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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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McCray, Audrey Davis, 1960-
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xv, 257 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.

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African American culture ( jstor )
African American education ( jstor )
African American studies ( jstor )
Black communities ( jstor )
Schools ( jstor )
Special education ( jstor )
Students ( jstor )
Teacher education ( jstor )
Teachers ( jstor )
Womens studies ( jstor )
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1997.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 245-255).
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Also available online.
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Typescript.
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Vita.
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by Audrey Davis McCray.

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FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN'S DECISIONS
TO ENTER ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHING


















By

AUDREY DAVIS MCCRAY















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1997




























Copyright 1997

by

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














ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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.




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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




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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,




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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.
































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TABLE OF CONTENTS


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
Quantitative
Survey Design ................................... 52
Settings ........................................ 53
Participants .................................... 55
The Aspiration to Teach Model ................... 59
Research Instrumentation ........................ 59
Pilot Study ..................................... 66



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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
Fathers
Obscure Influences ......................... 147
Mothers
Controlling, Caring, and Protective ........ 148
Othermothers and Shared Mothering ............... 152
Experiences in the Black Church Community ............ 156



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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

APPENDIX A PERMISSION LETTERS

APPENDIX B ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION ...............
TEACHER EDUCATION STUDENT SURVEY ..........................

APPENDIX C LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW GUIDE ...................

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

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




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LIST OF TABLES

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






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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








































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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

FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN'S DECISIONS TO ENTER ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHING By

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.








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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.




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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.










































XV

















CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM

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




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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








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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








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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








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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








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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








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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








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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?

Rationale

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.







A








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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








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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.








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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-








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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








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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
REVIEW OF LITERATURE

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.











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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








16

"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








17

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








18

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








19

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).








20

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








21

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








22

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








23

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.

Summa

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








24

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.








25

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,"








26

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








27

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








28

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.








29

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








30

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








31

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








32

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








33

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.








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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








35

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








36

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








37

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








38

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








39

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








40

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








41

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








42

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.








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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,








44

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








45

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.








46

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








47

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








48

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















CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY

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





49








50

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.

overview

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.








51

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








52

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








53

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

Settings

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








54

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








55

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.

Participants

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


Teacher
Education Survey
State University Students Respondents


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

Total 140 112








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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,








57

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.








58

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








59

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








60

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








61

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)








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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








63

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








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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








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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.








66

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.








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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."








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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?"








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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








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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.








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Table 3.2

Survey Data Analysis


Item
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








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Table 3.2--continued


Item
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








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Table 3.2--continued


Item
Method of Analysis No. Questionnaire Item


Frequency Count by Factors 40 The decision to enter
teaching TV/Radio commercials volunteer work friends demand
salary
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








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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.








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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








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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








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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








78

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








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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








80

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








81

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








82

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,








83

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








84

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








85

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




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FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN'S DECISIONS
TO ENTER ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHING
By
AUDREY DAVIS MCCRAY
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1997

Copyright 1997
by
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

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
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.
IV

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. Sharry
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
v

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,
vi

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.
Vll

TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv
LIST OF TABLES xi
ABSTRACT xiii
CHAPTER I 1
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM 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
Quantitative
Survey Design 52
Settings 53
Participants 55
The Aspiration to Teach Model 59
Research Instrumentation 59
Pilot Study 66
viii

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
Fathers
Obscure Influences 147
Mothers
Controlling, Caring, and Protective 148
Othermothers and Shared Mothering 152
Experiences in the Black Church Community 156
IX

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
APPENDIX A PERMISSION LETTERS
APPENDIX B ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
TEACHER EDUCATION STUDENT SURVEY
APPENDIX C LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW GUIDE
REFERENCES 245
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 257
x

LIST OF TABLES
Table page
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 Ill
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
xi

4.15 Mean and standard deviation scores for
participants1 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
XI1

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
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S DECISIONS
TO ENTER ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHING
By
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.
xm

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 liberatory 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.
xiv

Suggestions for 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.
xv

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM
The underrepresentation of African Americans in
teaching has been a continuing problem for teacher
educators, researchers, and policy makers (Darling-Hammond
& Sclan, 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
1

2
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

3
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

4
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 entry-
level 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 Ashburn (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

5
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

6
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

7
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 two¬
fold. 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 Objectives of the Study
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

8
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?
Rationale
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.

9
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

10
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.

11
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-

12
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

13
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 Chapters
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
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
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 Aspiration 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.
14

15
Background for the Study
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 & Sclan, 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; Boe,
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 & Comer, 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

16
"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

17
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

18
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

19
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 profession" (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 college-
educated 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 (Duhon-Sells et al., 1996).

20
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 II, 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 mid-
1990s, 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

21
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 white-
collar 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

22
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

23
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.
Summary
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

24
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.

25
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,"

26
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 Study. 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

27
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, Mclntire 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 self-
reported motives and questioned researchers' conclusions
that prospective and practicing teachers enter the
profession prompted only by the altruistic motive of

28
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.

29
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

30
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. Su's 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

31
been hypothesized that students who aspire to enter
teaching are strongly influenced by family, religious, and
community variables (Roberson et al, 1983). Darling-
Hammond (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

32
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

33
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.f 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.

34
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

35
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.
Family. 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

36
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

37
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

38
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

39
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

40
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 experience. 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 deep-
seated 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

42
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) .
Summary
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.

43
Roberson's Aspiration 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,

44
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 self-
concept 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

45
influence for Blacks who aspired to teach; Blacks with
lower ability tended to choose teaching as a career.
Summary and Implications for the Present Study
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.

46
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

47
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

48
represent the first step in identifying important
hypotheses and concepts for understanding the phenomena
related to their entry into preservice teacher education.

CHAPTER III
METHODOLOGY
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
49

50
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.
Overview
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.

51
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 in-
depth 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

52
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?
Quantitative: Survey Pesian
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

53
included in the study was obtained by means of letters of
consent before administering the questionnaire.(See
Appendix A.)
Settings
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, co¬
educational 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

54
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

55
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.
Participants
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
Teacher
Education
Survey
State
University
Students
Respondents
Louisiana
Grambling State
77
68
Mississippi
Jackson State
33
15
Texas
Prairie View
30
29
Total
140
112

56
The participants were selected for 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,

57
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 Pre-
Professional 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.
Gramblinq State University. 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,
Grambling is one of 14 regional, 4-year, public
universities governed by the Louisiana Higher Education
Board of Trustees.

58
Jackson State University. 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

59
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

60
comprehensive list of preset responses), and (c) free-
response (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 Survey 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
Derribo's (1984) Teaching Efficacy scale, and Woolf oik 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

61
children. Respondents were also asked to indicate grade-
point 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)

62
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 Teaching
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

63
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
strongly 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

64
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 important. (2) somewhat important. (3) very-
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 NTE?",
"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) poorly.
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

65
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.

66
Pilot Study
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.

67
1. I 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. I 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. I 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."

68
6. I 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. I added the question, "Have you been admitted
with regular or conditional status to the teacher education
program at your school?"
9. I 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. I 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?"

69
11. I added the questions, "Have you taken the
National Teachers' Examination?", and "Did obtain a passing
score?"
12. I 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, in-
depth 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

70
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.

71
Table 3.2
Survey Data Analysis
Item
Method of Analysis No. Questionnaire Item
Frequency Distribution
and Percentages
1
2
3/4
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15a
15b
16
17
22
23
24
25
26
enrollment status,
highest degree attainment
academic major
student classification
race
gender
age
primary language
marital status
persons live with
parents expectations
mother's level of
education
father's level of
education
parents' income
type of community
a. elementary
b. middle school
c. high school
community racial
composition
school racial composition
predominant minority group/sch
type of school attended
a. elementary
b. middle school
c. high school
African American teachers
a. elementary
b. middle school
c. high school

72
Table 3.2--continued
Method of Analysis
Item
No. Questionnaire Item
Frequency Distribution
and Percentages
27 Caucasian/Anglo-Saxon
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
43

73
Table 3.2--continued
Item
Method of Analysis No. Questionnaire Item
Frequency Count
by Factors
40 The decision to enter
teaching
TV/Radio commercials
volunteer work
friends
demand
salary
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

74
Qualitative 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 Pesian
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.

75
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.
Schütz (1967) wrote that reality lay in the biographically
determined situation. According to Schütz (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

76
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

77
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.
Participant 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

78
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. Schütz (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

79
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 (Schütz, 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

80
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

81
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

82
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, I 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). I 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,

83
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

84
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 question-
discovery" (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

85
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

86
categories" (Spradley, 1980, p. 131). Spradley recommended
that the researcher construct a paradigm, which is a chart
representing the attributes of all cultural categories
within a given domain. The paradigm delineates the
dimensions of contrast between categories. I used
componential analysis in this study to clarify dimensions
of contrast in African American women's schooling
experiences and decision to enter teaching.
The last stage of analysis is theme analysis, in which
the researcher searches for themes that clarify the
relationships among domains and that link theme to the
culture being studied (Spradley, 1980, pp. 87-88). As
Spradley noted, "Every culture, and every cultural scene,
is more than a jumble of parts. It consists of a system of
meaning that is integrated into some kind of larger
pattern" (p. 141). The researcher attains understanding of
that larger pattern by identifying themes that are found in
numerous domains and "have a high degree of generality" in
various domains and situations (p. 14). Thus, theme
analysis culminates a process in which the researcher
begins by fragmenting the data and then reconstructs it in
stages to render a holistic conception of the culture under
study. The analytic procedures described in the preceding
section facilitated serendipitous discoveries and insights
that may have otherwise been missed.

87
Methodological Issues
Validity
Validity is concerned with the truth of the study,
with whether the questions examined are the questions
answered. According to Goetz & LeCompte (1984), validity
necessitates demonstration that the propositions generated,
refined, or tested match the causal conditions which obtain
in human life. They asserted that a strength of
ethnography is its attention to validity. In this study, I
used three strategies to ensure validity.
One way the researcher can assure that the data
collected reflect the views and understandings of
informants in the population studied is to consciously
determine the range of possible informants and collect data
from all participant types (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984). The
triangulation of data, or the use of multiple sources of
data collection, can be accomplished by collecting data
from different people at different times. During this
study, I initially conducted a survey and, based on
predetermined responses (explained earlier) and suggestions
from faculty members at HBCUs, I selected six African
American women representing elementary education and/or
special education preservice teacher education students. I
interviewed participants over a 3-week period three times
each enabling me to data check and make decisions about the
direction of the next set of interviews.

88
A second strategy used in this study to achieve
validity was time. According to ethnographers, validity
can be achieved by spending considerable time in the
research setting (Bodgan & Biklen, 1992; Goetz & LeCompte,
1984). The three-interview structure I used in this study
incorporates time and encourages interviewing participants
over the course of 1 to 3 weeks to check for the
consistency of what they say. Furthermore, I collected
data through 18 interviews during 27 hours of in-depth
probing of the experiences identified and the
interpretations and understandings of these experiences'
impact on decision making by the participants. As some
feminist researchers have noted, over time, women
informants tend to open up to women researchers conducting
in-depth interviews (DeVault, 1990; Finch, 1984; Lather,
1988; Oakley, 1981; Stacey, 1988) . Seidman (1991)
suggested that informants working with researchers who
share racial or cultural similarities are likely to respond
frankly and in depth on issues of common concern (i.e., a
Black woman talking to Black women about Black women's
experiences). Long-term interviewing generates voluminous
data and thereby enables the investigator to provide the
reader with richly detailed accounts of interviews. With
rich description, the researcher's conclusions make sense,
and validity is usually very strong.

89
A third way researchers ensure validity and avoid
spurious conclusions is by confirming their provisional
analysis with informants (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984) . Lincoln
and Guba (1985) referred to such sharing as member¬
checking, and they indicated that it contributes to the
trustworthiness and credibility of the findings.
Furthermore, by interviewing a number of participants, it
is possible to connect their experiences and check the
comments of one participant against those of others. As
noted earlier, I provided each key informant a
transcription of the previous interview. In subsequent
interviews, I asked the women to confirm or reject what had
been transcribed. I said, for instance, "During the last
interview, you said , Did you mean that?" These follow¬
ups and shared reactions to my interpretations and analysis
of their words provided a check to my provisional theories
and conclusions. In addition, in the final set of
interviews conducted, I shared my provisional conclusions
with respondents to elicit their reactions.
Generalizabilitv
As traditionally conceived, generalizability can be
problematic for qualitative researchers. Generalizability
usually refers to whether the findings of a study hold up
beyond the specific research subjects and the setting
involved. However, according to Bogdan and Bilken (1992),
qualitative researchers "concern themselves not with the

90
question of whether their findings are generalizable, but
rather with the question of to which other settings and
subjects they are generalizable" (p. 45).
The purpose of an in-depth interview is to understand
the experience of those who are interviewed, not to predict
or to control that experience (Seidman, 1991) . Because
hypotheses are not being tested, the issue is not whether
the researcher can generalize the finding of an interview
study to a broader population. Instead, according to
Seidman, the researcher's task is to present the experience
of the people interviewed in sufficient detail and depth
that those who read the study can connect to that
experience, learn how it is constituted, and deepen their
understanding of the issues it reflects.
Seidman (1991) posited that the job of an in-depth
interviewer is to go to such depth in the interviews that
surface considerations of representativeness and
generalizability are replaced by a compelling evocation of
an individual's experience. When this experience can be
captured in depth, it is possible for connections to
develop in two ways (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) . First, the
researcher may find connections among the experiences of
the individuals interviewed. Links among people whose
individual lives are quite different but who are affected
by common structural and social forces can help the reader
see patterns in that experience. Researchers in interview

