women Who Have Decided To
Teach ................................................ 215
Implications for Recruitment of African American
Women ................................................ 216
Limitations of the Study ............................. 218
Suggestions for Further Research ..................... 220


TEACHER EDUCATION STUDENT SURVEY ..........................


REFERENCES ................................................ 245

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ....................................... 257



Table pacre

3.1 HBCU teacher education student populations ...... 55 3.2 Survey data analysis ............................ 71

4.1 Demographic characteristics of female African
American teacher education students in HBCUs .... 97

4.2 Family structure of female African American
teacher education students attending HBCUs ...... 99 4.3 Parental educational attainment ................ 100

4.4 Parents' expectations for their daughters,
educational attainment ......................... 102

4.5 Parental occupational choice ................... 104

4.6 Family income for 1995 ......................... 106

4.7 School characteristics:
Year of high school graduation ................. 108

4.8 School characteristics:
Type of school ................................. 108

4.9 School characteristics:
Racial composition of community ................ 109

4.10 School characteristics:
Racial composition of school ................... 111

4.11 Percentage of teachers by race ................. 112

4.12 School activities that influenced
career decisions ............................... 116

4.13 mean and standard deviation scores of
Job-related factors influencing decision ....... 117

4.14 Factors that influenced participants to
decide teaching as career choice ............... 119


4.15 Mean and standard deviation scores for
participants, desirability level by
student type, classroom setting, and
geographic location ............................ 125

4.16 Mean and standard deviation scores for
beliefs about teaching students who are
culturally different ........................... 127

4.17 Mean and standard deviations scores for
beliefs about efficacy ......................... 130

5.1 Themes ......................................... 138

5.2 Demographic descriptions ....................... 140


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Audrey Davis McCray

December 1997

Chair: Paul T. Sindelar
Co-Chair: Karen Kilgore
Major Department: Special Education

This study was designed (a) to identify and describe the background characteristics of African American women who enter preservice teacher education in elementary and special education teaching and (b) to identify and describe the factors that influenced them to do so.

Demographic backgrounds and characteristics were

determined based on surveys of 112 female African American teacher education students who were majoring in elementary and/or special education at 3 historically Black colleges and universities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Through ethnographic techniques, six of them were selected and interviewed about their experiences and their beliefs about teaching to identify factors that influenced their decisions to enter teaching.


The findings of the present study showed that the

respondents, in many respects, are similar to preservice teachers in general. However, they do look different in some interesting ways and support the assertion that sociocultural backgrounds within a racial context are at work in the decisions to enter teaching. Their views of good teaching tend to parallel their beliefs about good mothering, and they have high levels of confidence in their ability to work successfully with children from all backgrounds. Their decisions to enter teaching are based more on their beliefs and understandings about role modeling, social change agency, and mothering than on traditional aspects of teaching as altruistic and nurturing.

These results have possible implications for teacher education recruitment and retention. Emphasize entry motives rather than nonentry motives; include family, former teachers, and church members and stress potential benefits to be gained by the community, including the prospective teacher and her students; design teacher education that is liberators and aimed at developing skills as role models and social change agents; and, focus less on traditional teacher roles and more on community mothering roles of protecting children from academic failure and ensuring the continuation of cultural beliefs and practices.


Suggestions f or further research include developing more systematic ways of studying the effect family, community, and school have on beliefs about teaching and aspirations to pursue teaching careers, and determining the predictability of identified demographic and schooling variables, sense of efficacy, and community mothering on preservice teacher education entry and nonentry.



The underrepresentation of African Americans in teaching has been a continuing problem for teacher educators, researchers, and policy makers (Darling-Hammond & Scan, 1996; Dilworth, 1990; Gordon, 1994; Graham, 1987; Haberman, 1996; King, 1993b; Witty, 1986). From concerns about Blacks, inability to meet teacher education admission standards and teacher certification requirements to concerns about the siphoning of talented Blacks to professions once closed to them, it is clear that the traditional channels of recruitment have not resulted in the level of diversity needed in teacher education (Boyer & Baptiste, 1996; Dilworth, 1990; Holmes, 1990; Holmes Group, 1986). Haberman (1996) noted that finding enough minority applicants to apply to teacher education has been problematic. Moreover, too few teacher educators have dealt with minority recruitment and retention issues (Grant & Secada, 1990); too many have resigned themselves to preparing a homogeneous teacher force despite overwhelming evidence of the need for teacher diversity (Boyer & Baptiste, 1996). To reverse minority underrepresentation may require that teacher education make it a top priority



to recruit culturally diverse individuals, starting with restructured policy and strategies informed by new research.

The need for proportionate representation of African American teachers and other teachers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds is often discussed in relation to the increasing racial and ethnic diversity of our nation's classrooms. Today, nearly one third of the nation's school-aged population is culturally and/or linguistically diverse (Hodgkinson, 1993; Williams, 1992). According to these researchers, in some school districts in states such as New Mexico, Texas, Florida, and California, 50% to 70% of the total school enrollment is culturally and linguistically diverse. In the 1993-94 school year, for instance, 7,217,060 African American students were enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools across the country (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 1995b). This number represented approximately 16.6% of the national school-aged population. In Louisiana, in the 1993-94 school year, of the 800,560 students enrolled in public schools, 45.4% were African Americans; in Mississippi during the same period, over one-half (50.9%) of the 505,907 public school students were African Americans. Demographic projections indicate that in less than 5 years 50% of all urban school children will be from nonwhite ethnic and racial groups (Hodgkinson, 1993). Such


demographic shifts in the school-aged population cannot be ignored.

Increasingly, the makeup of student populations in

schools across the United States is changing dramatically. Most students will be from various racial and ethnic groups, more students will come from families in which English is not the first or primary language, and more students will live in poverty or even in the streets (Hodgkinson, 1991; Williams, 1992). In a study of the demographics of American schooling, Hodgkinson (1988) suggested that the Class of 2000 (which was the first-grade class of 1988) has the following characteristics: (a) 24% were born in poverty, (b) 14% were born with disabilities, and (c) 40% were classified as culturally diverse. It is clear that a culturally competent teaching force will be needed to enhance the school achievements of a diverse student population with myriad learning, behavior, and sociocultural differences.

By contrast with the increasing number of culturally diverse students, the percentage of culturally diverse teachers is dropping steadily. For example, since 1970, researchers have documented a steady decline in the proportion of African American teachers in public education. In 1970, 12% of the teaching force was African American (Gay, 1993); in 1971, 8.1%; in 1976, 8%; and in 1986, 6.9% (National Education Association, 1992). By


1991, the percentage of African American teachers rose to 8% to match 1971 and 1976 levels (NEA, 1992), and has remained constant at this level (NCES, 1995a). In the 1993-94 school year, for example, of the 2,505,074 public school teachers, only 188,317 (8%) were African American compared to 2,216,605 (86.8%) White teachers. Due in large part to the aging and retiring of many African American teachers and the declining number of African Americans entering teaching, in some areas of the country only 3% to 5% of all public school teachers are African American (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Shaw, 1996).

Equally apparent has been the underrepresentation of African Americans in teacher education. Despite signs of an upswing in the number and quality of recruits to teaching (Darling-Hammond & Sclan, 1996), African American entry into preparation programs has diminished since the early 1980s. In the 1980s, Whites made up 94% of entrylevel students who reported that they always wanted to teach. Of this group, 74% were female, two thirds of the males expressed preferences for high school teaching, and two thirds of the females expressed preferences for elementary school teaching (Book, Byers, & Freeman, 1983).

Zimpher and Ashiburn (1992) found that teacher

education continues to attract and recruit a predominantly female, monoracial, monocultural, and monolingual constituency who attend college and seek employment as


teachers relatively close to where they were raised. In addition, most of them are coming from middle to upper middle-income, rural and suburban backgrounds. These teacher education students tend to have had little or no experience with individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds (Ladson-Billings, 1994) and express a desire to teach children whose backgrounds, experiences, and school achievements are similar to their own (Dilworth, 1992; Haberman, 1996). Given the contrast between preservice teachers and the students they are very likely to teach, teacher educators will be challenged to help them reconcile their beliefs and expectations for teaching with the realities of student diversity in public schools.

Statement of the Problem

most traditional minority recruitment and retention

research has focused primarily on the factors that prevent or dissuade minorities from entering teacher education and teaching. Grant and Secada (1990) reported substantial data regarding (a) the trends toward an increasingly white and female teaching force; (b) the need to recruit a diverse teaching force; (c) the threat of excessive testing; (d) the financial costs, especially to poor students, of the increased time required to complete teacher education programs; and (e) why people of color are not entering teaching as they once did. The reasons for the severe and chronic underrepresentation of African


American teachers are numerous and varied and are discussed in more detail in Chapter 2.

Current information about culturally diverse teachers and the issues of recruitment and retention has not been particularly helpful to educators and policy makers in creating successful recruitment strategies. Recruitment efforts, such as financial incentives, restructured admission standards, and faculty-student mentorships have not produced adequate numbers of African American teacher education students.

Boyer and Baptiste (1996) have suggested that to abate the underrepresentation of African Americans in teacher education, teacher educators should implement a new approach to recruitment and retention. Traditional recruitment policies and strategies developed to respond to the factors found to inhibit African Americans' entry into teaching will be less useful than efforts to encourage them to pursue teaching careers. According to Boyer and Baptiste, recruitment in teacher education is much more than "finding a bag of tricks to yield more people of color into the ranks of American teachers" (p. 786). Rather, they suggested that recruitment of African American teacher education students will require a total transformation of the way teacher educators and recruiters think, as well as the way they create policy, design strategies, and develop prospective teachers' profiles. For example, important


questions for teacher educators should include "How do African Americans in teacher education regard teaching"? and "How might an understanding of their experiences and their views of teaching inform recruitment and retention policy and strategies?"

The problem investigated in the present study was twofold. The first objective was to identify and describe the background characteristics of African American women who decide to enter teacher education in elementary and/or special education teaching. The second objective was to identify and describe the factors that influence African American women's decisions to enter preservice teacher education. Understanding which African American women enter teacher education and what their motives and beliefs about teaching are is the first step in transforming recruitment and retention policy and strategies.