91
studies will challenge the readers to inspect and explore
the connections that have been made for the participants
under investigation rather than attempt to convince them
that the findings of the study will generalize to the
larger population.
Second, researchers, by presenting the stories of
participants' experience, open up for readers the
possibility of connecting their own stories to those
presented in the study. Through purposeful sampling,
repeated interviews and prolonged involvement with
participants, findings will inevitably identify a basic
social process relevant to people in similar situations
(Hutchinson, 1990) . Careful documentation of participants
in the study helps to certify findings and allows readers
to examine others with similar descriptions and experience.
Readers of this study should decide for themselves if the
women I have represented are similar to their participants.
The question of whether all African American women's
decision to enter teaching is affected by social, cultural,
and school experiences in the same way can not be answered
by this limited research. Nonetheless, the six women in
this study will have to be reckoned with in future
investigations about African American female teacher
education students and female teacher education students in
general. Finally, readers may consider generalizability

92
issues in this study from the perspective of my
qualifications and biases.
Researcher Bias
Because the investigator in a qualitative study serves
as the primary research tool, researcher skills and biases
can have profound effects on the quality of findings
(Merriam, 1988). As Wolcott (1988) stated, "I cannot
imagine initiating a study in which I had no personal
feelings, felt no concern for the humans whose lives
touched mine, or failed to find in my feelings a vital
source of personal energy" (pp. 19-20). Researchers who
declare their biases provide their readers with an
important perspective into the reported results.
Documentation of techniques coupled with records of field
notes also curtail the introduction of researcher bias into
findings (Bodgan & Biklen, 1992). However, like Wolcott,
I brought to this study feelings and concerns about African
American teachers, the participants in this study, and
their decision to enter teaching. In the following
paragraphs I discuss those biases and ways I attempted to
deal with them to increase validity and generalizability of
the findings.
The greatest potential bias to this study is the
investigator's desire for members of the African American
community to enter teaching and possess the knowledge,
skills, and attitudes needed to affect learning and promote

93
school achievement for culturally and linguistically
diverse students. Also, this investigator shares two
distinct features, race and gender, with the participants.
To confront these possible biases, the researcher was
careful not to ask leading questions or offer suggestions
to participants concerning how to meet the needs of diverse
students or why they entered teaching. A third possible
bias resulted from the knowledge and experience gained
through more than 12 years of schooling as a black female.
These experiences again made it difficult for me to
withhold question probes and suggestions that may have
influenced participants' interpretations and
understandings. To confront this bias, I practiced
restraint and offered no comments during the interviews,
especially during Interview Two when interviewees were
asked about their own personal treatment in school or their
interpretations of them. Through rigorous interview
recording, transcribing, and reflective practices, I
minimized biased recall of interviews during data analysis
and engaged in repeated hypothesis testing. Finally, to
assess the validity of tentative conclusions, researchers
must continue to confront personal biases while reexamining
the data (Bogdan & Biklen, 1994) . Ethnographers
continually self-monitor their research methods, the
effects of their presence on participants, and the

94
interpretations they render. Reflective memoranda helped
me to confront and assess the effect of personal biases.
Ethical Issues
The responsibility of producing a study that has been
managed and disseminated in an ethical manner belongs to
the researcher (Merriam, 1988) . Bogdan and Biklen (1992)
offered several guidelines to ensure the maintenance of
high ethical standards. These guidelines include
protecting the identities of informants, treating
participants with respect while seeking their cooperation
in the study, fulfilling any agreements made during
negotiating the terms of the study, and telling the truth
when reporting the findings. The researcher adhered to
these guidelines in conducting and reporting the study.
Participants were assured that they would remain anonymous
in all reports of the study results.

CHAPTER IV
RESULTS
The purpose of this study was twofold. The first
objective was to describe the demographic backgrounds and
characteristics of female African Americans who enter
preservice elementary and special education teaching. The
second objective was to identify and describe the factors
that influence them to do so. In Chapter IV, I present the
results of a survey administered during the first phase of
the study. These data address the research question, What
are the backgrounds of African American women who decide to
enter preservice teacher education in elementary and/or
special education? A discussion of the interview data
about factors influencing decisions to enter teaching will
be presented in Chapter V.
This chapter begins with a description of the personal
demographics of the participants, followed by an analysis
of family characteristics and socioeconomic status. Next
are descriptions of the participants' early schooling
experiences and backgrounds. Also presented are
discussions about the participants' perspectives toward
teaching as a profession and factors that influenced them
to enter. The chapter concludes with discussions of the
95

96
participants' commitments to teaching and their beliefs
about teaching diverse students.
Demographic Characteristics
The participants in the present study were teacher
education students at Grambling State University (60.7%),
Jackson State University (13.4%), and Prairie View A & M
University (25.9%) during the fall, 1996, and spring, 1997,
semesters. In addition, enrollment data indicated that 600
students were matriculating in teacher education at
Grambling, 555 at Jackson State, and 98 at Prairie View.
Of these students, female African Americans who had been
admitted to Teacher Education and who met the criteria for
participation in the study numbered 77, 33, and 30 at the
three schools for a total of 140. Of this number, 112
responded to and returned the questionnaire for a return
rate of 80%. All respondents identified themselves as
African American with 99% reporting English as their
primary language (see Table 4.1).
Personal demographics are presented in Table 4.1. As
can be seen in the table, more elementary education
majors (81.2%) than special education majors (18.8%)
were represented in the sample. Nine percent indicated
education as a second major. The majority of students
were enrolled full-time (89.3%), single (85.6%), and 24
years or younger (81.7%). Almost 19% were mothers.

97
Table 4.1
Demographic Characteristics of Female African American
Teacher Education Students in HBCUs
Characteristic
Percentage
Number
HBCU Attending
Grambling State University
60.7
Jackson State University
13.4
Prairie View University A & M
25.9
Enrollment
Full Time
89.3
Part Time
10.7
Age
24 years or younger
81.7
25-40
15.6
41 years or older
2.7
Marital Status
Single
76.6
Single with Children
9.0
Married
4.5
Married with Children
6.3
Divorced with Children
3.6
Major
Elementary Education
81.2
Special Education
18.8
Education as Second Major
Yes
9.0
No
91.0
Respondents' Geographical Residence
Rural and Small Town
34.9
Suburban
6.6
Urban (500,000 to 1,000,000)
39.7
Major Urban (1,000,000 or more)
18.8
Native Language
English
Other
(N = 112)
99.1
0.9

98
Nearly 35% were raised in a rural community or small town,
while just under 7% lived in the suburbs. More than half
(58.5%) indicated that they grew up in urban and major
urban areas.
Family and Socioeconomic Characteristics
In this study, four factors were examined to describe
family characteristics and socioeconomic status: family
structure, parental educational attainment, parent's
occupation, and family income.
Family Structure
Table 4.2 shows that more than half of the African
American women grew up in homes in which both natural
parents were present (55%), with 8.1% also living with two
parents, principally mother and stepfather. Nearly 30%
lived in families headed by a single, female parent or
guardian, and less than 2% were raised in homes
headed by a single father or male guardian. Fewer than 5%
were raised by grandparents (4.5), and only one
respondent (0.9%) indicated that she had grown up in a
foster family. Finally, participants reported 3 or 4
siblings (M = 3.761, SD = 2.063).
Parental Educational Attainment
In Table 4.3, parental educational attainment is
categorized as low (high school graduate or less), middle

99
Table 4.2
Family Structure of Female African American
Teacher Education Students Attending HBCUs
Characteristic Percentage of Responses
Family Structure
Father and mother 55.0
Stepfather and mother 8.1
Mother or female guardian only 29.7
Father or male guardian only 1.8
Grandparents 4.5
Non-relatives 0.9
(N = 112)

100
Table 4.3
Parental Educational Attainment
Mother
(N = 112)
Percentage
Father
(N =102)
Percentage
Low Level of
Education
Elementary
school or less
0.0
5.9
Some high
school
11.6
9.8
High school graduate
19.6
26.5
Middle Level of Education
Vocational or
Technical School
11.6
11.8
Some college,
but did not graduate
17.0
17.6
Two-year college graduate
6.3
5.9
High Level of Education
Four-year college graduate
17.0
13.7
Master's degree
16.1
7.8
Doctorate
0.9
1.0

101
(postsecondary certificate or degree less than 4 years), or
high level (4-year college graduate or higher). Data
reported by the participants demonstrated that more mothers
than fathers had achieved high levels of educational
attainment.
One third (34%) of the mothers were 4-year college
graduates compared to only one fifth of the fathers (22%) .
Twice as many mothers (16%) than fathers (8%) had master's
degrees. Only 1% of the fathers and 1% of the mothers held
a doctorate.
Participants indicated that 17% of mothers and fathers
have some college but did not graduate, and 6.3% of the
mothers and 5.9% of the fathers are 2-year college
graduates. Just under 12% of parents attended vocational,
business, or technical schools. By contrast, for parents
with low levels of educational attainment, fathers tended
to be better educated than mothers. That is, although 6%
of fathers have no more than an elementary education, more
fathers (26.5%) than mothers (19.6%) in this group
completed high school.
The data in Table 4.4 also show that most parents hold
high expectations for their daughters' educational
achievement. About 56% of parents expect their daughters
to finish college, 22% percent envision their daughters
earning a master's degree, and more than 15% expect her to
earn a doctorate.

102
Table 4.4
Parents' Expectations for Their
Daucrhters'
Educational Attainment
Expected Educational Attainment
Percentage
High school graduation
4.5
Vocational/some college
1.8
Finish college (Bachelor's)
55.9
Master's degree
22.5
Doctorate/Professional degree
15.3
(N = 112)

103
Parental Occupation Choice
In this section, parental occupation choice is
described. As can be seen in Table 4.5, the respondents'
parents were employed in occupations listed in one of nine
categories. More than one third (36%) of the fathers were
skilled laborers. Skilled laborers included fathers who
worked as machinists, carpenters, construction workers,
automobile mechanics, mail carriers, sanitary workers, farm
workers, bus drivers, and truck drivers. Another 12%
worked in protective services as military career officers,
enlisted servicemen, and police officers. Identified as
technical workers, 3% were employed as computer programmers
and X-ray technicians. Twenty-eight percent (28%) were
professionals and managers and employed in law firms,
accounting firms, government agencies, and retail and food
chain stores. Other fathers were school teachers (7%) and
entrepreneurs (14%). These small business owners operated
barber shops, beauty salons, grocery stores, restaurants,
car washes, gas stations, and trucking companies. No
fathers were in sales or had never worked.
Likewise, the vast majority of mothers worked, and
many were employed in teaching and professional fields. Of
the mothers, 5.4% were homemakers, and less than 2% (1.8%)
had never worked. Among the mothers who were employed, 11%
were skilled workers. They worked as

104
Table 4.5
Parental Occupational Choice
Category
Mother
(N = 112)
Percentage
Father
(N = 102)
Percentage
School Teacher
24.1
7.0
Professional
20.6
20.0
Technical
17.0
3.0
Managerial
12.0
8.0
Skilled Labor
11.0
36.0
Homemaker
5.4
0.0
Entrepreneurial
4.5
14.0
Protective Service
1.8
12.0
Sales
1.8
0.0
Never Worked
1.8
0.0

105
school cafeteria workers, housekeepers, seamstresses, deli
workers, nurses' aides, factory workers, bus drivers,
teachers' aides, and daycare teachers. Seventeen percent
were in technical positions including secretary, data entry
technician, paralegal, lab technician, and accounting
clerk. A small percentage (4.5%) were service-oriented
entrepreneurs, and 1.8% were employed in sales. Just under
2% (1.8%) were in protective service occupations. The
remaining mothers (56.7%) were employed in positions
categorized as professional, school teacher, and
managerial. Professional mothers (20.6%) included lawyers,
registered nurses, city councilwoman, college instructor,
biochemist, and social workers. Almost one-fourth (24.1%)
were school teachers, and another 12% were government
agency or school administrators.
Family Income
The annual family incomes for participants in this
study are presented in Table 4.6. Almost 10% of the
respondents indicated that their families had annual
incomes of $10,000 or less, while nearly one fourth (24.1%)
reported family incomes that ranged from $10,000 to
$24,999. About 36% of these prospective teachers were from
families whose annual incomes ranged from $25,000 to
$49,999. Just under one third revealed that they lived in

106
Table 4.6
Family Income for 1995
Income
Percentage
Less than
$9,000
9.3
$10,000 -
$14,999
12.0
$15,000 -
$19,999
2.8
$20,000 -
$24,999
9.3
$25,000 -
$29,999
10.2
$30,000 -
$39,999
14.8
$40,000 -
$49,999
11.1
$50,000 -
$59,999
11.1
$60,000 -
$69,999
6.5
$70,000 -
$79,999
5.6
$80,000 -
$89,999
1.9
$90,000 -
$99,999
1.9
$100,000 or more
3.7
(N = 108)

107
families whose annual incomes were $50,000 or more, with
about 4% reporting yearly family incomes of $100,000 or
more.
Schooling Characteristics and Educational Background
In this section, I describe the schooling experiences
and educational backgrounds of the participants. Also
examined were their perceptions of their experiences during
the elementary, middle, and high school years. Table 4.7
shows that over 90% of the women were graduated from high
school during the past 10 years. Information in Tables 4.8
through 4.12 describe the type of school they attended,
year of high school graduation, racial makeup of the
community and school, racial makeup of the teachers, and
school activities in which respondents participated.
In Table 4.8, the type of school attended is
presented. As can be seen in the table, in elementary,
middle, and high school, large majorities (86.5%, 89.8%,
and 93.5%) of the respondents attended public schools.
Nearly 14% (13.5%) of the students reported that they
attended religious or private elementary school; however,
only half (6.6%) of them were in such schools by the time
they reached high school.
The respondents were raised in culturally and
linguistically diverse communities. For instance, as can
be seen in Table 4.9, 60.4% of the respondents grew up in
neighborhoods in which 60% or more of the residents were

108
Table 4.7
School Characteristics:
Year of High School Graduation
Percentages
Before 1966
0.0
Between 1966 and 1986
9.8
1986 and later
90.2
(N = 112)
Table 4.8
School Characteristics: Type of School
Percentages
Tvoe of School
Elementarv
Middle
Hiah School
Public
86.5
89.8
93.5
Catholic
5.4
2.8
1.9
Other Religious
2.7
2.8
2.8
Private
(non-religious)
5.4
4.6
1.9
Home schooling
0.0
0.0
0.0
(N = 112)

109
Table 4.9
School Characteristics:
Racial Composition of Community
Percentages
Fewer than 10% African American
13.5
10% to 59% African American
26.1
60% or more African American
60.4
(N = 112)

110
African American. Over one fourth (26.1%) indicated that
between 10% and 59% of their neighbors were African
American. Fewer than 14% (13.5%) of the respondents were
raised in communities in which less than 10% of the
residents were African American.
With regard to the racial makeup of the respondents'
schools, the percentage of African American students
varied. As can be seen in Table 4.10, half (50.9%) of the
respondents attended schools in which 60% or more of the
students were African American. More than one third
(38.3%) of the respondents attended schools in which
African Americans made up from 10% to 59% of student
population. About 11% of them were enrolled in schools
with less than 10% of the students identified as African
American.
Table 4.11 demonstrates that most of the respondents
have been taught by both African American teachers and
White teachers. In elementary school, for instance, only
14.7% of the respondents reported that none of their
teachers were African American. Among the remaining
respondents, 45.9% reported that up to 50% of their
teachers were African American, 10% indicated that from 50%
to 75% of their teachers were African American, and 24.8%
reported that 75% or more of their teachers were African
American. About 1 of every 20 respondents was taught by
all African American teachers in elementary school.

Ill
Table 4.10
School Characteristics:
Racial Composition of School
Percentage
Less than 10% African American
10.9
10% to 59% African American
38.2
60% or more African American
50.9
(N = 112)

112
Table 4.11
Percentage of Teachers by Race
Percentage of African
American Teachers
Elementarv
Middle
High School
None
14.7
12.8
14.7
1% to 5%
23.9
22.0
22.0
5% to 25%
11.0
18.3
12.8
25% to 50%
11.0
11.0
13.8
50% to 75%
10.0
11.0
11.9
75% or more
24.8
22.0
22.9
All
4.6
2.9
1.9
Percentage of
Caucasian Teachers
Elementarv
Middle
High School
None
11.8
8.2
8.2
1% to 5%
10.0
10.9
11.8
5% to 25%
20.0
15.5
14.5
25% to 50%
9.1
13.6
17.3
50% to 75%
14.5
20.0
15.5
75% or more
30.0
30.0
28.2
All
4.6
1.8
4.5
(N = 109)

113
In middle school, the respondents reported similar
percentages of African American teachers. Over half
(51.3%) of the respondents indicated that from 1% to 50% of
the teachers on their schools were African American.
Eleven percent reported they had attended schools in which
50% to 75% of the faculty were African American, and about
one fifth (22%) reported that African American teachers
represented 75% or more of their teachers. Slightly less
than 13% (12.8%) indicated that they had no African
American teachers in middle school. Almost 3% reported
that all of their former middle school teachers were
African American.
In high school, although a few (1.9%) of the
respondents indicated that they had only African American
teachers, almost 15% (14.7%) reported that they did not
encounter any African American teachers. Nearly one half
(48.6%) of the respondents reported that the number of
African American teachers ranged from 1% to 50% of the
faculty, one tenth (11.9%) that from 50% to 75% of their
teachers were African American, and one fifth (22.9%) that
over three fourths of their teachers were African American.
Regarding the percentages of former White teachers, in
elementary school, more than one tenth (11.8%) of the
respondents indicated that none were White, while 4.6%
indicated that all of them were White. Among the remaining
respondents, over one half (53.6%) reported that between 1%

114
to 75% of their teachers were White while 30% had 75% or
more White teachers.
In middle school, 8.2% of the respondents had no White
teachers, while 1.8% had all White teachers. Sixty percent
had from 1% to 75% of White teachers, and 30% had 75% or
more White teachers.
In high school, 8.2% reported having encountered no
White teachers, and 4.5% encountered all White teachers.
Almost 60% encountered from 1% to 75%, and more than one
fourth (28.2%) were taught by 75% or more White teachers
(See Table 4.11).
In summary, although some respondents did not
encounter African American teachers and therefore could not
report early learning experiences in classrooms with
someone who shared their racial or cultural backgrounds,
most of these prospective teachers had. In fact, many of
the respondents had had substantial contact with African
American teachers in elementary, middle, and high school.
Concerning their school achievement, nearly 78% of the
participants reported that they earned grades of B or
better during their high school years. When asked to
rate their experiences in school from positive (1) to
negative (5), respondents rated their experiences as
positive or somewhat positive (M = 1.972, SD = 1.142). In
addition, when asked to indicate the influence of school
activities on their career decisions, nearly all of the

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respondents checked at least one of the activities as an
influencing factor. As can be seen in Table 4.12,
participation in futures clubs (e.g., Future Teachers of
America) was checked as influencing their career selection
by 43.8% of the respondents, while 32.2% checked sports
teams. Only 8% of the respondents checked theater/drama,
but 27.7% found career counseling as an influential factor
on their decisions. Clearly, school activities were
important in the decisions of these women.
Perspectives Towards Teaching as a Profession
Respondents' perspectives regarding teaching as a
career are presented in this section. The respondents were
asked to rate the importance of job-related factors,
personal and individual factors, and institutional factors
on their decisions to become teachers. They also were
asked to speculate about their long-term commitments to the
profession.
Job-Related Factors
Table 4.13 shows job-related factors deemed important
to the participants in their decisions to enter teaching.
The eight factors were rated as not important (1), somewhat
important (2), or very important (3). As can be seen in
the table, respondents indicated that very important in
their occupation selections were careers considered
interesting and important (M = 2.745, SD = .532) and
careers that provided job security and permanence (M =

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Table 4.12
School Activities that Influenced Career Decisions
Percentages
School Activities
Career counseling
27.7
Future clubs
43.8
Sports teams
32.2
School counseling
17.9
Theater/drama
8.0
Music/band/orchestra
25.0
(N = 112)

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Table 4.13
Mean and Standard Deviation Scores of
Job-Related Factors Influencing Decision
Factor
M
SD
An interesting and
important career
2.745
0.532
Job security and permanence
2.709
0.513
Freedom to make
your own decisions
2.532
0.600
Career advancement
2.500
0.633
Work with sociable,
friendly people
2.405
0.666
Previous work experience
2.297
0.682
Good income to start
with or within a few years
2.081
0.728
Job status and prestige
2.064
0.781
Not important = 1
Somewhat important = 2
Very important = 3

118
2.709, SD = .513). Also important to them was the freedom
to make their own decisions (M = 2.532, SD = .600),
although in response to the survey question as to the
preferred situation among three organizational situations,
only 16% considered the best jobs as those with no
interference from anyone. Most respondents (68.8%)
preferred working with competent teachers who work together
to make decisions. Thus, working with sociable and
friendly people (M = 2.405, SD = .666) was an important
factor in the career choice. Although career advancement (M
= 2.500, SD = .633) was an important determining factor,
respondents were less concerned about previous work
experience (M = 2.297, SD = .682), or the salary (M =
2.081, SD = .728) and job status (M = 2.064, SD = .781)
associated with teaching.
Personal and Individual Factors
In Table 4.14, percentages of respondents nominating
20 intrinsic factors that contributed to their decisions to
choose careers in teaching are presented. Their primary
desire is to help children develop academically and
emotionally (79.5%). Second, they have decided to enter
teaching because they want to make a difference in the
lives of African American children (68.8%).
In addition to their desire to help children,
particularly African American children, people and prior

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Table 4.14
Factors that Influenced Participants to Decide
Teaching as Career Choice
Factor
Percentage
Help children grown academically/emotionally 79.5
To make a difference in the lives of
children who come from my background 68.8
Baby sitting experience 67.9
An inspirational leader 48.2
Found out Black teachers were needed 47.0
Parents/relatives (teachers) 38.4
Summers off 37.5
Daycare center volunteer 35.7
Parents/relatives (nonteachers) 31.3
Former teacher 20.0
Friends 18.8
Easy entry 16.1
Status in the community 16.1
Sunday School Teacher 14.3
Worked with children with disabilities 14.3
Teacher salaries 9.8
Bad experiences in school 8.9
TV/Radio announcements 1.8
Lack of other career options <2.0
Scholarships/stipends <1.0

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experiences have influenced the respondents to pursue
teaching. For instance, the respondents have been
influenced by inspirational community leaders (48.2%), and
parents and relatives who are, and are not, teachers
(69.7%). Only 20% responded that a former teacher
influenced their career selections, and about 9% explained
that their experiences with bad teachers and poor teaching
led to their decisions. Their prior experiences were
baby-sitting (67.9%), daycare volunteer (35.7%), Sunday
School teaching (14.3%), and work with children with
disabilities (14.3%). Thirty-seven percent (37%) checked
summers off as influencing their career choice.
Recruitment efforts also had some influence on their
decisions to enter teaching. For example, 47%
responded that learning about the demand for African
American teachers influenced them to enter the profession,
yet fewer than one fifth of the respondents cited friends
in teacher education as a determining factor. Knowing that
salaries were increasing contributed to about 10% of the
participants' decisions (9.8%). Fewer than 2% suggested
that TV/radio commercials about the teaching profession
encouraged them to enter teaching, while the availability
of financial scholarships and stipends contributed to the
career decisions of less than 1% of the participants.
Finally, a few entered teaching because they believed that
teaching represented status in the community (16.1%)and

121
that it was an easy entry field (16.1%). However, fewer
than 2% decided on a career in teaching because they had no
other career options.
Lastly, individual ability and competency also
contributed to the respondents' decisions to enter teacher
education. Although over half (53.6%) of them checked "No"
to the survey question, Do you believe that teachers should
have to take teacher competency tests like the National
Teachers Examination?, 81% had done so, and more than two
thirds obtained a passing score on all parts. In addition,
a mean GPA score of 3.2 was calculated for the teacher
education students in this study. All participants had met
the admissions criteria set forth by their colleges and
have been enrolled as full-status admits or admits with
conditional status. Closely related to ability is their
expressed desired to be a part of a group of highly
competent teachers (68.8%).
Institutional Factors
Another extrinsic factor that influenced these
participants' decision making was the HBCU they attended.
The respondents were asked why they chose to enroll in
teacher education at an HBCU. Content analysis of their
responses revealed that the career decisions were also
influenced by institutional choice. The four institutional
variables influencing their career decisions were:
geographical proximity, reputation, family tradition, and

122
cultural insularity. Living within coiranuting distance of
the university was an important factor, as was the
reputation of the university and college of education.
Family tradition also played a significant role in these
participants' institutional and program selections.
However, the most common theme running through their
comments about enrolling in teacher education at HBCUs was
cultural insularity: These women's choices were influenced
by their desire to be taught by African Americans on ways
to help the African American community through a career in
teaching. A Grambling senior wrote:
I am of the belief that being educated at an HBCU
has provided me with the opportunity to receive a
comprehensive education that will enable me to be
an effective and efficient teacher of all
children, especially African American children.
Other respondents felt that "leadership and perseverance
skills" could be developed so that they could right the
wrongs of traditional educational practices. A teacher
education student enrolled at Jackson State commented:
I had teachers who were bad, and I don't think
children should have to experience what I have
been through. I can make a difference. They
(HBCUs) can teach me how to better help minority
students.
Another woman shared her discovery while studying at
Grambling:
At first I didn't know why I was majoring in
education, but soon I discovered it was so that I can
prevent the prejudice that goes on in school.