Purposes and Oblectives of the Stu

This study was designed (a) to identify and describe the background characteristics of African American women who enter preservice teacher education in elementary and special education teaching and (b) to identify and describe the factors that influence them to do so. Factors that influence minority teacher entry may emerge from background and demographic variables, sociocultural perspectives, teacher and parent influences, schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching. This investigation also examined


the participants' interpretations of the factors that influenced their entry into teaching. The following research questions were addressed in this study:

1. What are the backgrounds of African American

women who decide to enter preservice teacher education in elementary and/or special education?

2. How do African American women's sociocultural experiences, schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching influence their decisions to enter the profession?


Notwithstanding the gains made in uncovering barriers that impede entry into teaching by African Americans, more information about the factors that facilitate their entry into the profession should be collected. Existing research on preservice teacher education students is void of data on African Americans. Thus, we know little about their backgrounds and characteristics, motives for teaching, or beliefs about teaching. As Dilworth (1990) noted, although subcultural groups in the teaching force have not been investigated, what is known about teachers and teaching has been generalized to all teachers, regardless of cultural affiliation and background.

African American women teachers have been ignored in

social science research. Boyer and Baptiste (1996) studied the inclusion of African American females in much of the published research in the social sciences and education.



By examining the profile of subjects, they found very few instances in which African American females were included in research. There was, however, no hesitancy to assume that research findings could be generalized to culturally diverse populations. Similarly, in teacher education, generalizations are drawn from research with homogeneous populations.

Teaching traditionally has been viewed as women's work (Feiman-Nemser & Floden, 1986). Teacher education researchers have studied the lives of women teachers in an effort to understand how they define their work situations and balance their school responsibilities and home lives. In addition, substantial research has described demographic profiles and career cycles of women who decide to enter teaching (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 1990; Darling-Hammond& Sclan, 1996; Su, 1993; Zimpher, 1989; Zimpher & Ashburn, 1992). African American women, however, are invisible in this voluminous literature on women teachers.

The absence of Black women as research participants is especially obvious in preservice teacher education research. Brookhart and Freeman (1992), for example, in their review of 41 studies of the characteristics of entering teacher candidates, found that most studies on entering teachers have been conducted with homogeneous populations. They determined that a weakness of current research on preservice teachers is the lack of attention to


subgroups among teacher education students. However, they, too, made sweeping generalizations about entering teachers, characteristics, motivations, beliefs, and perceptions of teaching. In another investigation (Tusin & Pascarella, 1985), the influence of college on women's choice of teaching as a career was examined on a sample of 2,730 White women attending 74 4-year colleges and universities. College environments, experiences, and faculty were found to influence White females, choice of teaching, but no insight is shed on African American females, even though such information would be particularly useful for informing recruitment and retention policy.

The results of this study, therefore, should provide teacher educators and policy makers with critical, usable knowledge about the experiences and beliefs that African American women bring to preservice teacher education. Resulting knowledge about the background characteristics and factors that influence African American women's decisions to enter elementary and special education preservice teacher education may inform recruitment and retention policy and foster the development of program strategies to attract more African Americans into teacher education.

This study is important for teacher education research because of its implications for filling the gap in our knowledge about African American preservice teachers.


Because conventional recruitment and retention research has focused primarily on those African Americans who did not enter teaching, the professional literature is virtually silent regarding African Americans who do enter teaching. This study will provide information about the background characteristics and educational experiences of African American women in teacher education.

Pajares (1992) and Richardson (1996) urged that research studies be undertaken to discover preservice teachers, beliefs about teaching and learning. Pajares (1992), for instance, posed the question: "What insights may be gained from exploring the beliefs of minority teacher candidates?" This investigation is crucial because it would provide teacher education researchers valuable data regarding African American preservice teachers' attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs about students, learning, and teaching. Moreover, such information about the preservice beliefs of Black women has important implications for transforming recruitment and retention research. For example, if, as Van Fleet (1979) hypothesized, beliefs are created through a process of cultural transmission and social construction, it would be necessary for teacher educators to understand the sociocultural influences observed and experienced by African American women who decide to enter teaching. Also, if Bandura (1986) is correct in asserting that self-


efficacy beliefs--individuals' judgments of their competence to execute a particular task--are the strongest predictors of their motivation and behavior, then knowing African American women's preservice efficacy beliefs would help to predict who among Black women might be motivated to enter teacher education. Finally, researchers' agree that beliefs are formed early and are highly resistant to change. African American preservice teachers' early personal and schooling experiences may help explain their decisions to enter teaching and may inform research agendas on belief change.

Delimitations of the Study

The scope of the study is limited geographically to three states in the southern region of the United States, and participants have been selected who attend one of the three historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) included in the study.

Sampling was purposeful and included all African

American women enrolled in elementary and special education teacher education at selected HBCUs in the fall of 1996 and spring of 1997. For the qualitative portion of this study, six African American women were selected from the original survey respondent.

Regarding generalization of the findings, statistical methods used to collect and analyze the quantitative data should yield results generalizable to the population of


female African American preservice teacher education students at HBCUs. Findings resulting from qualitative methods, by their very nature, should be generalized only through comparison to individuals and contexts illustrated in this study. Generalizations that can be drawn are limited as a result of using qualitative methodology. Specific methodological constraints are described in Chapter III.

Overview of the Remaining ChaTpters

Chapter II contains a review of the literature relevant to this study. The methodology used for implementation is detailed in Chapter III. Survey results of the study are presented in Chapter IV. Chapter V presents themes that emerged from the interview data. Finally, Chapter VI includes conclusions, discussions, and implications of the study's results, and suggestions for further research.


Chapter II provides a summary and analysis of the professional literature related to entry into teaching by African American women. I begin this chapter by providing a brief summary of the role of African Americans in teaching. Next, I discuss the decline and underrepresentation of African Americans in preservice teaching as a backdrop for understanding African Americans who enter teacher education. I describe a conceptual framework for explaining African American women's decisions to enter teacher education developed from current research on motives for teaching, teacher influence, sociocultural factors, personal and schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching. Particularly, Roberson's Asipiration To Teach model (Roberson, Keith, & Page, 1983) was used to identify and describe factors that influence African American women's decisions to enter teacher education. I conclude the chapter with a summary of the research and a discussion of the implications of the findings.



Background for the Stud

The Role of African American Teachers

The proportionate representation of African American teachers is important and necessary. This proposition holds true for both general education (Boyer & Baptiste, 1996; Darling-Hammond, 1990; Darling-Hammond & Scian, 1996; Dilworth, 1990; 1992; Duhon-Sells, Peoples, Moore, & Page, 1996; Gordon, 1994; Haberman, 1996; Irvine, 1989; 1990; King, 1993a, 1993b; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Witty, 1986; Zeichner, 1993) and special education teaching (Billingsley, 1993; Billingsley & Cross, 1991; Eoe, Bobbitt, & Cook, 1993; Council for Exceptional Children, 1995). Although the number of African American school-aged children is growing dramatically, the number of African American teachers is declining rapidly.

Historically, African American teachers have assumed leadership status in the community and responsibility for the educational achievement of African American children (Boyer & Baptiste, 1996). Also, there is a rich literature of case studies and biography about African Americans who have succeeded despite poverty, racial discrimination, and numerous other obstacles, with the help of committed teachers and parents (Haynes & Coiner, 1990). Responding to the assertion that educational opportunities for most African American children are limited, Lee, Lomotey, and Shujaa (1990) have emphasized how education contributes to


"achieving pride, equity, power, wealth, and cultural continuity" (p. 47) and how education advances character development within the context of African American community and culture. A growing literature, summarized by King (1993b), suggested that African American teachers have positive influences on children and youth in their personal development and in their achievement. Whether African American women currently in preservice teaching hold similar understandings and beliefs about teaching, school achievement, and their roles and responsibilities is an important but unanswered question.

There are many reasons why teacher educators should be concerned about the underrepresentation of minority teachers. According to Darling-Hammond and Sclan (1996), the importance of culturally diverse teachers as role models for majority and minority students alike is one reason for concern. In addition, culturally diverse teachers often bring a special level of understanding to the experiences of their culturally diverse students and a perspective on school policy and practice that is critical for all schools and districts to include. For example, most African American teachers, because of their own personal and schooling experiences, communicate to African American students the importance of education for social and economic parity in the United States (Irvine, 1990). Irvine also noted that African American teachers practice


culturally relevant pedagogy that helps to bridge the gap between home and school for their students and can advocate for the adoption of such practices on a schoolwide or district level basis. Finally, Howey and Zimpher (1993) found that with the exception of minority teachers, most prospective teachers do not prefer to teach in inner-city schools, even though most new jobs are in these schools. Thus, the challenge for teacher education programs is to develop strategies to attract and retain culturally diverse teacher candidates who are, in fact, willing to work with urban students.

Factors That Influence Underrepresentation

Given the importance of African Americans in teaching, it is disturbing that so few are deciding to enter teacher education programs and teaching careers. In this review of professional literature, I summarize and analyze what is known about the decline in the numbers of African American preservice teacher education students and teachers.

Although this discussion is about the decline in the number of African American teachers in general, particular attention is given to African American women because teaching is considered women's work (Feiman-Nemser & Floden, 1986) and many more women than men enter teaching (Darling-Hammond & Sclan, 1996; Su, 1993; Zimpher & Ashburn, 1992). Besides, the "exodus from education


degrees has been most apparent in the case of African American women" (King, 1993b, p. 126).

White, middle-class women represent nearly 90% of the teaching force at the elementary level (Brookhart & Freeman, 1992; Darling-Hammond, 1990; Su, 1993; Zimpher, 1989). It is interesting that, at the same time that declining numbers of African American women are entering teaching, participation by Anglo American women is increasing. Several scholars have illustrated this growing interest in teaching by White women.

Darling-Hammond (1990), for example, reported that major declines in teacher education enrollments between 1977 and 1987 were pronounced for all groups except Anglo American women at the master's level. According to Darling-Hammond, the current shortages of African Americans in teaching were mainly the result of the "defections of academically able minority students to other careers and professions" (p. 287). King (1993b), found that among academically talented African American women in particular the desire to enter teaching has declined steadily and substantially over the past two decades.