123
Other respondents revealed their institution choice
reflected a need for comfort in their academic preparation.
Three examples were:
All my life, I received my education in minority
Black public schools, so I felt as though I would be
more comfortable here.
I wanted to be in a place where Blacks can live with
educated Blacks and better themselves without someone
pulling them down.
I have always known that I wanted to become a teacher,
and I choose this school because I like the idea that
someone would actually care and put me on the right
path.
Finally, one participant explained:
Honestly, I feel better with Black people. I know
that could be a problem. I want to be able to teach
all children as best as I can.
Commitment to Teaching
The participants' long-term career goals and
commitment to the profession were examined. On the survey,
they were asked to speculate about what they would be doing
in 3, 5, and 10 years. Responses suggested that these
women plan lifelong careers in education, although not
necessarily in the classroom. The vast majority of them
are enthusiastic about teaching and will enter the
classroom immediately following their preparation.
However, many do not envision themselves teaching for more
than 5 years and intend to pursue advanced degrees in
education. Many desire to become principals,
superintendents, consultants, and college professors.
Overall, there was little variation across institutions in

124
the students' responses to survey questions regarding their
perspectives of teaching as a profession.
Entry Beliefs About Teaching
In this final section, I consider the respondents'
entry beliefs about teaching students with various learning
and behavior characteristics as well as students who are
culturally and linguistically diverse.
Beliefs About Student Diversity
Using a 4-point Likert scale, with 1 designating most
desirable, 2 designating desirable. 3 designating least
desirable. and 4 indicating don't know. the respondents
indicated their desires to teach diverse students in a
variety of educational and geographical settings. As can
be seen in Table 4.15, mean and standard deviation scores
were computed (although don11 know responses were excluded
from the computations) for type of student, type of school
organization, and, geographical location. The respondents
preferred to teach minority students (M = 1.617, SD = .624)
and students of average ability (M = 1.679, SD = .518).
They were less desirous of working with students who are
gifted and talented (M = 2.079, SD = .643) or students who
have mental disabilities (M = 2.457, SD = .680), physical
impairments (M = 2.330, SD = .643), emotional disabilities
(M = 2.321, SD = .655), or learning disabilities (M =
2.151, SD = .714). Noteworthy is the fact that while these
women most desire to work with culturally diverse students,

125
Table 4.15
Mean and Standard Deviation Scores for Participants'
Desirability Level bv Student Type, Classroom
Setting and Geographic Location
Factor
M
SD
TYPES OF STUDENT
average ability
1.697
0.518
gifted/talented
2.079
0.643
low ability
1.971
0.682
physically disabled
2.330
0.643
mentally disabled
2.457
0.680
emotionally disabled
2.321
0.655
learning disabled
2.151
0.714
minority setting
1.617
0.107
non-English speaking
children
2.832
0.423
EDUCATIONAL SETTING
traditional classroom
1.607
0.611
inclusive classroom
2.009
0.625
high income setting
2.181
0.731
middle income setting
1.907
0.541
low income setting
2.206
0.697
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION
rural
2.132
0.757
suburban
1.877
0.581
urban
1.935
0.631
my hometown
1.916
0.814
my geographic region
1.695
0.667
Most desirable = 1
Desirable = 2
Least desirable = 3

126
they also most prefer to teach middle-class students (M =
1.907, SD = .541). In addition, they least desire working
with students who are non-English speaking (M = 2.832, SD =
.423) .
Regarding school organization, the most desirable
setting is the traditional classroom (M = 1.607, SD =
.611). The participants indicated less desire for teaching
students in inclusive classrooms (M = 2.009, SD = .625).
Geographically, the average desirability score of 1.695 (SD
= .667) suggested that the respondents desire most to
return to their home regions to seek teaching positions.
However, as indicated by their rankings, many of the
participants are also willing to teach in suburban
(M = 1.877, SD = .581) and urban schools (M = 1.935, SD =
.631). Finally, they least desire to teach in rural
classrooms (M = 2.132; SD = .757) (See Table 4.15.)
Table 4.16 presents the participants' beliefs about
teaching students who are culturally and linguistically
diverse. Given 12 teacher tasks, they were asked to
indicate the degree of importance (with 1 being not
important, 2 being somewhat important, and 3 being very
important) for working with students of diverse racial and
ethnic backgrounds. Results showed that the participants
believed that all the tasks were somewhat important or very

127
Table 4.16
Mean and Standard Deviation Scores for Beliefs About
Teaching Students Who are Culturally Different
Teachinq Tasks
M
SD
Help students work through
problem situations (racism/sexism)
2.919
0.306
Present diversity of cultures
as a positive feature of
American heritage
2.864
0.345
Get students from differing
culture to interact with each other
2.838
0.394
Assist all students to understand
the feelings of people from
other groups
2.802
0.400
Identify solutions to problems
that may arise as a result
of cultural diversity
2.694
0.501
Help students examine their
own prejudice
2.676
0.559
Identify societal factors
influencing opportunities
for minority group members
2.670
0.472
Develop instructional methods
that promote intercultural
cohesiveness
2.667
0.545
Analyze instructional materials
for potentially racist sexist attitudes
2.651
0.555
Identify how language and cultural
norms affect performance on
certain test items
2.613
0.575
Know ways in which various
cultures contribute to our
pluralistic society
2.606
0.527
Identify the similarities and
dissimilarities between
Anglo-Americans and other
cultures
2.279
0.765
Not important = 1
Somewhat Important = 2
Very Important = 3

128
important skills for teachers of students who are diverse.
However, the participants believed that the most important
skills were knowing how to help students work through
racism and sexism (M = 2.919, SD = .306) and presenting
cultural diversity as a positive part of the American
heritage (M = 2.864, SD = .345). They also believed that
teachers should know how to promote interaction among
students from differing cultures (M = 2.838, SD = .394).
Respondents believed that identifying similarities and
differences between Anglo-Americans and other cultures was
not as important for teachers to do (M = 2.279, SD = .765),
but that teachers should work with students to understand
the feelings of people from other groups (M = 2.802, SD =
.400). The respondents believed that teachers should be
familiar with societal factors that impede opportunities
for minority group members (M = 2.670, SD = .472) and help
students examine their own biases and prejudice (M = 2.676,
SD = .559). Moreover, these teachers should be able to
identify solutions to problems that may occur when teaching
culturally and linguistically diverse students (M = 2.694,
SD = .501). For instance, it would be important to know
how language and cultural norms affect performance (M =
2.613, SD = .575) and how to identify potentially racist
and sexist attitudes in instructional materials (M = 2.651,
SD = .555). Finally, the respondents believed that
teachers should know ways in which different cultures have

129
contributed to a pluralistic society (M = 2.606, SD = .527)
and implement instructional methods that promote
intercultural cohesiveness (M = 2.667, SD = .545).
Teaching Efficacy Beliefs
Given a scale that ranged from (1) agree strongly to
(4) disagree strongly, the respondents indicated their
agreement or disagreement with four statements related to
teaching efficacy and four personal teaching efficacy
statements. The results are presented in Table 4.17.
The respondents in this study agreed or strongly
agreed with two personal teaching efficacy statements: "I
can help a child learn even if he/she is from a culture
different from my own" (M = 1.523, SD = .585) and "If I try
really hard, I can get through to even the most difficult
or unmotivated students" (M = 1.600, SD = .562). They also
agreed with the statements, "A teacher is not limited in
what he/she can achieve even though a student's home
environment may have a large influence on his/her
achievement" (M = 1.829, SD = .778) and "If the grades of
my students improve, it is because I found more effective
teaching approaches" (M = 1.748, SD = .682). Most
disagreed or disagreed strongly with the statements, "When
it comes right down to it, a teacher really can't do much
because most of a student's motivation and performance
depends on his/her home environment" (M = 3.360, SD = .724)
and "The amount a student can learn is primarily related to

130
Table 4.17
Mean and Standard Deviations Scores for Beliefs About
Efficacy
Belief Statement
M
SD
1. I can help a child learn even if
he/she is from a culture different
from my own.
2. If I try really hard, I can get
through to even the most difficult
or unmotivated students.
3. If the grades of my students improve,
it is because I found more effective
teaching approaches.
4. A teacher is not limited in what
he/she can achieve even though a student's
home environment may have a large
influence on his/her achievement. 1.829
5. Even a teacher with good teaching
abilities may not reach many students. 2.176
6. Today's student does not value
an education and will not learn from
even the best teacher. 3.037
7. The amount a student can learn
is primarily related to family
background. 3.182
8. When it comes right down to it,
a teacher really can't do much
because most of a student's motivation
and performance depends on his/her home
environment. 3.360
1.523
1.600
1.748
.585
.562
.682
.778
. 852
.800
.880
.724
Agree Strongly = 1
Agree = 2
Disagree = 3
Disagree Strongly = 4
No Opinion = 5

131
family background" (M = 3.182, SD = .880). It was
interesting to note that although the respondents agreed
with the statement, "Even a teacher with good teaching
abilities may not reach many students" (M = 2.176, SD =
.852), they disagreed with the statement, "Today's student
does not value an education and will not learn from even
the best teacher" (M = 3.037, SD = 800).
These findings suggested two things about the
respondents’ efficacy beliefs. First, their strong
disagreement with the teaching efficacy statements
suggested that they believe that teaching is a potentially
powerful factor in student learning. They believed, for
example, that student achievement, even for difficult and
unmotivated students, depends largely on teachers' effort.
Furthermore, they believe that home and community
influences could be overcome by effective teaching and
cultural accommodations in the classroom.
Second, the respondents' agreement with personal
teaching efficacy statements indicate that not only do they
believe in the power of good teaching, but they also
believe they are capable of engaging in teaching practices
that will lead to student achievement. In fact, their
responses suggested a strong level of personal
responsibility and accountability for student learning.
Furthermore, because the respondents tended to believe so

132
strongly in teaching and in their personal efficacy to
teach diverse students and although they agreed that even
the best teacher may not reach all students, they disagreed
that students fail to achieve academically because they do
not value education. Thus, the respondents believe that
school success is more likely the outcome of appropriate
and effective schooling, and school failure is less likely
due to poor motivation, inability, student values and
attitudes, or family background.
Summary
The results of this study indicate that the majority
of the participants were elementary majors and single,
full-time students whose average age was 24 years. The
majority of them were from families earning $25,000 or more
annually with one-third from families with annual incomes
of $50,000 or more. Most indicated that their families
valued education and expected high academic achievement.
Notwithstanding fathers' academic achievements, it was
clear that many mothers had achieved high levels of
education and were more likely than fathers to hold
administrative and professional positions. More than one
third of the mothers were school teachers or
administrators.
Most of the respondents came from urban communities
and school populations that were comprised primarily of
African Americans. A much smaller percentage of them grew

133
up in rural areas or the suburbs. Most had been taught by
at least one African American teacher, and some had been
taught in schools where African American teachers
represented more than 75% of the faculty. Despite their
awareness of the demand for African American teachers in
urban settings and in special education classrooms, most of
them would prefer to teach middle-class African American
students with average ability. They less prefer to teach
students in low income schools or work with students who
have disabilities or who are bilingual. Many indicated a
desire to teach in their home regions and communities,
although they are willing to accept positions in a number
of geographic locations.
A primary motivation for the participants' decisions
to enter teaching is the desire to help children develop
emotionally and academically. They have entered teaching
to serve as role models for other African American
students, although they indicated that they want to be good
teachers for all children. They were influenced in their
career choices by parents, inspirational leaders in the
community, and experiences working with children, but
former teachers tended to be less influential. Former
teachers tended to serve as guideposts for how these women
plan to teach. Their observations of poor teaching and
experiences with racism in schools have motivated many of

134
them to choose teaching in an effort to reduce or eliminate
such inequities for future generations of African American
students.
With regard to career features, the participants have
chosen teaching careers because they want to work with
other professionals whom they consider to be competent,
friendly, and cooperative in ensuring the best possible
education for all children. Although money and prestige
are important issues in their career decision-making, most
of these women have weighed the importance of teaching for
the betterment of society, and Black America in particular,
over job status and income. They believe that they can
make a difference in the lives of their students and that
in many ways they have a responsibility to help students
reach high levels of academic performance.
The respondents believe that culturally diverse
students bring unique understandings and cultural
experiences to the classroom. Consequently, teachers
should have knowledge of diverse cultures and curricular
and instructional adaptations that improve student
performance. The respondents suggested that teachers must
possess the knowledge and skills necessary to foster
cooperation among students from different backgrounds and
that teachers must be able to demonstrate to students
positive ways of dealing with racism and sexism in schools.
Equally important to the respondents was teachers'

135
knowledge of, and ability to incorporate into the existing
curriculum, culturally relevant materials and teaching
practices. Many of them enrolled in teacher education at
HBCUs to study with Black educators who, they believe, will
nurture them and teach them how to teach all children,
especially African Americans.
In addition, the participants' commitment to teaching
is affected by their beliefs about teaching. For instance,
they believe strongly that effective teaching leads to
successful student outcomes. Moreover, they feel a strong
sense of personal responsibility and accountability for
ensuring that students are afforded culturally responsive
learning opportunities. They believe further in their
personal abilities to engage students in learning
activities that would promote school success. They seem
less willing to attribute failure to home and community
influences or lack of student motivation.
Many of these women intend to remain in the teaching
profession, and have expressed their desires to act as
social change agents to promote teaching practices and
develop curriculum that enhance student learning. Career
advancement is important for most of them; thus, leadership
roles and decision making will be necessary factors in
their decisions to stay in teaching.

CHAPTER V
RESULTS
This study was designed to (a) identify and describe
the background characteristics of African American women
who enter preservice teacher education in elementary and
special education teaching and (b) identify and describe
the factors that influence them to do so. First, I
surveyed 112 female African American women matriculating in
teacher education at three historically Black colleges and
universities (HBCUs) to determine their personal and family
characteristics, educational backgrounds, and entry
perspectives on teaching as a profession and long-term
career. The survey results were presented in Chapter IV.
Second, I interviewed six women to identify and
describe the factors that influenced their decisions to
enter preservice teacher education. They each participated
in three, 90-minute interviews conducted in the teacher
education buildings at their universities between November,
1996, and February, 1997. The results of the second phase
of the study are presented in this chapter.
In this portion of the study, an ethnographic design,
drawing on the life history interview, was used to explore
the sociocultural and schooling experiences and beliefs
136

137
i
about teaching that may influence female African Americans'
decisions to enter the field. Fifty-eight percent (N =
112) of the women surveyed agreed to be interviewed.
Subsequently, based on nomination by their professors and
the survey responses regarding major, family structure,
home community type and location, religion, institution,
and mother's education level and occupation, six were
chosen who captured the background and experiential variety
among Black women in teacher education.
The research question that guided data collection in
this phase of the study was, How do African American
women's sociocultural experiences, schooling experiences,
and beliefs about teaching influence their decisions to
enter the profession? This discussion begins with a
description of the participants. Next I discuss themes
that influenced the women's decisions to enter teaching.
Fifteen themes emerged from an intensive analysis of the
interview data (See Table 5.1). Further thematic analysis
suggested that the personal metaphor, teaching is community
mothering, provides an explanation as to how sociocultural
and schooling experiences and beliefs about teaching
influenced the participants' career decision making.
Participant Demographic Descriptions
As indicated earlier, six African American women were
selected to participate in life history interviews covering

138
Table 5.1
Themes
Sociocultural Experiences
Parental & Family Attitudes & Expectations
Fathers are Obscure Influences
Mothers: Controlling, Caring, and Protective
Othermothers and Shared Mothering
Experiences in the Black Church Community
Church Functions
Community Church Women
Teaching Moments
Church Discontinuities
Schooling Experiences and Beliefs About Teaching
Negative Schooling Experiences
White Teachers and Racism
Black Teachers and Poor Teaching
Positive Schooling Experiences
High Expectations for Student Achievement
Strict Discipline, Control, and Student Success
Authentic, Responsive, and Safe Learning
Environments
Caring and Protective Relationships
White Teachers and Mothering
Black Motherhood: Teaching is Community Mothering

139
1
their cultural and educational experiences from
Kindergarten through Grade 12, and their beliefs about
teaching. Table 5.2 depicts background variables used for
participant selection. Of the participants in the study,
two were elementary education majors, three were elementary
education/special education majors, and one was a special
education major. Additional personal and demographic
descriptions of the participants are presented below.
Vernetta
Vernetta, a 23-year old woman and the only wife and
mother in this part of the study, worked several years in
the local paper mill before she enrolled in college. In
fact, both Vernetta and her husband were in school. He was
pursuing a master's degree in mathematics, and she a
bachelor's in elementary education teaching. Vernetta
suggested that although she felt the need to separate
herself from factory work and get into something with "a
little more standing in the community," she had continued
to work because she was a mother and also because her
husband could not be expected to handle work and school.
Thus, Vernetta had assumed full responsibility for caring
for herself and her family emotionally and financially,
although she was enrolled in school full-time and had a
small child. She believed that what she was doing was
common practice for many African American women. Vernetta,

Table 5.2
Demographic Descriptions
Home
Family
Mother's
Mother 1s
Name
Community
Region
Religion
Ma j or
Age
Structure
Level of
Education
Occupation
Vernetta
Rural
South
Baptist
Elementary
23
Maternal
grandmother
&
grandfather
Some High
School
Domestic
Homemaker
Sharon
Rural
Midwest
Baptist
Special
Education
22
Mother only
B. A.
Technician
Maxine
Small Town
South
Muslim
Elementary
/Special
Education
21
Mother &
father
High School
Teacher
Small
Business
Owner
Liz
Suburb
West
Non-
denomination
Elementary
/Special
Education
21
Mother &
maternal
grandmother
Associate
Degree
Psychiatric
Nurse
Keisha
Small Town
South
Methodist
Elementary
/Special
Education
20
Mother &
father
M. Ed.
Teacher
Faye
Urban
Southwest
Baptist
Elementary
21
Mother &
father
Ed. D.
Principal
140

141
abandoned by her mother, grew up in her maternal
grandparents' home, located in a rural community in
southern Mississippi.
Maxine
Maxine's family was the only Muslim family in a small
town in Louisiana. After spending the first 5 years of her
life in California, her father decided to relocate the
family to northern Louisiana to help her grandparents
operate the family business. Her mother worked as a
religion teacher in the Islamic Saturday School. Maxine
grew up with one sister and three brothers, all of whom
were avid readers.
Maxine indicated that her desire for truth and
knowledge was a direct result of the teachings of the
Muslim faith, and she spent most of her free time studying
Islamic laws and teachings in order to ensure the
educational and economic advancement of the African
American community.
Maxine described her mother as a mentor and savior,
and herself as a disciple. A 21-year-old senior with
aspirations to follow in her mother's footsteps, she
credited Marva Collins, famed African American educator and
activist, with shaping her perspectives of good teaching.
Liz
Liz, also 21 years old, grew up in northern
California. She described herself as upper middle class

142
and "very blessed to have grown up in a multicultural
community of well-educated individuals." Having spent her
first 5 years in New York City with both her father and
mother, Liz stated that her life was "rudely interrupted"
when her parents divorced, and she and her mother moved to
be closer to her grandparents. Suggesting that her family
was a "teaching family," Liz indicated that her grandmother
was a teacher of gifted and talented science students; her
grandfather, a civil rights attorney, was a law professor.
Although Liz, at age 8 or 9 had to take care of herself
while her mother attended school and worked, she credits
her maternal grandmother with influencing her to become a
teacher and encouraging her to choose work that would
"better my life and the lives of others."
Fave
Faye was a 21-year-old senior from Nashville. She
grew up in a "family of preachers and teachers." Her
grandfather and father were Baptist preachers, and her
grandmother, mother, and aunts were teachers. Although she
resisted the decision to become a teacher until her junior
year in college, Faye indicated that she always knew that
she was "supposed to become a teacher, too."
African American traditions and beliefs were a very
important aspect of Faye's early socialization. One such
tradition was membership in Black sororities and
fraternities. According to Faye, she planned to become a

143
member of her mother and grandmother's sorority because of
its rich history of service to the African American
community. For Faye, the Black church, school, and clubs
were critical avenues that should be preserved in order to
prepare activists for social change for "voiceless" African
Americans. Faye indicated that she had spent most of her
life "hanging around educators from Fisk University and
Meharry Medical College in Nashville," many of whom were
members of her grandfather's church. Her mother and
grandmother wanted Faye to return to Nashville to teach so
they could oversee her development as a teacher.
Keisha
Keisha was a 20-year-old junior majoring in elementary
education and deaf education. Both her parents and
grandparents were teachers. According to Keisha, she grew
up in a predominately African American college town in
north Louisiana and was "surrounded by teachers. Everyone
on the street was a teacher or in education in some way."
Unlike the other participants, Keisha described many
memories of "playing teacher" with her friends and cousins.
Specifically, Keisha remembered teaching spelling lessons
and having "students" pronounce words written on flash
cards that she had made. She also remembered disciplining
those who failed to complete their assignments or who
talked out of turn. She explained, "We played school. In
a way, it was like we were teachers; we were playing the

144
role and just waiting for the day when we would get our own
classrooms."
In addition, Keisha often helped the teachers in her
neighborhood to grade papers and create bulletin boards.
Also influential in her decision making were her
experiences teaching in the church and observing teachers
function within and outside the church. She commented that
she was more comfortable with many of her African American
teachers because she knew them both personally and
professionally. Her interactions with most of them took
place in the community, at church, in her home, and at
school.
Sharon
Sharon, a 22-year senior majoring in special
education, grew up in rural Nebraska with her mother and
two siblings. Her father, although removed from the family
as a result of divorce, was called on occasionally by the
mother to discipline the children. Sharon's brother was
identified as learning disabled when she was in 2nd grade.
The treatment of her brother and his eventual placement in
special education led Sharon to believe that teachers
directly influence the academic failure or success of their
students.
Prior to entering college, Sharon had never been
taught by an African American woman. In fact, her only
African American teacher during her early schooling was a

145
Baptist minister who "took her to church" and who also
taught her mathematics at the local high school. According
to Sharon, "he knew that we were tired of having just White
teachers, and so he exposed us to the Black culture.
Before we met Mr. Jones, we didn't know anything about
African American universities, and I didn't think about
teaching as something I could do." She stressed that
important to the recruitment of African American women in
teacher education was encouragement from teachers and
academic scholarships, although she bemoaned the use of
"token financial stipends" as a recruitment tool.
Sociocultural Experiences that Influenced the
Decision to Enter Teacher Education
The participants in this study were interviewed
regarding three aspects of their sociocultural experiences
that influenced their decisions to enter teaching:
parental influences, community influences, and the
influences of the Black church.
Parental and Family Attitudes and Expectations
In this section, I discuss the participants'
perceptions of their parents’ attitudes and expectations
about the educational attainment and career choice of their
children. Of particular interest were the perceptions of
education and teaching held by the mothers and other women
in their families and communities, and the relationships of
the participants with their mothers and other women during

146
their early years. Fathers, however, tended to play a
lesser role in the academic and career decision making of
these women.
Fathers: Obscure Influences
All of the women in this study mentioned fathers
and/or grandfathers (three participants' grew up apart from
their natural fathers but indicated the presence of a
maternal grandfather) as visible and important in their
lives, and it was apparent that their fathers and
grandfathers were influential in the home, community, and
church. Less apparent to these women, however, was the
extent to which their fathers or grandfathers had
influenced their decisions to become teachers.
Four of the six participants expressed pride in having
fathers or grandfathers who were college graduates and
professionals, or Baptist preachers and deacons, or a
Muslim minister. However, they were unable to articulate
their fathers' attitudes about education and their career
expectations for them. Each woman provided a similar view
of her father's attitude: Get an education and "do what
ever you are interested in and will make you happy." Only
Maxine articulated with any specificity how her father may
have influenced her: "I look up to my dad. Because he is
a Muslim, he taught me to always ask questions and never be
afraid to disagree." No other comments were offered by
these women about their fathers' influence on their career

147
decisions to become teachers. However, they were able to
depict more clearly the educational attitudes and
expectations of their mothers.
Mothers: Controlling, Caring, and Protective
During the interviews, the participants were asked
about their mothers' attitudes toward education and
expectations for their educational training, and how their
decisions to teach may have been influenced by their
mothers. Keisha remembered that her mother pushed her to
work hard and stressed the importance of education. She
stated:
She was always pushing me. . . . Your work and
education came first, because she knew what I was
capable of. She didn't say go into teaching, but she
really likes the fact I am going into education
because she can relate to it.
Sharon described her mother as a facilitator of her
learning who reinforced what was taught at school. Sharon
further described her mother's attitude toward education in
the following manner:
[Education] was an essential part of our family
life. I can remember being in Kindergarten, and
everything we did at school my mom reinforced at
home at the kitchen table. We got a lot of books.
She'd get old books from work and bring them home to
us.
Sharon went on to explain her mother's expectations for
her educational achievement and her relentless
determination to ensure her children's success in
school:

148
But she was gung-ho. My mom was demanding and had
extremely high expectations. She [once] had a
scholarship in English but, because she got pregnant
with my sister, she had to drop out of school and
work. She worked hard and encouraged us to work hard.
She was not going to settle for anything less than As,
and she didn't care whether the teachers were going to
help you. In her mind, she wasn't going to let
anything or anyone stand in her children's way. She
decided we were going to be educated.
Unlike Keisha's or Sharon's mother, Maxine's mother
played a more significant role in her daughter's decision
to enter teaching. Maxine suggested that her mother not
only shaped her thinking about teaching, but also chose
education as her field of study.
My mother taught Saturday school, and she was very
articulate and very opinionated. She was very
serious about education. We were required to read,
and there was no TV. On the weekends, we attended
school to learn Islamic and were told to do more
than was expected and to strive for high
achievement. Teaching did not interest me. I
thought I would make money instead. But my mother
wanted me to go into special education. She told me
it was the field of study I had to go into. My
mother molded me and my thinking, and eventually she
chose my major.
For Faye, her mother's control over her education
and career decisions also was evident. According to Faye,
her mother insisted that Faye become a teacher despite
Faye's interest in another field. Faye's description was
reminiscent of Collins'(1991) discussion of the dilemma of
African American women who are called upon to assume roles
in the community and family when perhaps they would rather
have independence and distance from the community. She
said:

149
My mom was very aggressive. She was from Little
Rock and the daughter of a Baptist preacher. My
grandmother, my mother, and all my aunts are
teachers. They were strict and always in church.
As far as, ah (she hesitated) my mom's kind of
controlling. I did not want to go into teaching
because everybody was a teacher. I considered
going to cosmetology school and moving a good
distance from home. My mom almost had a fit. I
guess she would have let me go; I didn't risk
asking. I have to do what she says. My mama has the
final say.
The participants perceived their mothers to be
demanding and to hold extremely high expectations for their
academic success. They also perceived their mothers as
aggressive and controlling. Nonetheless, all of the women
also saw their mothers as protective. Many conceded that
their mothers' attitudes and relationships with them were
necessary to ensure their eventual self-reliance and
independence. Maxine said:
My mother pushed me to excel in education because she
understood that education was for my protection. I
was taught that education shields you from hurt and
harm. She just wanted me to use my education in ways
that would help me and my family, church, and
community.
Sharon agreed that her "mom raised me to know that some
people were not going to treat you right. Only you can
make sure you are treated right." Keisha attributed her
success and confidence to "my pushy mother who knew I was
capable of doing well in life; she made me feel proud of
me. "
These women reconciled their mother's controlling and
protective relationships with them as symbolic of

150
their mothers' caring and abiding commitment to their
survival in often cruel and hostile environments. Liz
stated:
My mom and me are best friends now. . . Growing
up, she was tough on me and told me I had to be
twice as good as the rest of them. There was no
other choice if I was to be competitive in the
world. Then she pressed me to do something with my
life to help the rest of my people. I was charged
with my own survival at about age 8 or 9, and I
guess I feel compelled to take care of others. I
knew when I was in the 4th or 5 th grade that I
would someday want to defend children's rights.
Faye concurred:
She [her mother] was always on your back—do this
and do that. I thought that she was mean and not
fair. I couldn't become what I wanted. I couldn't
go where I wanted. Now when I look back, I often
tell her I really appreciate the way she raised me
because I understand that she was that way so I
would learn how to stand up for myself.
Although these women suggested that their mothers were
controlling, aggressive, and opinionated, they nonetheless,
accepted the relationships they had with their mothers as
necessary training for independence and self-preservation.
They credited their mothers with shaping their views of the
world beyond and within their community. Their mothers
also taught them about their responsibilities as educated
African American women to themselves, their family, and the
community. There were, however, instances when some
participants were guided and influenced by women other than
their birth mothers.