At the same time, a renewed interest in teaching at the elementary level has been observed among academically talented, Anglo American women. Zimpher (1989), for instance, in her analysis of the characteristics of preservice teacher education students, underscored the


growing interest in teaching among women over the age of 25 and married with children. Su (1993), in examining teacher socialization, determined that women over 25 years old reported teaching as a second career choice because it was satisfying and contributed to the betterment of society. Su concluded that "teaching not only remains primarily a female profession but also a white professionff (p. 126). White women continue to report a strong desire to teach (Brookhart & Freeman, 1992; Darling-Hammond & Sclan, 1996; Su, 1993), despite the growing job opportunities in other professions for women.

Traditionally, African American women have sought careers in teaching. For many African American women, teaching represented an acceptable, even admirable, profession and a public extension of the domestic role. It has also been one of the few opportunities for collegeeducated African American women to perform duties commensurate with their professional training. Teaching provided one of the best salaries available to African Americans in general and has carried considerable social prestige and status in the African American community.

African American women witnessed their greatest growth in the profession between 1890 and 1940 (Fultz, 1995). Following the Civil War, the need for Black teachers to teach Black youth increased as fewer White teachers were willing to teach freed slaves (Dilhon-Sells et al., 1996).


During this period, the number of female African American teachers grew from about 8,000 to nearly 25,000 (Fultz, 1995). African American women continued to enter teaching and by the end of World War 11, 79% of all college-educated African American women were teachers (King, 1993a).

However, for reasons that are unclear, by 1950 the percentage of African American female college graduates earning a degree in education began to decline. By 1954, for instance, the percentage dropped to 50%; by 1987, the percentage of college-educated African American females holding education degrees plummeted to 25%. By the mid1990s, the percentage of African American women in college seeking education degrees was less than 10% (Boyer & Baptiste, 1996; Duhon-Sells et al., 1996; Ladson-Billings, 1994)). Although some attention has been given in the years since to declining trends in the number of African American women entering teaching, recruitment and retention policies and practices have not reversed the severe underrepresentation of female African American teachers (Shaw, 1996).

The decline of African Americans in preservice teacher education and teaching has been influenced by many factors. One significant influence has been desegregation. According to Ethridge (1979), although desegregation resulted in access to equal educational opportunity for African American children, desegregation resulted also in


the unemployment of over 31,000 African American teachers. The greatest unemployment occurred in the South. African American teachers were either relieved of their teaching responsibilities or were assigned to jobs for which they were not trained (Ethridge, 1979; Waters, 1989).

According to Kirby and Hudson (1993), another cause for declining minority interest in teaching is the increasing array of alternative white-collar occupations available African American women. They have been overrepresented in teaching compared with other whitecollar occupations because historically teaching was opened to them when other fields were not (King, 1993b). As Kirby and Hudson (1993) observed, however, teaching now faces stiffer competition for minority college graduates, as these individuals have more job opportunities in many better-paying, more prestigious professions such as business, medicine, and law.

The decline of African Americans in teaching has been further exacerbated by the increasing use of standardized tests to screen entrants into teacher education programs and for teacher certification (Darling-Hammond, 1990; Witty, 1986). By 1991, 28 states had instituted a general knowledge test (separate from the ACT and SAT) as part of teacher education program admissions, and over 40 states were using or planned to use teacher certification tests. For reasons that have not been well explored (such as


differences in precollege educational programs and opportunities, differences in teacher preparation programs, test bias, and differences in test-taking skills), African American teacher candidates score consistently below other teacher candidates on virtually all of these standardized tests. As a result, African Americans are disproportionately excluded from preservice teacher education and teacher certification and licensure (Kirby Hudson, 1993).

In addition to the negative influences of school desegregation, increased job opportunities in other occupations, and teacher testing, there is some evidence to suggest that changing familial and cultural influences discourage entry into teaching by African Americans, especially women. Gordon (1994), for example, have suggested that African American students' parents and teachers are discouraging them from pursuing careers in teaching. According to Gordon, (a) academically less successful students are told that they cannot survive the rigors of college, (b) lower-income students are told that they cannot afford college or are tracked into programs that match their parents' vocations, (c) middle-class children are told that they should strive for more lucrative careers, and, (d) academically successful students are told that their opportunities are limitless. Gordon (1994) has concluded that many African Americans may


not believe that a career in teaching is available to them, while others do not consider teaching because they believe more lucrative careers lie ahead.

-'Finally, King (1993b) noted that African Americans, beliefs and attitudes about teaching as a profession may contribute to the decline in interest and entry in teaching. She reported that African American women cited low salaries, low prestige, lack of administrative support, limited opportunity for advancement in the teaching profession, and excessive paperwork as factors that discouraged them from pursuing teaching careers. It is interesting to note that the women in King's study believed that excessive minority teacher placement in urban schools, remedial programs, and special education programs weighed against their entry into teaching as well. Clearly, these perceptions of teaching have serious implications for minority teacher recruitment and must be examined more carefully.


Although teaching is considered women's work and has historically been opened to African Americans when other professions were not, for many African American women, teaching apparently has lost its appeal. At a time when White, middle-class women are increasingly expressing a desire to teach, despite apparent job opportunities, African American women are telling us that, for a number of


reasons, they have little interest in pursuing teaching careers (Gordon, 1994). The decision not to enter teaching by African American women is influenced by many factors. Among them are historical employment practices and opportunities in teaching, the increasing job opportunities in more lucrative professions open to culturally diverse individuals, standardized teacher certification testing, and low salaries and professional prestige.

Although the literature on the factors that discourage entry into teaching by African Americans is substantial, less is known about the factors that influence entry. We must, therefore, seek to understand what it is that fosters the decision to enter teaching by some African American women. It is important that we identify and describe African American women who decide to become teachers and factors that lead them to this decision.

Factors That Influence the Decision to Enter Teaching

There are widely accepted notions about what motivates an individual to enter the teaching profession. Attention has been given to motives, teacher and parent influences, sociocultural factors, personal experiences, and beliefs about teaching. Discussed in the following sections are factors found to influence entry into teaching: motives for teaching, teacher influence, sociocultural factors, schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching.


Motives for Teaching

Information about why people choose to become teachers emanates from two sources, preservice teacher education students and practicing teachers. To researchers inquiring over the past 25 years, both groups have said that the strongest attractions to teaching are working with and helping young people (Joseph & Green, 1986).

The research literature that addresses the question of motivation to teach dates back before 1960. With data collected in 1958 at Ohio State University, Richards (1960) found the primary reason for entering careers in teaching was satisfaction other than salary, helping others, and helping children. The second most frequently chosen reason was good preparation for family life.

In a study of 173 prospective teachers from a state university in Illinois, Fox (1961) found the four top reasons chosen for entering teaching were a desire to work with children or adolescents (especially among female teachers), a desire to impart knowledge, the opportunity to continue one's own education, and service to society.

In 1965, in a study done at the University of Montana School of Education, sophomores discussed the advantages of teaching as a career. The most strongly felt advantage was that the "teacher performs a valuable service to society" (Chandler, Powell, & Hazard, 1971, p. 228). The second preference was that the "teacher works with young people,"


and the third choice was, "teaching can lead to other careers" (P. 228).

In a 1975 monograph, Who Are the New Teachers? A Look at 1971 College Graduates, Sharp and Hirshfeld (1975) reported the one value that graduates who were hired as teachers often considered very important was "helping others who are in difficulty" (p. 140). The desire for creativity and originality ranked nearly as high, and third in rank was a desire for future security and stability.

In Schoolteacher: A Sociological Stu Lortie (1975) analyzed data from interviews and a National Education Association study of teachers, and identified five major attractions of teaching, which he termed, (a) interpersonal (the desire to work with young people), (b) service (teaching as a valuable service of moral worth), (c) continuation (fondness for the school setting or as a medium for expressing interests and talents), (d) material benefits (job security or comparable salaries), and (e) time compatibility (preference for hours and vacations).

Brookhart and Freeman (1992), in a review of research on the characteristics of entering teacher candidates, determined that in studies conducted after 1975, helping and serving others, and working with people have continued to head the list of motivations prospective teachers report for their decision to enter teaching. Jantzen (1981), for instance, summarized survey data collected from 1946


through 1979 on entering preservice teacher education students in the California university system. Jantzen found that, in every survey, participants reported that an interest in children was the primary reason they chose teaching as a career.

Book and Freeman (1986) found that students' reasons for entering teaching differed according to level: Elementary preservice teacher education students were more child-centered in their motivations for teaching than were secondary students, who were more subject-centered. Furthermore, McIntire and Pratt (1985) found no difference in motivations between those entering preservice teacher education who chose to continue in teacher education and those who left the program after the first course. Working with children and service were primary motives for both groups.

Goodlad (1984) surveyed 1,350 teachers regarding their motives for entering teaching and concluded that the nature of teaching itself attracts people. According to Goodlad, "on all levels, [people] tended to be idealistic and altruistic in their views of why they chose to teach" (p. 173). Nonetheless, Joseph and Green (1986) have called attention to the seemingly superficial nature of selfreported motives and questioned researchers, conclusions that prospective and practicing teachers enter the profession prompted only by the altruistic motive of


helping youth and society. Joseph and Green argued that "suspicions about self-reported motives expressed by researchers and educators suggest that the literature on teacher motivations should not be accepted at face value" (p. 31). According to Joseph and Green's findings, motivation in teaching may be a learned response primarily prompted by underlying desires for superiority over others or the perception that teaching and working with children are more comfortable (especially to women) or less threatening than working with adults. Even more interesting is Joseph and Green's finding that altruistic motives reported by prospective teachers do not appear to include helping children who are less fortunate than themselves.

Teacher Influence

The effect of socialization seems to be very powerful in shaping the career choices of future teachers (Su, 1993). According to Su (1993), a common theme running through preservice teacher education students' interview responses is the positive impact of grade-school teachers on their decision to become teachers. Fielstra (1955) found that former teachers were perceived as the most influential factor in the career choices of education students. Richards (1960) reached the same conclusion: Former teachers reportedly exerted more influence than any other factor on the decision of individuals to teach.


Seventy-five percent of the respondents in Fox's (1961) investigation cited former teachers as being the most significant influence on their career plans. Wright (1977) observed that identification with former teachers played an important and highly influential role in both the decision to teach and the current teaching behavior of those who entered teaching.

The impact of former teachers on women's career choice of teaching appears strong (Brookhart & Freeman, 1992). For prospective African American women teacher candidates, in particular, the influence of former African American female teachers has been reported as an especially significant factor in their decision to enter teaching (Shaw, 1996). Evidence that family, parents, and teachers strongly affect women's career choice is the fact that women decide to become teachers earlier than men (Jantzen, 1981).