151
Othermothers and Shared Mothering
In addition to providing information regarding their
mothers' expectations for their education and influence on
their career decisions, participants were asked to identify
other members of their family who may have been influential
in their career choice. All of the participants mentioned
at least one other female in their family as being
extremely important in their lives and upbringing. The
women recounted examples of strong relationships with
grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and close family friends,
often describing in detail mother images and shared
mothering. The vivid accounts of other women in many of
the participants' lives often mirrored the attitudes and
expectations of their biological mothers. Faye explained:
In my family, everybody can be your mother. My
grandmother and all my aunts boss me around. . . .
They tell me Faye you should do this, and Faye
you ought to do what we do. And my mom will
say, "Yeah, they are telling you the truth." It's
hard for me not to think of them as having an
influence on my decision because, in a sense, they
are my othermothers.
Keisha's statements provided additional support for
the concept of othermothers within the family and
community, and the belief that women, other than
birthmothers, were responsible for and accountable to the
community's children. In addition, African American
children grow up with the expectation that in this
community of mothers, there will always be someone,

152
although not necessarily their birthmother, responsible for
mothering them. Keisha recalled:
All the women in my family took care of each other's
kids, and they could discipline us if they saw the
need. They didn't have to ask my mother because it
was understood that who you were with at that time was
your mother. It was no doubt that she was responsible
for your well-being. You loved and respected her like
you would your own mother. She did the same things
your mother would have done.
Community-based child care and the relationships among
birthmothers and othermothers may extend beyond support for
children to helping birthmothers who, for whatever reason,
lack the time or desire for mothering (Collins, 1991).
Collins asserted that in some instances, othermothers may
have greater influence than birthmothers on African
American women's decisions. Liz's story illustrated how
the othermother may exert power and influence on someone
else's birthdaughter.
At age 5 and following her parents' divorce, Liz and
her mother moved from New York to California to live with
her maternal grandparents. For several years after
relocating, Liz's mother spent many hours outside the home,
first returning to school to earn a bachelor's degree in
psychiatric nursing and then working 12-hour shifts in a
mental hospital to support herself and Liz. Consequently,
Liz turned to her maternal grandmother (Nana) for emotional
support and mothering because her father was no longer in
her life and her mom was busy attending school and working.
Liz explained:

153
I turned to Nana because my father and my father's
family were not in my life anymore and my mom
needed a break. . . . Nana was warm and loving and
spoiled me rotten and gave me everything I wanted.
I would talk to her for hours about her clubs and
school. There wasn't anything that I couldn't get
from my Nana.
When asked to what extent her grandmother may have
influenced her decision to become a teacher, Liz stated:
My mom wanted me to become a lawyer and practice
family law to help my people; she even sent me
to this university to learn how to help my people and
don't get me wrong, I love my mom to death, and
being a lawyer is a good thing . . . but my
grandmother is my influence. She is a teacher at the
science magnet school, and I see how she worries about
those kids and how much they love her. She gets
respect.. . .My grandmother and I are so close that
she's really just like my mother, and I wanted to be a
teacher just like my Nana.
Othermothers may assume full mothering
responsibilities, especially when biological mothers are
incapable of motherhood or when the survival of African
American children is threatened (Collins, 1991). No other
participant's childhood revelations demonstrated so
profoundly the importance attached to othermothers in the
lives of African American children as did Vernetta's
account of growing up in Mississippi with a mother who was
incapable of taking care of her and her siblings and of the
grandmother who took her mother's place. Vernetta stated:
My mother was not there for me. She didn't do
anything for us kids, except have us. Oh, I knew who
my birthmother was, my grandmother made sure we
honored and respected her as our mother, but she was
just incapable of being our mother. She didn't
know anything, and she couldn't teach us anything.

154
She was pitiful, and I and my siblings all would
have been pitiful too if my grandmother had not taken
care of us.
Nonetheless, Vernetta's grandmother and a host of
aunts were there to care for and mother these abandoned
children. Vernetta dismissed her bloodmother's
inadequate mothering as nothing more than behavior
to be scorned and pitied. For Vernetta, her
grandmother deserved the commendation for being
an othermother, a selfless woman willing to share
childrearing with the birthmother.
My grandmother was always there for us. It was my
grandmother who raised me, and if it had not been for
her, I would not have survived. This is
Mississippi, and we were poor, but it didn't matter
because my grandmother, and my grandfather he was
there too, saw to it that I got what I needed. It was
my grandmother who brought us clothes from the white
ladies she worked for and made sure we were always
clean and well-fed. It was my grandmother who made me
go to church every Sunday. She could not help me with
my lesson, but my aunts who were in college helped us
with that stuff. I think of her as my mother. I
don't even call her Grandmother; I call her Mama. The
answer to your question about influence, all I can say
is that anything I am now or will be someday, it's
because of my grandmother.
Finally, othermothers fulfill their mothering role
simply by stressing the importance of acquiring the kind of
education, formal and informal, to ensure the survival of
themselves, their family, and the community. Faye, for
example, offered that she was "planning to pledge 'the
sorority' in the fall because those sisters are about
service." Maxine suggested that, although she wanted to
teach in the inner city, she might have to go back to her

155
hometown and work because her grandmother had given her
instructions before leaving for college. Maxine stated:
I know that my grandmother wanted an education so
badly, and she told me horrid stories about
Black girls in the 30s and 40s and the things
that prevented us from getting an education.
She said to me, "Maxine, I really want you to get a
good education and come back here and help your
family and teach the children right here."
Finally, fictive kin, such as the best friend of
Faye's mother "who was always acting like my mama," and
community women outside the family may assume an
othermothers' role and hold themselves personally
accountable for the well-being of the community's children.
Sharon's comments gave strength to this view:
There was one old woman in the neighborhood who
didn't have any children of her own, but who always
wanted to know your business — how you were getting
along at home, did you have enough to eat, did you
like your teachers, did your teachers like you, and
what kind of grades you got. She just wanted to be
mama to everybody, and everybody, even the grownups
called her Grandma, but she was nobody's real
mother or grandmother.
Faye's final remarks best summarized the idea of
othermothers' responsibility and community-based
childrearing:
Basically, my neighbors always looked out for the
kids in the community. We were taught to always
look out for each other because that's how most of us
get where we are; somebody who has gotten there, or
who knows how to get there, has to teach the rest of
us; it is expected.
Experiences in the Black Church Community
The centrality of the Black church in the
sociocultural experiences of these African American women

156
is the focus of this section. Through their accounts, with
the exception of Liz who chose not to discuss religion or
the church, five participants revealed that for them, the
church, community, and school were inextricably related.
Sharon found the church to be very supportive of
education. She stated: "They honored academic
achievements." The participants further suggested that
their observations of teachers in church and community
functions and their experiences as church women and church
school teachers were influencing factors on their decisions
to become teachers. Faye asserted that "we were always in
church," performing what Keisha referred to as "little
family functions."
Church Functions
Five of the participants indicated that they attended
church regularly and on many occasions observed teachers,
especially women teachers, at church, at school, and in
their local community. Sharon stated:
We had a lot of big whigs in our church and so
you would see them in the school on Monday. The
same people you saw in the school system you would
see next door or down the street. You couldn't
slip up because when you got back to church, they
would say, "You know I saw your daughter at such and
such place, or your daughter is not doing her
school work. . . ." So I would say they were very
influential.
Keisha added:
Most of the teachers knew my parents or relatives.
Most of my teachers would come to the house; they
would relax. I actually saw all of my teachers at
church or at the supermarket. Between 8 and 3,

157
they were Mrs. So-n-So. After 3, I could call them
by a nickname or whatever. On holidays, or some
other event, everybody got together, usually at the
church, and I would see women teachers volunteering
and serving others.
Sharon explained how the "Reverend Mr. Jones" was one
of her best and most influential teachers during her high
school freshman year:
We visited his church often, and so we saw him in
the community and in the school. He was able to
bring what was going on outside of class into the
class because he preached about community
awareness and problems with the education system.
He was our friend. We respected him as our preacher;
he was our teacher. He was an example for us.
The church functions experienced by the participants
were not only opportunities to watch how teachers
functioned in the church, but also to develop their own
skills as orators and strong, assertive leaders by
participating in various church programs. As Faye stated:
I always went to Sunday school, and I knew
everybody who was a teacher. There were a lot of
people in my church who were educators including
principals and college professors from Meharry
Medical School. We would watch all of the people
discuss important issues, and they were very active
and forceful in the community. But, they also had
us up saying speeches in the Easter program,
Christmas plays, and Black History Month
activities. I was so active in church, and I
believe that having those opportunities to work
with teachers and leaders helped me with
socializing and talking in general. They taught me
how to respond with an active voice for those who
were voiceless. They were training us to take
charge when the time came.
Community Churchwomen
Many churchwomen, who were also school teachers, have
been observed by these participants as strong leaders in

158
the church and community. The participants reported seeing
teachers volunteer their services as Sunday School
teachers, Education Department Directors, Youth Directors,
welcoming committee members, announcement clerks,
stewardesses, and deaconesses. Keisha noted that
volunteerism was high among teachers in the church and that
"the teachers assumed an active role in the church and were
viewed as very powerful." Faye explained how teachers in
her grandfather's church were strong forces in the Women's
Department, often dictating the financial and spiritual
activities of the church from "the pulpit to the backdoor."
It was clear to the participants that teachers are a symbol
of status and prestige in the Black church because,
although they do not earn high salaries, what they do is
important to the community and school and subsequently, a
pathway to recognition and status in the community.
It was interesting to note that the participants’
observations of their mothers, othermothers, and community
churchwomen teaching, promoting, and uplifting the African
American community shaped their understandings about how
African American women, particularly teachers, gain power
and voice. Through observing Black women in mothering
roles and assuming responsibilities for the survival of the
African American culture, church, community, and education,
it soon became apparent to the participants that an
important aspect of Black mothering is teaching other

159
African Americans the traditions of survival, self-
reliance, and independence. Also attached to these roles
in the church, community, and school was status and power.
As these women who have decided to enter teaching observed
African American women giving to and teaching the African
American community, primarily children, and then gaining
honor, prestige, and voice in and for the community, they
came to believe that teaching is important and necessary,
and that a consequence of good teaching is power. The
participants believed that teachers were central to the
African American group and cultural survival, independence,
and self-reliance.
Teaching Moments
Observing churchwomen, particularly teachers, in their
various roles was one means of transmitting a cultural
expectation of responsibility and leadership to these
African American females. Another more powerful approach
was through "teaching moments." All but one of the
participants agreed that the Black church provided numerous
opportunities for them to teach and take on leadership
responsibilities. They believed that such experiences
influenced their decisions to become school teachers.
As churchwomen, they learned how to teach other
African Americans and how to foster community awareness and
social change. Keisha, for instance, moved her membership
from the "Baptist to Methodist church" because "the

160
children there have a say in what happens in the church,
and you are put in leadership roles very early." She
indicated that over the years she progressed from Sunday
School secretary to class teacher to Director of Vacation
Bible School. After a successful tenure in these roles,
Keisha served as the Youth Church Director. She stated
that for her, the Black church "played a big role in my
decision. They gave me the opportunity to teach." Sharon
equated working in the church with a career in teaching.
She asserted:
I know that just like the preacher and all the
church workers, I am not going to get a lot of
money teaching school, but I am trying to help
people in the community. I am doing my part in
the community by trying to help the people's kids.
For Maxine, even though she felt the loss of community
because of her non-Christian background, she concurred with
the others that the church can be "very motivational" in
preparing Black women for community leadership and teaching
by allowing them opportunities to teach. She indicated
that she "jumps at the chance to teach" but recognizes that
her disconnectedness from the community may deter her
desire to return to her home after completing teacher
education.
Church Discontinuities
Noteworthy is the sense of loss an African American
woman might experience when her church, community, and
school are not interrelated. Although at least four of the

161
participants experienced a connectedness between their
church, community, and school and saw direct implications
for their career decisions, Maxine felt isolated from the
larger African American community because of her religion.
According to Maxine, she was "emotionally and functionally
ousted" from the community as she attempted to function in
it without connecting to the Black church. She said:
We were the only Muslim family in our community, and
our community was very small and everybody knew
each other. Since we were not Christians, we were
truly different in the community in which we lived.
She continued:
I did not attend church with anyone from my school
or neighborhood, I did not know any teachers who
lived in my neighborhood. Kids up the street in
Hillcrest knew the teachers who lived in their
community. It was taken for granted that everyone
was a Christian, and everything centered around
their church. You know the sad part is that
although I am a Muslim, I am also an African
American woman. I don't want to go back there to
teach. There is no room for me to grow.
Maxine, despite her membership in the African American
community, felt disconnected from the community because she
was not a part of the traditional Black church family.
Earlier, Keisha explained that the Black church family
could always be found at the Black community church
involved in "a game, or social, or a little family
function." The "family" could also be found at the church
"organizing so they could help the community." Faye stated
that the Black church was the place "where you learned
about education, politics, and social change."

162
Thus, Maxine wondered if her teachings as a Muslim to
"promote the common good of your community and impart
knowledge and truth" would be invalidated by a community
not ready to accept views outside the traditional Black
church. To what extent her lack of connectedness with the
Black church would interfere with her ability to "be a
voice for Black children" was a disturbing issue for this
young, bright aspiring teacher: "It's true, I am a Muslim,
but I am also an African American woman with the same
determination to elevate my people. My church teachings
motivated me to be that way."
Schooling Experiences and Beliefs about Teaching
The following section presents descriptions of the
early schooling experiences of the women interviewed in the
study. This section begins with details of their negative
schooling experiences because of their significant
influences on the participants' decision making and
commitment to teaching. Presented next are narratives of
positive experiences as students. In the last sections, I
discuss themes regarding the participants' perspectives of
good teaching and the influences of those images and
experiences on their decisions to enter teacher education.
Negative Schooling Experiences
Two themes emerged to explain the negative experiences
described by the participants: (a) White teachers and
racism and (b) African American teachers and poor teaching.