Book et al. (1983) found that almost all students

reported knowing before graduating from high school that they would go to college, and 40% knew at the time that they would pursue careers in teaching. In another sample, 70% of entering preservice teacher education students decided to become teachers before high-school graduation (Pigge & Marso, 1986). In Pigge and Marso's study, those who decided to become teachers after entering college were more academically able but less positive in their attitudes


toward teaching than those who chose teaching before entering college.

In addition, motherhood seems to help students make up their minds to pursue teaching (Su, 1993). According to Su's profile of preservice teacher education students, some prospective teachers are influenced by the traditional thinking that teaching is a job that matches the nurturing and caring qualities often associated with being a mother and some teacher candidates enter teaching because they want to do better than those already teaching in their children's schools. Suls findings confirmed the earlier observations by Roberson, Keith, and Page (1983). According to Roberson et al., aspiring teachers are influenced to enter teaching because of former teachers and early schooling experiences, and are much more concerned about the people they work with than about the size of the salary they receive. These prospective teachers perceived teaching as a noble, moral, and ethical profession and entered teaching to pursue an interesting career with interesting colleagues, to have job security and a steady income, to pursue an interest in a particular subject, and to have more time off during the year to pursue family and personal interests.

Sociocultural Factors

The social and economic characteristics of preservice teachers also have been investigated. For example, it has


been hypothesized that students who aspire to enter teaching are strongly influenced by family, religious, and community variables (Roberson et al, 1983). DarlingHammond (1990) found that preservice teachers share the following characteristics: (a) Most are first-generation college graduates, (b) many come from working-class families, (c) about one third desire to teach in communities where they grew up, and (d) about half have spent much of their adult life in the community in which they seek employment.

More recently, Darling-Hammond and Sclan (1996)

determined that prospective teachers today are slightly older than previous teacher education students (25.7 years vs. 23 years), are academically stronger than they were during the 1980s, have higher GPAs than the average college graduate, and receive most of their financial support from family resources. Most preservice teacher education students report that they enroll in programs close to where they are living at the time, mainly for convenience sake and due to a belief that staying in the area will increase chances for getting a job when they complete their programs (Howey & Zimpher, 1993). Darling-Hammond (1990) found that more than 70% of preservice students commuted, and the large majority held part-time or full-time jobs. These characteristics suggest that teaching has been an avenue of


upward social and economic mobility for most working class families (Darling-Hammond, 1990).

Do all teacher education students share similar social and economic backgrounds? Dilworth (1990) argued that consistent responses to questions of motivation and backgrounds by preservice teachers suggest at least two things: Teachers are more homogeneous than those in other professions, and the same question is being asked in similar fashion and focus over and over again. In a similar vein, Feiman-Nemser and Floden (1986) suggested that, indeed, other factors may be at work in the decision to enter teaching. They called for investigations that studied teachers' sociocultural backgrounds within a racial and ethnic context to understand the decision to enter teaching. In the following section, I discuss five additional sociocultural factors that influence the decision to enter teaching by women, especially African Americans.

Gender. According to Lortie (1975), motivation for

entering teaching is gender-related. For instance, Lortie argued that the time compatibility factor is a direct benefit to women and necessary for their continued participation in the work force. Another factor, service, also contributes to some extent to the decision of women to enter teaching. Lortie suggested that the service nature of teaching is a recruitment tool, attracting individuals


who for the most part approve of prevailing practice more than they are critical of it. Gender may well be the single most important demographic factor influencing the decision to enter teaching (Dilworth, 1990; Roberson et al., 1983).

Economics. An issue related to the participation of

African American women in teaching is a prevailing cultural orientation to work by Black women. African American women are expected to be participants in the work force (Neverdon-Morton, 1989). African American women, according to Neverdon-Morton, are expected to and often make greater contributions to total family income than do White women. Moreover, regarding Black and White women's commitment to work and wages, African American women place a primary emphasis on maximizing income. White women, however, may make career decisions that reduce the importance of maximizing income and emphasize instead ancillary rewards such as desirable working hours, commuting distance, or other job characteristics that are not wage-related. Considering that a greater proportion of African American families are headed by single women and African American women often provide a greater level of financial support to two-salary households, economic realities may dictate that when minority women enter higher education they are likely to pursue and subsequently work in professions that will yield greater income than those offered in teaching.


Service and change agency. In their initial decision to teach, African American women are inclined to see the societal benefit of teaching (Shaw, 1996). Historically, they have assumed a fundamental role in maintaining the social and economic fabric of the African American community (Neverdon-Morton, 1989). Traditionally, they were called upon to educate other Blacks to high levels of achievement and to serve as liaisons between Black and White America (Neverdon-Morton, 1989).

Today, it appears that African American women still report the need to serve and empower their own. For example, in a recent life history investigation into the motivations of African American teacher education students to become or not to become teachers, Shaw (1996), drawing on Lortie's (1975) themes of service and continuation as a framework, suggested that for African American females, in particular, the "urge to nurture" (p. 335) may be a significant factor influencing their initial decisions to enter teaching. In her study, "Vera," for instance, referred to her need to nurture and empower her students, especially poor African American students, as her "savior complex" (p. 335) and as a matter of serving as a role model and mentor because "[my] teachers were there for me and I just got tired of hearing about Blacks being the lowest in everything" (p. 336). For "Vera," central to her role as an educator was to affect educational policy and


transform traditional teaching practices into more culturally relevant pedagogy for all students. The early socialization of African American women, therefore, often results in high career aspirations (Collins, 1991, King, 1993a), aimed mainly toward rendering service to the African American community and continuation of its empowerment and full participation in society. Interestingly, however, for "Vera," as her desire to render service increased, the less attracted she became to secondary teaching and, ultimately, pursued college teaching instead.

Famil Another issue related to African American women's achievement and entry into teaching is family structure and support. Su (1993) found that most preservice teacher education students cite family as a significant source of influence on their decision. For African American women, the mother or grandmother is a very important source of influence on their decisions. King (1993b) determined that African American women's educational and career choices are affected strongly by their mother's level of education and occupational status. Furthermore, "cultures differ both in the criteria prescribed for actual performance of specific roles and in the prescribed methods by which individuals come to occupy such roles" (Ogbu, 1978, p. 17). Therefore, the specific roles and responsibilities that African American women


assume may be related to expectations communicated by important women in their lives throughout their childhood.

Religion. Historically, religion has played a significant role in the lives of African Americans. According to Vera in Shaw's (1996) investigation on African American teacher candidates' motives for teaching, church played a prominent role in her childhood and adolescence. Vera noted that "the church was where everything started and stopped" (p. 331) and that it provided a forum for her development as a speaker and leader.

Next to teachers, religious leaders are the most

influential individuals in the lives of African Americans (Lincoln, 1989). When studying the cultures of African Americans, the Black church and its role in influencing the education and careers of African Americans should be explored. Black churches maintain colleges and universities and offer day care and other services that support the educational growth of children and their families. The Black church may be defined as "the historic Black communions or denominations which are independent of White control, and which maintain their own structures of governance, finance, ritual, worship, and outreach" (Lincoln, 1989, p. 137). Approximately 84% of African American Christians in the United States are affiliated with or were raised in the Methodist, Baptist, or Pentecostal faiths. In addition, there is a growing


presence of African Americans in the Muslim faith. The Black Church is a very significant component of the African American cultural experience, and any research in attitudes and perceptions should probe for its influence on career choice and decision-making (Dilworth, 1990). Summary

In summary, although we know a great deal about the economic and family backgrounds of Anglo American teacher education students, we still have much to learn about African American teacher education students' cultural backgrounds and experiences, and the influences of such factors on their decision to enter teaching. Researchers have given little attention to the racial and cultural characteristics of prospective teachers (Kottkamp, Cohen, McClosky & Provenzo, 1987), perhaps because they believe that race and ethnicity have little effect on the way teachers approach and conduct their work (Dilworth, 1990). However, according to Irvine (1990), a teacher's background does influence the expectations she holds for students who are racially or culturally diverse, and such expectations subsequently influence achievement. If these propositions are correct, prospective teachers' race, gender, cultural experiences and expectations, family structure, language, socioeconomic background, and religion should be investigated. Understanding better the sociocultural conditions and experiences of African American teacher


candidates is a necessary and desirable component of effective minority recruitment and selection into the profession.

Preservice Teachers' Beliefs

In this study, it was suggested that to reverse the underrepresentation of African American women in teacher education would require a shift in the way we investigate them and their entry into teaching. Recruitment and retention strategies should be restructured with consideration given to factors that influence African Americans' decision to enter teaching. Beliefs about teaching may be a factor influencing their decisions and are discussed in this section. Beliefs

Beliefs are important in understanding the decision to enter teaching because research suggests that they drive teachers' actions (Richardson, 1996). Lortie (1975), for example, argued that one's preconceptions and understandings of teaching stand at the core of becoming a teacher. Ashton and Webb (1986) suggested that preservice teachers' conceptions of teacher efficacy play an important role in the development of their future perspectives and choices. However although there is a large and robust area of research that describes preservice teachers' beliefs, there is a need for research that examines both beliefs and actions (Richardson, 1996). In this study, it is assumed


that beliefs about teaching as a career influence the decision to enter the profession and may have implications for recruitment and retention strategies.

In defining the beliefs construct, several

perspectives have been considered. First, beliefs are propositions that are held to be true and are "accepted as guides for assessing the future, are cited in support of decisions, or are referred to in passing judgment on the behavior of others" (Goodenough, 1963, p. 151). Secondly, beliefs describe a relationship between an action and the attitude of a person toward it (Eisenhart, Shrum, Harding, & Cuthbert, 1988). Third, beliefs can be inferred from propositions that begin with the phrase "I believe that ... (Rokeach, 1968, p. ix). Finally, beliefs can be viewed as attitudes, values, preconceptions, theories, and images (Pajares, 1992).

The term beliefs, as used in this study, is derived from Pajares (1992). It is used to describe propositions that are accepted as true by the individual holding them. Beliefs are driven by attitudes, understandings, and values (about teaching, students, and the education process) that lead the individual to a particular action (i.e., entry into teaching).

The Origins of Teacher Beliefs

In her review of research on the role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach, Richardson (1996) determined


that the beliefs about teaching and learning that preservice students bring with them to teacher education are "powerful and relate to their previous life and schooling experiences" (p. 109). Moreover, given that beliefs about teaching are formed early and tend to be highly resistant to change (see Pajares, 1992, for an extensive review of the research on beliefs change), it is reasonable to conclude that what many teacher education students believe today is what they believed when they decided to enter teaching. Two forms of experience are believed to influence the development of beliefs about teaching and may lead to the decision to enter teaching: personal and schooling experiences.

Personal exDerience. According to Richardson (1996), personal experience includes aspects of life that go into the formation of world view, intellectual and virtuous dispositions, beliefs about self in relation to others, understandings of the relationship of schooling to society, and other forms of personal, familial, and cultural understandings. Ethnic and socioeconomic background, gender, geographic location, religious upbringing, and life decisions may all affect an individual's beliefs, which, in turn affect learning to teach and teaching.

The research examining the relationship between

personal experiences and how one approaches teaching is useful in understanding the relationship between personal


experiences and the decision to enter teaching. This research often involves case studies of individual teachers. For example, Clandinin and Connelly (1991) reported a case study of an elementary school principal, with whom they worked in constructing and reconstructing his narrative to understand his personal practical knowledge and actions as a principal. An important image in the principal's narrative was community, which was developed from his experiences of growing up in a tightly knit community. This image of community affected his approach to the involvement of the community in his school. Another example is Bullough and Knowles' (1991) case study of a beginning teacher whose initial metaphor for teaching-teaching as nurturing--was thought to come from years of parenting.

Schooling experiences. Lortie's (1975) discussion of the apprenticeship of observation suggested that students arrive in preservice teacher education with a set of deepseated beliefs about the nature of teaching based on their own experiences as students. Entering teacher education students hold strong images of teachers, both negative and positive, formed during their experiences as students, and these images strongly influence how they approach their teacher education program (Britzman, 1991; Calderhead & Robson, 1991). A number of studies have examined beliefs acquired from school experiences and how these beliefs


affect teachers, conceptions of their role as teacher (Richardson, 1996). School experiences also may play a pivotal role in influencing the career choice of teaching and enter into teacher education (Richardson, 1996). Summa

Beliefs are important in understanding and explaining decisions to enter teaching. Many theorists agree that beliefs about teaching are formed early and are related to images tied to previous life and schooling experiences. By the time students enter teacher education, they have spent many hours observing teachers and teaching practices, and bring to their programs specific ideas about what it takes to be an effective teacher and how students should be treated and should behave (Clark, 1988; Nespor, 1987). In addition, beliefs are hardy and highly resistant to change. It is reasonable, therefore, that the beliefs teacher education students hold today are the beliefs they held when they decided to enter teaching and that such beliefs may have influenced their career decisions. In this investigation, I seek to understand whether, given the historical and sociological experiences that have shaped the beliefs of African American women and their understandings about teaching, these assumptions are applicable to their decisions to enter teaching.


Roberson's As*oiration to Teach Model

The decision to enter preservice teacher education and ultimately teaching may result from a complex and highly varied array of influences (Gordon, 1994). In investigating African American women's decisions to enter teacher education, it was necessary to examine research about their role in teaching and their decline and underrepresentation in preservice teacher education. In addition, the research on teacher motives, teacher influence, sociocultural perspectives, schooling experience, and beliefs about teaching provided frameworks for describing factors that lead African American women to teaching.

The Aspiration to Teach causal model developed by

Roberson, Keith, and Page (1983) also was used to describe the factors that influence African American women's decisions to enter teaching. Roberson et al. selected 18 variables for a path model designed to explain the decision making of 688 high school seniors who aspired to become elementary and secondary school teachers. A brief summary of the findings are provided in this section. I discuss the variables that were investigated for African American women in more detail in Chapter 3.

Roberson et al. found that the most powerful and obvious influence on the decision to teach is gender. Despite many other career options available to women today,


females are still more likely than males to choose teaching as a career. Among.females, race was found to be the second most important predictor. White females are more likely to pursue teaching than are Black females. Also for females, ability was determined the third most powerful influence for those females who choose teaching as a career. Roberson et al. determined that women who decide to become teachers tend to have lower ability and selfconcept scores than women who decide to enter other professions.

In addition, Roberson et al. determined that aspiring teachers are influenced in their career plans by former teachers and are more concerned about the people they work with than the size of their salary. Other variables found to have positive influences on decisions to enter teaching are church attendance, family orientation, community orientation, parent influence, high school grades, and the desire to have success in work.

Finally, Roberson et al. found that certain variables operate somewhat differently for African Americans than for Whites. For example, job security, once reported as an important motivation for entering teaching, does not appear to be an important consideration today, except for African Americans. African Americans tended to be influenced by a desire to work with friendly people and were not especially concerned with job success. Ability was a notable


influence for Blacks who aspired to teach; Blacks with lower ability tended to choose teaching as a career.

Summary and Implications for the Present Stud

The underrepresentation of African American teachers is a serious problem for both teacher educators and policy makers. As the number of culturally diverse students increases, it becomes increasingly crucial that African American teachers are proportionately represented in the teaching force. African American teachers will be important role models for all children and may provide instructional practices that significantly influence school achievement.

There is research that describes preservice teachers' demographic and social backgrounds and motivations to teach. However, Lortie (1975) called attention to the odd gap in our knowledge about teachers. According to Lortie, "we have too few studies which explore the subjective world of teachers in terms of their conceptions of what is salient" (p. 490) Furthermore, Brookhart and Freeman (1992) criticized existing research on the characteristics of prospective teachers on four major counts: overemphasis on survey methodology, single institution designs (as discussed in Chapter 3 in greater detail), inadequate distinction among subpopulations, and the absence of theoretical frameworks to explain the characteristics of preservice teacher education students.


Existing research on prospective teachers also fails to consider differences that are likely to exist among subpopulations of teacher candidates. Many of the studies in this field have portrayed preservice teacher education students as a homogeneous group of individuals (Brookhart & Freeman, 1992). Yet, readily identifiable subgroupings of prospective teachers may differ in important ways from one another (e.g., African American women vs. White women). For example, Shaw (1996) argued that Lortie's themes of continuation and service appear to explain better motives for African Americans than for prospective White teachers.

The present study was designed to investigate factors that influence African American women's decisions to enter teaching. Demographic background and characteristics, teacher and parent influences, and sociocultural influences will be identified to describe African American women who enter teaching. School experiences prior to entry into teacher education and beliefs about teaching also will be described. Knowledge of these factors will provide a deeper understanding of African Americans who aspire to teach, their understanding of teaching, and how they see themselves influencing the lives and education of their students.

The results of this study may provide a better sense than the current body of literature on African American preservice teachers and extend our understanding of


preservice teachers, beliefs. This study may also have direct and immediate implications for predicting who among African Americans are likely to aspire to teach and how culturally diverse teachers are likely to respond to recruitment and retention initiatives and teacher preparation programs.

Finally, according to Dilworth (1990), "to gleen [sic] real and contemporary influences from current educational research literature on teaching, one must read between the lines" (P. 9) and fill the gaps in the minority recruitment and retention literature (Grant & Secada, 1990). At the time of this study, there is scant research on minority recruitment and teacher preparation, and on the characteristics of African Americans who enter teaching. Moreover, teacher educators and researchers do not have a theoretical or conceptual framework for explaining the career decisions to enter teaching by African American women. In seeking to address these gaps in the literature, this study uses survey and ethnographic techniques to uncover themes and patterns of influence on these decisions and also to generate questions relevant to understanding ways of increasing African American teacher representation. New and nontraditional recruitment and retention policy and strategies are needed to reverse the historic and severe underrepresentation of African American teachers, especially women. It is hoped that this study will


represent the first step in identifying important hypotheses and concepts for understanding the phenomena related to their entry into preservice teacher education.


The purpose of this study was twofold. The first

objective was to describe the demographic backgrounds and characteristics of female African American preservice teacher education students in elementary and special education. The second objective was to examine and describe the factors that influence the decision to enter elementary education and special education teaching made by African American women. Given that prospective teachers often report a strong association between parent influence, teacher influence, the teaching they observed, and their entry into teaching, of particular interest were the influences of sociocultural experiences, schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching. For the purposes of this investigation, I sought to understand better Black female prospective teachers, thinking, how they come to develop the perspectives they hold about teaching, and the potential impact of these attitudes and interpretations on recruitment and retention policy and teacher preparation.

The adequacy of a research method depends on the purpose of the research and the questions being asked (Locke, 1989). In this study, I aimed to describe the



population of African American women in teacher education programs at HBCUs in the South and, for a subsample of six women, describe in depth how they decided to become teachers. Because my purpose is to portray accurately the characteristics of this group and the decision making process of my sample, this study may be said to be descriptive (Dawson, Klass, Guy, & Edgley, 1991). Following this introduction and overview, the chapter is organized into two major sections of data collection and analysis: quantitative research and qualitative research.


Quantitative and qualitative methods can be, and often are, combined in various research projects (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Dawson, Klass, Guy, & Edgley, 1991). When statistical operations are a substantive part of the analysis needed for knowing how much, quantitative methods are appropriate. In this study, for example, it was necessary to describe the level of parental education and income, respondents' age and previous work experience, and other demographic variables that characterize female, African American prospective teachers and may influence their decision to enter teacher education.

A second purpose of the study was to examine and describe how African American women's sociocultural experiences, schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching influence their decisions to enter teaching.


Brookhart and Freeman (1992), in their review of research on the characteristics of entering teacher candidates, found an overreliance on survey methodology to examine beliefs about teaching. Current thinking in the measurement of beliefs is that multiple-choice measures alone are too constraining, and that tests of predetermined beliefs are not likely to be valid representations of teachers, beliefs (Joseph & Green, 1986; Richardson, 1996; Shaw, 1996). Recent research on beliefs about teaching reflects a shift toward qualitative methodology and an effort to understand how teachers make sense of the classroom (Richardson, 1996). In-depth interviews are particularly useful in gaining understanding about teacher education students, beliefs about teaching (Brookhart Freeman, 1992; Joseph & Green, 1986; Pajares, 1992; Richardson, 1996). Shaw (1996), for instance, suggested life history research as a credible method of examining prospective African American teacher education students, motives for teaching. In this investigation, I use indepth interviews to identify African American female preservice teachers, experiences, beliefs, understandings, and perceptions of teaching, and to describe how these factors may influence their decisions to enter teacher education and teaching.