163
White teachers and racism. Many of the participants
were aware of problems students encounter in schools,
especially African American students. Maxine, for example,
expressed her concern that children were being "trained for
prisons" and were too passive in learning situations. She
argued: "They are not willing to ask questions or offer
answers." However, Maxine suspected that students'
inactivism in school and dislike for many of their teachers
were reactions to teaching styles that were boring,
disengaging, and non-demanding. Keisha complained that her
12th grade History teacher "couldn't teach, and he didn't
care that he could not teach. He barely knew his students'
names." Maxine found that some of her teachers often
failed to stimulate learning or relate to students'
everyday situations. She complained:
I was so bored, I lost focus in school. But I knew
that I couldn't drop out. Most of the students did
not like or respect the teachers. They would
curse 'em out and walk out of the class. But the
teachers always fail to recognize that for most of the
students, they could not see past Cullen, LA. First,
the perceptions of themselves hindered their
motivation and potential, and then their teachers, who
did not expect much for them or from them, also served
to stifle their growth academically and emotionally.
Kids my age realized the importance of education,
eventually, but the resources were not there, or they
didn't have someone to push them. My teachers had low
and often negative expectations about our success in
the class and out [of] the class. Many of them
thought we weren't going to be anything in life.
They saw teaching as a job they had to do to earn a
living.

164
In addition, the participants recalled examples of
what they considered to be negative experiences that shaped
their beliefs and attitudes about teachers and teaching,
and consequently may have influenced them to enter the
profession. Maxine chose teaching "if to do nothing other
than change the system and ensure that I am a voice for the
kids. "
Furthermore, the participants described what they
referred to as a "plague" of racism and sexism in the
schools they attended. They discussed debilitating
experiences many African Americans, especially women,
continue to endure in school. Maxine stressed that even in
the face of excellence, there are instances when African
American students are not rewarded, especially if it means
that White males might be overlooked or denied recognition.
To support this conclusion, Maxine offered as an example
her sister's graduation experience, which affected her
entire family. Although she qualified, her sister was not
named Valedictorian or Salutatorian and was not awarded a
scholarship to the university of her choice. This Muslim
family viewed the experience as designed to "keep them in
their place." Maxine stated bitterly:
My sister graduated in 1995 with a 4.0 GPA and 30
on the ACT, but she was not chosen as Valedictorian
or Salutatorian. That goes to show me and my
parents the type of environment we still live in.
We are plagued by racism and to some extent sexism.
It showed us they didn't want her to be higher than

165
a male Caucasian. The White male Valedictorian even
told her, "They're not going to let a Black girl be
Valedictorian over me."
She went on to say:
He was nice about it, but it affected her ability
to get into the college of her choice and her
entire college life. She decided to come to "the
Black University" where she would not have to
endure such treatment. Here, if your work hard,
you'll succeed. In the White world, if your work
hard, you might succeed if they let you. It can be
frustrating.
The participants further suggested that racism and
sexism are not always institutional. According to the
participants, teachers can exhibit subtle forms of
prejudice that may have devastating effects on students'
self-esteem and achievement in school. Sharon observed
that some students simply "shut down and become
disruptive." She suggested: "My 2nd grade teacher just
didn't like Black students, and I sensed that she didn't
care for me at all." When asked to give an example of the
teacher's behavior, Sharon explained:
Well, when I would work on an assignment or play a
game, I would notice her facial expressions and her
body language. She would stare at me, and she
often would never call on me even though I would
raise my hand. If anything went wrong in the
class, she blamed me. I never got stars for my
work, even when I did something extra well. Once,
I got sick, and she refused to let me go to the
nurse's office. She said I had been too loud and
that if I had not been laughing and giggling, I
probably would not have gotten sick. I was only 7
or 8 years old. Wasn't I suppose to laugh in class
sometimes? She would yell at us constantly.
She was then asked how her teacher's attitude toward her
made her feel. She replied:

166
I did not like her either, and I didn't let it hurt
me. But I could see how it affected the other
students. They would all say that since the teacher
did not like them, they were not going to even try to
do her work. She finally got to my brother, and he
failed and ended up in special education.
Although Vernetta experienced similar attitudes
with some of her White teachers, she believed that it
was a "natural" response because the teachers had not
"experienced" Black culture and Black people.
Therefore, they could not relate to African American
students. She commented:
She was emotional and yelled a lot. She did not
know how to relate to Black students. She took
a natural disliking to us. . . .We would work
so hard in spite of her nasty personality and
finally chalked it up to the fact that she could
not teach us because she was middle class, and
was intimidated by us just because we were Black.
She acted like she was scared of us, especially
the big boys. We are thinking, "We are students
and we are not going to hurt you." I don't
think she'd even been around Blacks before.
Faye explained that once she realized that her teacher
did not care for Black people or was scared of them, she
lost interest in her Trigonometry class. She stated:
At first I did a good job in the class, and then I
started doing poorly. I thought it was me.
But, I soon realized that it was the teacher's
attitude toward the students. I loved Math, but I
didn't like this class. I mean she actually turned
my love for Math short; I had no motivation for
that class or Math after being in her class. She
would not help us. She knew all this information.
But she would not help you. My mother said that the
teacher had no personality. She told me to stay
positive and just get through the class. But
deep down I wondered if she even liked Black people.
Liz, however, who had few African American teachers

167
during her early schooling in California, stated that she
was "blessed" to have good teachers and go to school with
"a lot of different ethnic groups." Liz did not consider
poor teacher-student interactions as necessarily negative.
Rather, she viewed poor teachers as "sometimes being a very
good thing, because you learn so much about how you will
not relate to kids when you are a teacher."
Black teachers and poor teaching. Although most of
the women in the study shared stories of racism and sexism,
they all concurred that for them, worse than any form of
racial prejudice in schools were African American teachers
who did not teach them effectively. Each woman was adamant
about her resentment toward "African American teachers who
think they are doing us a favor by giving us grades."
Sharon suggested that she might understand if a "White
teacher did not care for me or whether I learned," but "how
can you accept that from someone who should know better?"
Vernetta, for example, encountered a male African
American math teacher whom she considered to be "totally
ineffective." She described him as "lazy, unprepared, and
too personal." Although they were members of the same
church and lived in the same community, Vernetta found him
to be "mathematically inept" and to provide few
explanations or opportunities for practice. She and the
other students finally concluded that "he did not know how

168
to work the problems." Moreover, this teacher spent many-
class periods discussing the students' personal home lives.
One incident, particularly painful for Vernetta,
occurred in her junior year. She recalled with vivid anger
the day the male teacher walked in to the classroom and
blurted:
"Hey, Vernetta, is it true that your Mama is having
another baby and she doesn't know who the daddy is?
I can see how you must feel. We can talk about it
after class." I thought that he was either joking
or just plain crazy.
Vernetta stated further that on that day she wished
she did not have one single African American teacher from
her community. Vernetta became so frustrated with the
class and "not learning any math, which I've loved since
third grade," that she turned to her sophomore teacher,
whom she described as "a White teacher who was very smart
in math, and knew how to break it down." Meanwhile,
Vernetta secured the support of her fellow classmates, "who
also were mad at him for insulting us this way," to make a
formal complaint to the principal to dismiss this African
American teacher. To her dismay, he was not terminated
"because he had been there 25 years." To her surprise,
however, she and her Black classmates:
Got a talkin' to by another African American female
teacher who told us that we did not know when we had a
good thing and now Mr. Thomas was going to have to
start teaching us. Well, [expletive], isn't that what
he was supposed to have been doing all along? I was
so angry and hurt, I cried that day. And I wished I
wasn't in Mississippi.

169
Faye was also bothered when African American teachers
become too personal and "can't separate the community
from school."
Mrs. Smith had attended college with my mom and felt
like I was her daughter. She called me into the
counselor's office one day and demanded that I tell
her who I was dating. She became really too personal
about sexuality and even promised not to tell my
mom if I would tell her the truth. I thought this is
a bit overboard.
In another incident, Faye recalled feeling uncomfortable
with an African American teacher who became too
personal in the class and who did not seem to consider
how her attitude would hurt students. She stated:
I remember Mrs. Pickney, an English teacher. She was
pretty and she dressed very nicely, but she just could
not separate school from home. In the beginning I
wanted to be in her class because I thought it would
be nice to have an African American teacher. But by
the end of year, I regretted that choice. This
teacher teased kids about their clothes and abilities.
One day, after making fun of Veronica about her
obesity, I saw her in another light. She was nothing
nice at all. But the funny thing is she called me out
in the hallway and talked to me about being a leader
and a follower. I just looked at her; she was
insulting and to me she did not represent anything
good about community teachers. She was the worst of
what the community had to offer. She was not there to
motivate us or help us learn. I believe that she was
there to make sure we didn't learn a thing.
Although the participants reported stories of negative
interactions and relationships with some of their teachers,
White and Black alike, they also recalled many moments of
good teaching and long-lasting relationships with positive
teachers. Descriptions of their images and observations of
good teachers are provided in the following section.

170
Positive Schooling Experiences
All of the participants in the study recalled episodes
of good teachers and good teaching. They described in
vivid detail methods used by the teachers to establish
positive, interactive relationships while maintaining high
expectations for their academic performance and
achievement. From the analysis of their responses, five
themes emerged that connote their ideas and beliefs about
good teaching. It was interesting to note that the
descriptions provided in the interview mirrored their
images about good mothers and good mothering.
High Expectations for Student Achievement
All of the participants in the study believed that
teachers have explicit influence on student outcomes and
achievement. Sharon stated:
I'd say teachers have a strong influence on how a
child is going to learn in the classroom. They
influence whether they [the students] are going
to be outgoing or don't care about learning at all.
Teachers determine how the students are going to
learn. Students catch glimpses of the teachers
they want to imitate.
Furthermore, they all believed that good teachers are
demanding and hold high expectations for appropriate
behavior and achievement in school. Maxine asserted:
It does matter about expectations. If you have
low expectations for the students, then their
achievement level will be low. But if you have
high expectations for them, then I think that will
show in their work.

171
The participants who were special education majors
believed that teachers' low expectations for certain
student "stereotypes" hindered their ability to teach these
students effectively and resulted often in poor student
achievement and special education placement for many of
them, especially African Americans. Sharon commented:
I noticed when I was in elementary school that
a lot of kids who should have been in regular
education classes were in special education. But
if you were one of the kids stereotyped, one who
cut up and kept people from learning, teachers
would tire of you and refer you to other classes,
usually special education. However, a lot of times
kids didn't do well in school because the teachers
just did not know how to deal with them. They didn't
have much hope for big, low income students; kids
would try to fit in, but the teachers were not going
to try. It was just easier to put them out of the
class.
Maxine further suggested that teachers must hold
high expectations for their students even when they may
have failed in other learning environments. She discussed
her excitement when reading the book, The Marva Collins
Wav, the story of the acclaimed Chicago-based African
American teacher/activist recognized for success with inner
city, at-risk minority students. According to Maxine:
We were required to read the book, and I found
that her expectations and methods were very
inspirational because she had students in her
classroom that were labeled mentally retarded.
She was told that they were not able to learn.
But she [Marva Collins] didn't let that stigmatize
the way she taught them, and she had great
expectations for them. In the end, one girl in
particular, ended up graduating from college
summa cum laude. That's the kind of teacher that
I want to be. I mean that I want them to come
to my classroom as special education students, but

172
I don't want them to leave as special education
students. Just as Marva Collins taught, I want to
teach them from an African American perspective--
very demanding but very lovingly.
It was important for these participants that teachers
remained positive and persistent in their relationships
with them and approached teaching with a high level of
confidence that their students would, with good teaching
and caring, attain high levels of achievement. Faye
stated:
Mrs. Barber found something positive about every
student and she was going to bring it out of you
and let you utilize your talent. She did not harp
on your weaknesses. She encouraged me to do better.
Moreover, teachers believed in the participants and
encouraged them to believe in themselves and to be
responsible for their own learning. Sharon described her
6th grade teacher whom she "loved to death." When asked
why, she responded:
She really wanted us to learn. She was excited
about teaching, about education, and she would
not let students get away with failing. I don't
know how to describe it. Our role in the class
was just as important as hers; she made us
responsible for learning, too.
Finally, these participants believed that good
teachers know how to communicate to their students
effectively and relate to them positively. Keisha stated
that her teachers "talked to you in a positive, sociable
way; they knew how to communicate what they expected from
you. They could get on your level."
Liz agreed:

173
Mrs. Ramsey was an excellent teacher because she
demanded a lot from her students and always
communicated those demands in positive ways. It's
important for kids to always know where you stand and
where they stand. The teacher has to do this.
Strict Discipline. Control, and Student Success
The participants believed that good teachers are
strong disciplinarians and maintain classroom control.
When asked to discuss their teachers' attitudes about
school achievement, the majority of the participants
described their most influential teachers as having
extremely high expectations for their success while also
depicting these teachers as "strict," "mean," and "in
control."
Much like their images of their mothers as controlling
and caring, they also viewed good teachers as those who
were able to maintain control, yet demonstrate care and
protect the students' self-image and worth. Maxine
cautioned that many teachers don't realize the "power they
have to make or break a student. The trick is knowing just
how far to stretch the student without breaking her." The
participants suggested that although their mothers were
demanding and controlling, they exhibited these behaviors
because they loved their daughters and were responsible for
ensuring their independence and self-reliance. Equally
true, according to the participants, was that good teachers

174
are demanding and controlling because they care about their
students and are responsible for ensuring their success in
school.
Several participants discussed the discipline
practices of their teachers. Faye, for example, explained
how her mother and teacher "handled" her "talking problem
in the 2nd grade." Faye asserted:
I had a talking problem when I was in 2nd grade.
I talked a lot in class. Mrs. Hull lived down the
street from me, and she called my mother who also
was a teacher. Well, my mother came to the school
and told the teacher to whip my behind. After a
paddling at school, and then at home, I learned.
I am glad that I was disciplined, and I learned.
Faye added:
One time I was upset and felt like the teacher was
picking on me all the time. I told her that she
wasn't fair. She said that she was on my case so
much because she loved me, and knew that I knew
how to behave in class. After that, I straightened
up; I did better. She was mean and a
disciplinarian like my mother. She was a good
teacher. She taught us how to use good grammar,
and spanked our butts if we didn't use it
correctly.
Thus, it was clear that the participants believed that
high academic achievement for students, particularly
African Americans, was related in large part to the
teacher's ability to control the classroom and student.
All of the participants agreed that good teachers
demonstrate caring if they are "strict" about student
learning. However, they concurred also that "strict" did
not necessarily refer to physical forms of discipline and
certainly did not imply verbal insults or student

175
devaluation. Keisha indicated that the "right tilt of the
head," "look in the eye," or "hand on the hip" was often
sufficient to communicate to most African American children
that "this teacher means business."
Authentic. Responsive, and Safe Learning Environments
All of the participants discussed the educational
aspirations of many African American students. According
to their responses, most Black students enter school with
high aspirations for achievement; nonetheless, most quit
and give up if forced to participate in irrelevant,
mediocre learning experiences. African American students
require learning environments that are authentic,
stimulating, encouraging, and rewarding. Keisha stated:
Because you are good at a subject doesn't mean
you can teach it. My geometry teacher, for
example, just couldn't teach it or relate it to
the world. If you didn't get the correct answer,
you were wrong.
Vernetta regretted most having teachers who did not
teach her or who did not know how to teach her. According
to her, it "was very insulting to you as an African
American and even as a woman. What were they saying? Were
they saying that you were too stupid to learn?" Thus, one
reason for calling on another teacher when her geometry
teacher failed to meet her expectations for learning was
simply because she wanted to learn and believed that she
should not have to endure incompetent, uncaring teachers.