Participants' perceptions are often necessary for

understanding a phenomena under investigation. To assess


perceptions, more than one method of data collection often is required (Richardson, 1996). In this study two modes of inquiry were used to elucidate answers to the following questions:

1. What are the backgrounds of African American

women who decide to enter preservice teacher education in elementary and/or special education?

2. How do African American women's sociocultural experiences, schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching influence their decisions to enter the profession?

Ouantitative: Survey Design

In this study, I investigated first the backgrounds of African American women who have decided to enter preservice teacher education in elementary and special education teaching. Survey research and descriptive analysis procedures were used as described in this section of the chapter. In the following pages, survey participants, measures, survey instrument, procedures, and data analysis are described.

Prior to participant selection, permission to conduct the survey using the instruments designed was obtained from the University of Florida Institutional Review Board (Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects) (See Appendix A) and the Deans of the Colleges of Education in participating historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Permission for teacher education students to be


included in the study was obtained by means of letters of consent before administering the questionnaire.(See Appendix A.)


The settings for this study were three HBCUs:

Grambling State University in northwest Louisiana; Jackson State University in central Mississippi; and Prairie View A & M University in southeast Texas. Grambling State and Prairie View are located in small towns and populated primarily by African American educators, entrepreneurs, and government officials and employees. Jackson State is located in a large urban city; in 1997, the citizens of Jackson elected their first African American mayor. The HBCUs involved in the study are state-supported, coeducational institutions that have long enjoyed outstanding reputations for their role in preparing educators and education leaders to serve African Americans.

Originally created nearly a century ago as training schools, the HBCUs' primary purpose was to train colored elementary teachers, the majority of whom were women, to teach colored children in the rural South. Over the years, the institutions have continuously evolved into universities that are more comprehensive and inclusive and whose undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are aimed at meeting the educational, cultural, and social needs of the African American community and larger


community across the country, and internationally. The abiding philosophy of these historic institutions, that "everybody is somebody," continues to draw second-, third-, and fourth-generation students while also attracting significant numbers who are the first of their families to attend college.

These universities were selected for the following

reasons. First, the majority of African American teacher education students are enrolled in HBCUs (Duhon-Sells, Peoples, Moore, & Page, 1996). The teacher education programs at Grambling State, Jackson State, and Prairie View traditionally have been recognized as outstanding by the African American community and larger society. As such, they are likely to enroll students from myriad socioeconomic and educational backgrounds and experiences. Thus, the African American women in this study are highly likely to be representative of other African American female teacher education candidates with similar backgrounds and experiences.

In addition, each Teacher Education program is

accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and adheres to specified admissions standards. Teacher education students must meet the admissions criteria set forth by each HBCU prior to acceptance into Teacher Education, including a passing score on the National Teachers Examination (NTE) for


teacher students in Louisiana and Mississippi and the Texas Academic Skills Program (TASP) for prospective Texas educators. A detailed description of the admission and selection criteria for acceptance into each of the programs is given below.


Given the importance of investigating teacher

education student subgroups across institutional settings (Brookhart & Freeman, 1992), this study focused on African American women from the same region of the country matriculating in teacher education programs in 4-year HBCUs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas (See Table 3.1). The sampling strategy was to survey all undergraduate African American women who had met the admission requirements for entry into elementary and special education teacher education at each university to determine their demographics and backgrounds. Table 3.1

HBCU Teacher Education Student Populations

Education Survey
State University Students Respondents

Louisiana Grambling State 77 68
Mississippi Jackson State 33 15
Texas Prairie View 30 29

Total 140 112


The participants were selected f or this study based on three criteria. First, each participant attended a public HBCU. African American women attending private HBCUs (e.g., Xavier and Dillard Universities in Louisiana) were not included because most of these HBCUs are small liberal arts colleges and do not have programs in teacher education. In addition, African American women in predominantly White institutions were not included in the study due to their small numbers and geographical dispersion. To access the population would require surveying African American women in nearly every teacher education institution in the country, which, logistically, was not possible in this study. For these reasons, I concentrated on selecting a sample from three HBCUs recognized for attracting African American students with varied socioeconomic backgrounds, experiences, and opportunities (Duhon-Sells et al., 1996).

The second criterion for participation in the study was admission to an accredited 4-year teacher education program. Duhon-Sells et al. (1996) found that, among the efforts to promote teacher education recruitment and retention, HBCUs (including the HBCUs in this study) have established Teacher Education Student Review Committees and have made changes in admissions requirements. For example, before being admitted to teacher education programs,


students must complete 2 years of general education, and obtain passing scores on basic skills tests, written and oral communication skills tests, and the NTE PreProfessional Skills Test. Other strategies employed by HBCUs to strengthen their teacher education programs include: concentrating on test-taking skills, providing NTE workshops and computerized practice sessions, conducting extensive intrainstitutional test development and student testing with feedback to faculty, and improving the delivery of student advisement and counseling. Below are admission criteria specific to each university.

Grambling State Universit. At Grambling, by the end of the sophomore year, students must have a 2.5 GPA; pass the institutional tests in reading, math, and English; complete a minimum of 20 hours in observation and participation; and meet the designated cutoff scores on the departmental academic knowledge test(s) and the NTE Communication Skills and General Knowledge tests. By the first semester of their senior year, students must complete all professional coursework, past the NTE Professional Knowledge Test, the departmental subject area test(s), and apply for student teaching. Located in north Louisiana, Granibling is one of 14 regional, 4-year, public universities governed by the Louisiana Higher Education Board of Trustees.


Jackson State Universit. Jackson State in Jackson is a 4-year, public IHE governed by the Mississippi State Board of Education. Admission to Teacher Education at this university is based upon successful completion of a 42-hour pre-teacher education core curriculum, passage of the Professional Knowledge and Communication components of the NTE, and a cumulative GPA of 2.5. In addition, teacher candidates participate in 2 years of multiple field and clinical experiences in a variety of multicultural settings prior to student teaching.

Prairie View A & M. Prairie View A & M, the oldest of the HBCUs in Texas, is a 4-year public land-grant institution governed by the Texas State Commission on Education. To enter the professional development sequence of courses, students seeking teacher education certification must: (a) pass each part of a competence examination, the Texas Academic Skills Program (TASP) in reading, writing, and mathematics, (b) complete at least 72 semester hours of college coursework with a minimum of 2.50 GPA; and (c) complete 9 semester hours in applied learning and development, in addition to a course in kinesiology and a course in mathematics. Like Grambling and Jackson State, there are seminars and clinics designed to assist students with preparation for the TASP.

Third, each participant was verified as having had no formal teaching experience. Individuals with substitute


teaching, teacher assistant, or paraprofessional experience were excluded from this study. In addition, teacher education students in alternate certification and graduate programs were not selected for participation. Therefore, 140 teacher students met the three criteria for participation in this study. The Aspiration to Teach Model

In predicting aspiration to teach, Roberson, Keith, and Page (1983), assessed the effects of 18 variables on college-bound students, aspiration to teach. These researchers determined the influences of selected factors on White and Black high school seniors' choice of teaching as a career. A summary of their findings was provided in Chapter 2. Each of the variables in this study is represented by a distinct section of the questionnaire and will be discussed in the following section on instrumentation.

Research Instrumentation

The research instrument used to determine the

background and demographic characteristics of female African Americans in preservice teacher education was a questionnaire (see Appendix B). Fifty-one items were presented in three general formats: (a) fixed-response (structured or closed-ended), (b) semistructured-response (used in many cases because a question did not have a


comprehensive list of preset responses), and (c) freeresponse (unstructured or open-ended).

The 8-page questionnaire was developed by adopting or modifying existing scales and instruments designed by other investigators. Specifically, I used the Aspiration to Teach model proposed by Roberson, Keith, and Page (1983), the Preservice Teacher Education Surve investigating metropolitan teacher education programs (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 1988), the Careers in Teaching: Following Members of the High School Class of 1972 In and Out of Teaching survey (National Center for Education Statistics, [NCES], 1995a), Gibson and Dembo's (1984) Teaching Efficacy scale, and Woolfolk and Hoy's (1990) Personal Teaching Efficacy scale. other sources for developing this questionnaire included recommendations from experts on minority teacher recruitment and retention (e.g., Deborah Smith, University of New Mexico; Sabrina King Hope, Holfstra University) and previous research that identified variables associated with motivation for entering teaching, perceptions and beliefs about teaching, and minority recruitment and retention.

In Section I, Background Data, demographic and

personal information was gathered by requesting age, race, gender, academic major, student status (full-time or part-time), native language, and marital status with responses that ranged from (1) single to (8) widowed with


children. Respondents were also asked to indicate gradepoint average in high school and in college from (1) A to

(5) F.

To determine from which communities African American women are likely to be recruited, participants were asked to indicate the type of community they lived in during their elementary and high school years. Respondents were asked to respond to choices that ranged from (1) a rural or farming community to (7) a large city of 1 million or more to (9) a military base or station. A second item asked that they indicate the racial composition of their community as (1) fewer than 10% African American, (2) 10% to 59% African American, or (3) 60% or more African American.

Type of school attended (SchElem, SchMiddle, SchHS)

was measured by asking respondents to respond to six items. The first item asked for indication of high school graduation year (from 1954-1995). Another item asked for the racial composition of the student population by choosing from (1) less than 10% African American, (2) 10% to 59% African American, and (3) 60% or more African American. The racial composition of their teachers during elementary, middle, and high school years was measured for African American and Caucasian teachers with choices that ranged from (1) none, (2) 1% to (6) 75% or more to (7) all. Type of school was characterized as (1) public, (2)


Catholic, (3) other religious, (4) private non-religious, or (5) home schooling. I also asked respondents to describe their experiences along a continuum from (1) positive to (5) negative. Finally, they were asked to indicate school activities in which they engaged including counseling, professional and honor clubs, and extracurricular.

Family socioeconomic status (SES) was measured by

asking respondents to indicate father's (or male guardian) level of education, mother's (or female guardian's) level of education, father's (or male guardian's) occupation, mother's (or female guardian's) occupation, and combined parental or guardian's income. I also asked respondents to indicate their family structure. Response options for family structure were (1) father or male guardian only, (2) mother or female guardian only, (3) father and mother, (4) father and stepmother, (5) mother and stepfather, (6) foster parents, (7) grandparents, (8) non-relatives.

The first scale in Section II, Personal Teachinq

Efficacy consisted of 8 items used to measure personal and teaching efficacy, as discussed by Gibson and Dembo (1984) and Woolfolk and Hoy (1990). Four efficacy items addressed participants, beliefs about their individual ability to affect student learning, and four focused on their beliefs about teaching practices and student learning. Examples of personal efficacy statements were, "I can help a child


learn even if he or she is from a culture different from my own." Examples of teaching efficacy statements included, "The amount a student can learn is primarily related to family background." Response choices ranged from (1) agree stronal to (5) disagree strongly.

The third and final section, Attitudes and

Perspectives on Teaching as a Career, included 11 items that measured respondents, beliefs about teaching. Respondents were asked to indicate the importance of eight factors in determining the kind of work they planned to do as teachers (Roberson et al., 1983). Among these factors were "previous work experience in the area," "good income," and "job status." Response options for kind of work factors were (1) not important, (2) somewhat important, and

(3) very important.

In addition, the decision to enter teaching was

measured using 20 statements adopted from the AACTE survey (1988). The respondents were asked to check all that applied. Examples of statements were "talked to friends who studied to become a teacher," "considered teaching a reasonably easy field to enter," "parents/relatives encouraged me," "my former teacher," and "bad experiences in school."

Also important to identify were the respondents'

beliefs regarding teaching students who are culturally and linguistically diverse. The teacher education students


were asked to rate the importance of 12 teacher tasks (AACTE, 1988). Examples of tasks were "get students from differing cultures to interact with each other," "help students examine their own prejudices," and "develop instructional methods that promote intercultural cohesiveness." Respondents described each statement as

(1) not im-oortant, (2) somewhat im-oortant, (3) ve important.

Participants were asked to indicate level of

desirability to work with students of varying abilities, in varying educational settings, and in varying geographical areas. The options ranged from (1) most desirable to (3) least desirable.

Finally, respondents were asked to indicate their

beliefs about the National Teachers Exam and admission to teacher education. They were asked to respond yes or no to the following questions: "Do you believe that teachers should have to take the NTE?", "Have you taken the WE?", "Did you obtain and passing score?", and "Have you been admitted to the teacher education program at your school?" I also asked them about their preparation for the NTE with responses choices ranging from (1) very well to (5) poorl Lastly, respondents were requested to indicate their present feeling about teaching with ranges that ranged from

(1) enthusiastic to (5) not enthusiastic at all. The last question was open-ended and asked, "What do you plan to be


doing professionally in 3, 5, and 10 years?" (The questionnaire is presented in Appendix B.)

A first draft of the questionnaire was critically

reviewed by two female African American teacher education students. One women was enrolled in the master's degree program in special education at Southeastern Louisiana University, and the other woman, an elementary teacher, was a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in curriculum and instruction at Louisiana State University. They were asked to give special attention to both content and format (question layout). They provided input specific to the structure of questions, the number of questions, and the order of questions.

Upon the prospective teachers' recommendations, I

eliminated 8 fixed-response items about institution choice and teacher education faculty and replaced them with two free-response items that asked respondents to explain why they had decided to attend historically black universities and to describe their long-term career goals. Also added were three fixed-response questions about the racial makeup of the respondents, communities, schools, and teachers. In addition, I modified the AACTE survey (1988) on decisions to enter teaching to include statements about church influence and the influence of religious and community leaders. Finally, it was recommended that I have the survey prepared by a professional typesetter and printer.


Pilot Stu

The questionnaire was field-tested through a pilot study to discover unforeseen problems in administration, coding, and analysis. With permission from the department heads at Jackson State University, the pilot study was conducted with 12 female students who had met all criteria for full status admission to teacher education. These women were in their junior and senior years and were enrolled in the Communicative Arts for Elementary Teachers course at the time of survey administration. Of the 12 teacher education students participating in the pilot study, 9 were in elementary education, and 3 were in special education teaching.

After they completed the questionnaire, I met with the respondents to discuss the instrument. Each item was critically analyzed for appropriate content, terminology, structural format, and organization. Participants' raised concerns about the need for certain items (given the intent of the survey) and suggested additional questions for the study. Information from the pilot study suggested new channels of inquiry, inspired ideas about additional questions to enrich the investigation, and indicated several questions on the survey that did not tap the desired information. The following modifications were made as a result of the pilot study.


1. 1 eliminated the question, "What is the lowest level of education you would be satisfied with," because respondents were not sure how to respond. The question preceding it, "What is the highest degree level you eventually expect to attain?", probably created the confusion.

2. The question regarding family income evoked

emotional comments about the sensitivity of the information and recommendations that item should be eliminated. After discussing with the pilot study participants its importance for comparison to existing literature on teacher education candidates, I decided against eliminating the question or adjusting the choices.

3. 1 added the option, "Other," to the question requesting racial or ethnic membership.

4. For the question, "Growing up, who did you live with?", I changed options "Father only" and "Mother only" to "Father or male guardian only" and "Mother or female guardian only," and added options "Father and stepmother," "Mother and stepfather," and "Foster parent(s)"; and eliminated the "Other" option.

5. 1 rephrased the question, "How far do your

parents/guardians want you to go?", to read What were your parents' expectations for your schooling?" and eliminated the option, "I don't know."


6. 1 rephrased the directions to the question, "What was the highest level of education completed by your parents/guardians?", to state, "Please check one for mother and one for father."

7. The item, "Which of the following best describes the place where you lived when you attended high school?", was rewritten to include three items, "when you attended elementary school," and "when you attended middle school.,, Also, the choices were changed to include, "a large city of 500,000-1,000,000" and "a large city of 1 million or more." An open-ended, follow-up question asked for the name of the city and state in which they lived most of their lives.

8. 1 added the question, "Have you been admitted

with regular or conditional status to the teacher education program at your school?"

9. 1 added the question, "How many African American and Caucasian teachers were there in your elementary school? middle school? high school?", with response options ranging from (1) none; (2) 1% to 5%; (3) 5%-25%, (4) 25%50%; (5) 50%-75%;(6) 75% and more; (7) all.

10. 1 eliminated the option, "Don't know," to

questions, "How important is it for a teacher to be able to perform the following tasks?", and "How desirable would it be for you to teach the following students?", "in the following settings?", and "in the following geographic locations?"


11. 1 added the questions, "Have you taken the

National Teachers' Examination?", and "Did obtain a passing score?"

12. 1 added the word, "professionally" to the

question, "What do you plan to be doing in 3, 5, and 10 years" to help focus responses on career choices.

A revised draft was examined with the 12 women who

participated in the pilot study 1 week later for additional concerns and comments. The participants supported the instrument content, format, and terminology. They were able to complete the survey in 20 minutes. Procedures

Before administering the questionnaire, I obtained

permission from the education deans and department heads at each HBCU. For practical reasons, higher return rates, and more frank answers, I traveled to each HBCU to administer the survey during scheduled class meetings. The data collection procedures used were identical at each HBCU and within each class.

Following a brief introduction about the researcher, the questionnaire, data analysis, and dissemination, and a request that respondents participate in a follow-up, indepth interview, the questionnaire and pencils were distributed to each class participant. There was no attempt to exclude males or nonminority students from survey participation due to the brief time it would take to


complete the questionnaire and fear that these students would not return to class. However, those preservice student teachers not meeting specified criteria were excluded from analysis in this study.

Students were given time to complete the instrument using the time frame established during the field test. Upon completion of the questionnaire, subjects were permitted to leave. Monetary award could not be given to subjects, but the researcher provided them snacks after completing the survey.

Data Analysis

Descriptive statistics were chosen as the major

analytical tool for survey data. In Table 3.2, the method of analysis for each questionnaire item is described.


Table 3.2

Survey Data Analysis

method of Analysis No. Questionnaire Item

Frequency Distribution 1 enrollment status, and Percentages 2 highest degree attainment
3/4 academic major
7 student classification
8 race
9 gender 10 age
11 primary language 12 marital status 13 persons live with 14 parents expectations 15a mother's level of education
15b father's level of education
16 parents' income 17 type of community a. elementary b. middle school c. high school 22 community racial composition 23 school racial composition 24 predominant minority group/sch 25 type of school attended a. elementary b. middle school c. high school 26 African American teachers a. elementary b. middle school c. high school


Table 3.2--continued

Method of Analysis No. Questionnaire Item

Frequency Distribution 27 Caucasian/Anglo-Saxon and Percentages teachers
a. elementary b. middle school c. high school

30. extracurricular activities 41 preferred teaching situation 44 teaching field

Mean and Standard Deviation 19 number of siblings
21 GPA

28 school experiences 31-38
personal teaching efficacy 39 perspectives about teaching
42 importance of teacher's ability
43 Desirability to work a. with different students
b. in different settings
c. in different.
geographical areas


Table 3.2--continued

Method of Analysis No. Questionnaire Item

Frequency Count by Factors 40 The decision to enter
teaching TV/Radio commercials volunteer work friends demand
easy entry help children inspirational leader vacation time parents teachers prestige Sunday School teachers baby-sitting work with the disabled make a difference nothing else to do bad school experiences

Content analysis 51 Future career plans


Oualitative Research

The second objective of the study was to identify and describe how African American women's sociocultural factors, schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching influence their decisions to enter teaching, and the potential implications of those influences on minority recruitment and retention policy and strategies. This section describes the research methods and is divided into sections entitled: research design, life history interview, participant selection, data collection, and data analysis. Also described are methodological issues such as validity, generalizability, researcher bias, and ethical issues.

The qualitative question posed in this study was the following: How do African American women's sociocultural experiences, schooling experiences, and beliefs about teaching influence their decisions to enter the profession? To answer this question fully, ethnographic methods were employed to capture each part of the subjects' life experiences that may influence the decision to enter teaching.

Research Design

The aim of qualitative research is not verification of a predetermined idea, but discovery that leads to new insights (Webb & Sherman, 1990). Qualitative researchers want those who are studied to speak for themselves.


Experience is to be taken and studied holistically because, as Shimahara (1990) posited, experience is shaped in context and the events of a person's life cannot be understood adequately if isolated from their contexts. Shimahara referred to researchers' attempts to study life events void of context as "context stripping" (p. 5). Qualitative inquiry, therefore, implies a direct concern with understanding experience as participants feel it or live it. Shimahara argued, for instance, "There is no way to understand teaching without knowing about the life of the teacher" (p. 115).

The research design I used in this study is

ethnographic, drawing on the life history approach described by Helling (1988). According to Campbell (1990), getting inside other lives is the reality that must be sought for explaining and predicting human behavior. Schutz (1967) wrote that reality lay in the biographically determined situation. According to Schutz (1967), at any given moment in life, the individual brings to the situation the "sedimentation of all his previous subjective experiences" (p. xxviii), a kind of stockpiling of typifications that have been amassed since childhood to serve as recipes for working out various social situations.

Life history can be seen as a link in a chain of

social transmission. Dollard (1949) posited that there were links before him from which he acquired his present


culture and that other links will follow him to which he will pass on the current of tradition. Life history, he asserted, attempts to describe a cultural legacy, or the weight of collective tradition and expectation, and the individual's unique history and capacity for interpretations and action.

Life history designs may involve interviews directed

at capturing subjects, rendering of their whole lives, from birth to the present. However, during data collection, the women in this study were questioned about specific schooling experiences, major influences on those experiences, their subsequent understandings and beliefs about teaching, and how they perceived those experiences to have influenced their decision to enter elementary and/or special education teaching. The interviews also focused on experiences in school and encounters with teachers from the ages of 6 to 18 years old. Next, I discuss the life history interview, the primary method of qualitative data collection in this study.

Life History Interview

According to Atkinson and Hammersley (1979), the life history interview is one of the central research methods employed by ethnographers because life histories tend to be true to the perceived realities of subjects, lives. Life history interviews are used to elicit structured autobiographies or detailed studies of the lives of


individuals. In addition, this form of data collection is particularly useful in revealing cultural perspectives as a whole when cultural orientations are tacit and not accessible to the researcher through observation (Dollard, 1949). Statements elicited through the life history interview add new dimensions to our interpretations of classroom events and place school experiences in the context of the teacher's life span. Partici-pant Selection

Six interview participants were selected based on

nomination by their professors and their survey responses. Specifically, I considered their major, family structure, home community and location, religion, institution selected, and mother's education level and occupation. The participants selected captured the background and experiential variety among African American women in teacher education at HBCUs.

The women participated in 4 1/2 hours of interviewing over three meetings. Demographic descriptions of the participants are presented in Chapter V. The interviews were conducted in the Teacher Education Centers on the campuses of the participating universities. Prior to the interviews, I informed the participants of the objectives of the study and reviewed the content of the interviews. Although no participant declined to be interviewed or refused to be audio-taped, several required a copy of the


transcribed interview. The participants were given assurances of anonymity. To protect the identity of the women, their names have been changed, as have the identities of their former schools. In addition, no references have been made to the HBCUs they attend. Data Collection

In most ethnographies, researchers employ several techniques for data collection, including participant observation and interviews. Given the question raised in this investigation and my interest in understanding the character and experiences of African American women, it was neither necessary, nor feasible, to conduct observation in this study. Schutz (1967) explained that observation of a behavior can lead only to "observational understanding," which may or may not be consistent with how the participant interprets her own behavior. To understand behavior, therefore, requires that the researcher gain access to the informant's "subjective understanding," that is, the meaning she has for her behavior. Although observing provides access to a participant's behavior, interviewing allows the researcher to put behavior into context and provides access to the participant's understanding of her action.

Participant Interviewing

An interview is a purposeful conversation, usually

between two people (Morgan, 1988), that is directed by one


in order to get information from the other. The purpose of in-depth interviews is to glean understanding of people's experience and the meaning they make of that experience (Seidman, 1991). In the hands of the qualitative researcher, the interview takes on a shape of its own (Burgess, 1984).

In this investigation, I used a structure for

in-depth interviewing described by Seidman (1991) and his colleagues to study the experiences of African American women, their schooling experiences, and their interactions with former teachers. This method combines life-history interviewing and focused, in-depth interviewing informed by assumptions drawn from phenomenology (Schutz, 1967). Phenomenological inquiry seeks interpretive understanding of events and interactions to people in particular situations.

This approach uses primarily open-ended questions. The major task is to build upon and explore the participants' responses to those questions. The goal is to have the participant reconstruct her experience within the topic under study. According to Seidman (1991), the most distinguishing feature of this model of in-depth interviewing involves conducting a series of three separate interviews with each participant. Schuman (1982) characterized this approach as one that allows the


interviewer and participant to "plumb the experience and to place it in context" (p. 11).

The first interview establishes the context of the

participants' experience. The second allows participants to reconstruct the details of their experience within the context in which it occurred. The third interview encourages the participants to reflect on the meaning their experience holds for them. I illustrate below how I gained information using the series of three interviews.

For this study, I first wanted the participants to identify past experiences and events from home, church, community, and school, with questions about school experience becoming more specific as the interviews with each participant progressed. In Interview One, for instance, I asked, "In what ways were your parents involved in your decision to become a teacher?" and "What kinds of things did your neighbors say about education?" In the second interview, my goal was to have the participants explore the past by providing details and concrete examples of specific experiences and events. In Interview Two, for instance, I requested that the respondent, "Reconstruct a day in school," and "Describe how they were treated by their teachers." The intent of the third interview was to have the participants reflect on the meaning of their experience. During Interview Three, therefore, I sought to capture the participants' understanding of the experiences


and how the experiences may have affected their present behavior (i.e., the decision to enter teacher education). I probed their responses from prior interviews in this manner: "Based upon your reconstruction of the experience with your teachers, I developed the following perceptions of your beliefs about teaching. Does that sound right to you?"

As noted earlier, of particular concern in in-depth interviewing is understanding the meaning of events and experiences. As Seidman posited, making sense or making meaning requires that the participants look at how the factors in their lives interacted to bring them to their present situation. It also requires that they look at their experience in detail and within the context in which it occurred. The combination of exploring the past to clarify the events that led participants to where they are now and describing the concrete details of their experience establishes conditions for reflecting upon what they are now doing in their lives. Through all three interviews, it was important that I, along with the participants, focus on their understanding of their experience. Vygotsky (1987) posited that the very process of putting experience into language is a meaning-making process, and meaning-making should be the center of the researcher's attention. Subsequently, I was able to understand the connections between past experiences, interpretations and


understandings of those experiences, and the influence of those understandings and beliefs on these women's decision to enter teaching.

As Seidman (1991) suggested, I developed an interview guide for each of three interviews (See Appendix C). During summer term, 1996, 1 conducted a pilot of the study with two African American women enrolled in elementary curriculum and instruction at Jackson State University in Mississippi. Selection of these women was based upon their responses from a survey conducted earlier and recommendations from their instructor.

In the three-interview model, each interview was a fact-finding protocol for the next interview. Hence, it was important to adhere to the interview structure (Seidman, 1991) described earlier. when the interviewer controls the content too rigidly, the participant cannot tell her story personally in her words, and the interview falls out the qualitative range (Bogdan & Bilken, 1992). In the process of conducting the three interviews, the interviewer must maintain a balance between providing enough openness for the participants to tell their stories and enough focus to allow the interview structure to work (Seidman, 1991). 1 was careful to ask all the questions on the interview guide. However, as we moved from broad, descriptive questions about family and community to more selective data collection regarding school experiences,


events, and influential others, I found myself asking questions that were not on the guide. For example, after it became apparent that mothers were an influencing factor on their decisions, questions were posed that sought to explore more fully the mothers, characteristics, beliefs and values, rearing techniques, and expectations for their daughters, education and career. Such questions ultimately led to a series of spontaneous questions about specific women in the community and the church. The participants were anxious to tell their stories, and I spent most of the time listening to them as they each revealed stories of how individuals and experiences had shaped their understandings about themselves, their education, and their career choices.

The three-interview structure works best when the

researcher can pace each interview from 3 days to a week apart. This timing allows the researcher to work with the participants over a 2- to 3-week period and promotes the establishment of a substantial relationship between the researcher and participants over time. Also, spacing participant interviews reduces idiosyncratic responses resulting from illness, fatigue, or distraction.

I followed the interview structure in terms of

interview length and interview spacing. I interviewed six African American women 3 times each for a total of 18 interviews. Each interview lasted approximately 90 minutes


as suggested by Seidman (1991) and resulted in 27 hours of interviews.

Data Analysis

The key distinction among different types of research is in how the researcher treats data analytically (Strauss, 1987). Two significant features distinguish ethnographic analysis. First, analysis of ethnographic data begins soon after initial data collection and informs subsequent data collection. Therefore, analysis is ongoing in ethnographic studies as part of a cyclical pattern of inquiry, which Spradley (1980) referred to as "a process of questiondiscovery" (p. 33). Second, ethnographic analysis is interpretative. Spradley (1980), whose analytical model was employed in this study, stated, "Analysis . refers to the systematic examination of something to determine its parts, the relationship among parts, and their relationship to the whole. Analysis is a search for patterns" (p. 85). To identify patterns, Spradley suggested four types of analysis that occur in a research cycle. They are domain analysis, taxonomic analysis, componential analysis, and theme analysis.

In domain analysis the researcher identifies domains, or categories of meaning. In addition to objects, these categories may include events or activities. Because cultures, even microcultures such as schools, create categories by grouping together and classifying unique


things, the identification of categories or domains leads to insights about the culture being studied (Spradley, 1980, p. 88).

Domains are sometimes identified by "folk terms"

(Spradley, 1980, p. 89), expressions used by informants that identify objects, events, or activities in the cultural scene. At other times cultural meanings are tacit and are embedded in the data. Then the researcher must infer their meanings and provide "analytic terms" to identify those domains (Spradley, 1980, p. 90). Domain analysis should be initiated shortly after data collection begins and should be repeated periodically throughout the research cycle to identify new domains.

Spradley's (1980) second stage of analysis, taxonomic analysis, "involves a search for the way cultural domains are organized" (p. 87). The researcher examines domains to discover subsets and relationships of elements within the domains. Taxonomic analysis was especially useful in this study in revealing varying dimensions of influential teachers, involvement in the life of African American women.

Spradley's (1980) third stage of analysis,

componential analysis, occurs after contrasts have been identified in domains through selective interviewing. In this stage, the researcher identifies "attributes (components of meaning) associated with cultural