176
The participants experienced a variety of classrooms.
In some classrooms, they felt safe to participate in class
activities without the fear of humiliation and
embarrassment. Faye recalled that her negative experiences
involved "teachers who cut you off or looked at you like
you were crazy if you said that you didn't understand
something." Keisha, however, stressed the positive effects
of class participation and student involvement encouraged
by some of her teachers. She was particularly pleased when
teachers could relate the lessons to "real-life stuff."
She offered:
We thought the teachers knew everything. We
thought they were the smartest people in the
world. Their teaching styles included lots of
student participation, and they didn't just
lecture; they kind of got you involved. Sometimes
you could teach the class, and instead of giving
you answers, they showed you how to find the
answers. I loved role reversal and student/teacher
interactions. You could relax.
When asked to comment further on the importance of teaching
styles, Keisha explained:
The way you teach should depend on the type of
student you are teaching. I think it's a good
thing for teachers to use different styles. You
can not teach all students the same way and expect
them to all learn. A good teacher knows not to
let anyone feel left out.
A safe learning environment was especially crucial to
Sharon's academic success:
Rather than teaching down to us, she was learning
with us. You could say your opinion and even if
it was not the opinion of anyone else in the
classroom, it was considered important.

177
Finally, the participants discussed the importance of
authentic learning aimed at preparing them for independence
and success later in life. One common goal for these women
was to develop proficiency in standard English and oration
skills, and they commended teachers who taught them how to
"speak correctly." Faye stated:
She really stressed the importance of going to
class and learning as much as possible. She would
give us big words and teach us how to speak
properly. We would read books that had been
banned, with our parents' permission, and then
she would have us write college level research
papers. She was a teacher. I consider her a role
model and will teach this way once I become a
teacher.
Maxine praised her senior English instructor for
teaching her how to write with a purpose:
My mother taught me grammar skills; my teacher
showed me how to use them to reason and persuade.
I know how to use words to convince others to do
what I want them to do. It is very powerful.
Keisha added:
My English and math teachers were good teachers. I
liked to write and my English teacher would always
have us working on essays. Class participation
was encouraged, and she always taught us using a
lot of different procedures to make sure we got
the material.
Lastly, some of the participants believe that their
good teachers were like their mothers who cared about them
and their learning. Liz contended:
Teaching is not about grades all the time; teaching
is about what you learn. Mrs. Albright wanted you
to be quick. She was concerned about you learning
everything. Your survival might be the difference
between knowing and not knowing.

178
Finally, Liz compared good teaching to mothering:
Mrs. Belette was wonderful. She was like a mother
to me. She was hard; she was mean at times. But
she didn't let you slip at all. She cared and
wanted to know why you were slipping.
Carina and Protective Relationships
The participants agreed that good teaching also was
about caring for and protecting students. Mothers, and in
many cases community mothers, have power and control over
their children, but mothers also must protect their
children from destruction. In much the same way, according
to these participants, teachers have power over their
students, but they must also nurture and protect them from
academic failure.
When asked to describe caring teachers, the
participants offered these examples. Sharon believed that
caring teachers were "genuine, treated you like a family
member, and went into her pockets to help kids out." Faye
stated:
Mrs. Smothering (Faye suggested this name) went out
of her way to teach us. She gave her students her
phone number to call if they didn't understand
something. She made sure we had a notebook to
carry with us. She was the most personable
teacher I have ever known and would do anything to
make sure her students achieved. She followed us
throughout high school, and many of us still get
together with her for reunions. I am also going
to pattern my teaching after Mrs. Smothering.
She meant business; however, if you had a problem you
could go to her. We visited her at her house. You
could tell that she cared about each and every one of
her students. She asked about our backgrounds to get
a better sense of who we were and what our needs were.

179
For Maxine, caring teachers were inspirational and
used teaching methods that motivated the student and
resulted in high academic achievement. Just as she
described her mother as "molding my thinking," she
described Marva Collins as "molding my teaching." Maxine
stated that Marva Collins cared about her students and used
teaching techniques that enhanced their success in the
classroom. Maxine suggested that she was going to use an
Afrocentric approach to teaching when working with African
American children to promote self-esteem and pride in
learning.
When Keisha was asked about good teaching, she
expressed beliefs all the participants shared:
A good teacher is one who is understanding, caring,
strong, empathetic, patient, interactive,
and sociable. Her teaching style has to be
demanding and encouraging. She has to know how
to teach, especially to kids who are different;
she needs to know how to get the information
across to every student. For example, my teacher
knew how to teach us. She got the information
across by using different approaches that drew us
in. After a while, we wanted to learn. Teachers
must expect no less from their students than
they would of their own children. They must take
charge of the teaching situation, but also
demonstrate caring.
Thus, the qualities and relationships described as
good mothering were cited again by the participants to
describe good teaching. Many of them tended to believe
that individuals who learn good mothering, and are taught
to assume mothering roles, will likely engage in good
teaching. Their beliefs that they "are doing their part"

180
when they selected teaching as a career stem from what Liz
referred to as her "mothering instincts coming from my
mother and grandmother who taught me that I have to take
care of somebody."
White Teachers and Mothering
Serendipity refers to the occurrence of valuable but
unexpected findings. I have included a separate discussion
on White mothering because all of the participants
suggested that, although African American women have
significantly influenced their beliefs about their roles in
the community, church, and school, they have had positive
experiences with White female teachers that also deserve
attention. Sharon described her 1st grade teacher as "warm
and bubbly. She was genuine, and she cared whether we
learned." Likewise, Vernetta indicated that she developed
a love for math because her 8th grade teacher "made me do
my work." Finally, Keisha remembered Mrs. Pepper's method
of discipline and classroom management:
Mrs. Pepper (her name for this teacher) used a
leather strap; Pepper, she called it. You had to
stick your hand out if you got too crazy in class.
She was considered one of the favorite teachers at
the school.
Thus, White female teachers who were characterized as
good teachers by these women tended to demonstrate
behaviors similar to those practiced by African American
female teachers with regard to student achievement and

181
expectations, sometimes to the surprise of Black students.
As Faye explained:
I was in the 8th grade, and it was a PreAlgrebra
class. She made learning fun. She would display
our names, give us group activities, and there
would be competition between the groups. She was
a wonderful teacher, and everybody wanted to take
her class. Out of all the teachers I ever had, this
woman really helped me academically.
It was obvious that the teacher had been an influential
force in Faye's schooling. She described the teacher as
demanding with high expectations for school achievement.
The teacher set extremely high goals and "insisted" that
the students meet them. Faye expressed "shock" that her
White teacher cared whether African American children
succeeded in school:
Well, she was a White teacher, and I guess
sometimes kids, or whatever, would think they
don't care about Black kids. There was a point
when I was doing poorly in her class, and she
came to me and told me, "I expect you to complete
this entire book; you will have to work hard and
study, and there will be a test at the end of the
semester." We [the students] had to make at least
90% on this test to get high school credit; we all
scored real high. I got a 98, and I started to
cry. I had never had a teacher, Black or White, to
tell me that I had the ability to not only pass,
but to make high marks. I knew it [the math course]
would be demanding, but this was the first time I
really felt that a teacher cared about whether I
really learned. The fact that she was White shocked
me. All the Black kids loved her. We knew she was not
faking.
There is evidence, therefore, that for these
participants, some White female teachers also exhibited
characteristics and behaviors of control and caring similar
to those demonstrated by African American teachers.

182
Black Motherhood and Teaching:
Teaching is Community Mothering
Common to the themes running through the participants'
responses is their belief that teaching is an aspect of
African American motherhood. Years of observing Black
mothers, othermothers, churchwomen, and teachers, and
engaging in teaching opportunities in the family and church
community have shaped these women's image of teaching as
community mothering. A fundamental expectation of
community mothers is that they care about, and hold
themselves personally accountable for, teaching and
protecting all of the community's children. Thus, most
influential in their decisions to enter teacher education
is their belief that teaching African American children to
survive and succeed in school and society is a primary
responsibility in their role of community mothering. Faye,
for instance, imagined a career in teaching as fulfilling
expectations of a community mother:
Actually, everybody tells me that I have to teach.
They say, "You look like a teacher. You're going
to be just like your mother." I can work with all
kinds of people, and I am willing to do whatever
I can for people. Even when I would say that I
didn't want to teach, my teachers kept saying, "Come
back; we need more Black teachers." In fact, my
mother wants me to return home and work under
her guidance for several years to make sure
that I do right by our children.
Liz indicated that her decision to enter teaching was
directly influenced by her belief that teaching is

183
mothering:
All of my friends tell me that I am like the
mother of the group because when they see me
I am always [she made sounds here to demonstrate
how she always nags them and tells them what to
do]. Everyone tells me that I have great
maternal instincts. And just like I feel that
I am going to be a great mother, I just know
that I am going to be a great teacher. Once
you learn how to mother, you can teach.
Moreover, Liz articulated her belief about mothering as
teaching and protecting children who "can't stand up"
for themselves when others "mess" with them:
Gosh, how should I say this. My cousin, Dee, has
been my friend forever, but she is nonvocal. I try
to teach her, but she can't stand up for herself.
But I will tell anybody, don't mess with her or you
mess with me. I don't forget easily. That's my
mothering instincts coming out. I have to take
care of her. I have to take care of somebody.
Maxine also believed that teaching was "putting yourself in
a place to help" the voiceless. She stated:
I believe that teaching is a way of helping
students. It is important to understand them and
gain the knowledge needed for motivating them to
do their best, not just academically but socially
as well. You must be a good friend or counselor.
But you can't be friendly or even too personal.
You have to be demanding enough to let students
know that you care whether they learn. Good
teaching is not just teaching, it is listening;
it is hearing their voice, it is feeling and
knowing their fears, and then putting yourself
in a place to help them.
Moreover, although the participants do not view
teaching as an especially prestigious or monetarily
rewarding career, they believe that teaching is an
"important and necessary" profession to ensure the

184
continuation of the African American culture and community.
Faye asserted:
My mother, grandmother, aunt, and most of my
neighbors are teachers. ... I didn't want
to be a teacher, but after sitting in an English
class one day, I realized the importance of kids
having Black teachers that they can look up to.
It's not about the money. I just want to touch
lives and to have them come back and say "Miss
Faye, you had an impression on my life." I just
want to know that I carried on the tradition.
Some of the participants indicated their belief that
African American children need role models if they are to
succeed in school. Vernetta, for instance, stated her
willingness to assume such a role:
Black children need to see more of our faces
everyday. I know some kids I am in college with
now, and they have never had a Black teacher; that
blows my mind. It [seeing an African American
teacher] may give some child hope to one day
become a teacher themselves or just to let them
know that Black people are not just doing something
negative.
Maxine concurred:
I am motivated because of being an African American
woman and in my town, it is 98% African American.
However, there are no African American teachers,
and I think that it's important. I would like to
be a role model especially to other African American
females.
Nonetheless, these women's decisions to enter
teaching were motivated also by their understandings about
mothering and teaching in the African American community.
The image of mothering as teaching and teachers as powerful
and prestigious in their African American communities and

185
Black churches was very apparent in their explanations for
entering into teacher education.
Maxine stated more than once her view of teaching as
power: "Power over students, power over the curriculum,
and over the system." In fact, for Maxine, teaching as a
forum for social and economic change for Black Americans
was a very compelling influence in her career selection.
However, she entered teaching reluctantly because of her
beliefs that the educational system is incapable of the
right kind of change for Black Americans. It was very
discouraging for Maxine that, unlike past African American
women who were teacher/activists, she and her
contemporaries may have little influence on the existing
educational system or on African American students' school
achievement. Maxine complained:
I like to laugh, to have fun, to teach. But I see
a career in teaching as having no power. No power
over the curriculum. I see Marva Collins as a role
model. Interacting with kids, being positive and
enthusiastic. I want to teach in a comprehensive
educational setting and center my teaching around
African culture. But, I don't plan to stay in it
[teaching] long because I don't believe that I will
be able to bring about change. The system is so
corrupt.
However, Keisha commented that, for now, she has decided
that "making sure that the kids in my community succeed" is
too important to ignore:
But you get your reward in the end, when others
in the community say what a wonderful job you did
in helping the community. For me, teaching as a
career brings self-esteem. Power comes in knowing
that someone else benefited.

186
Recruiting Other African American Women
Finally, the participants were asked, What will
influence other African American women to enter teaching?
The participants agreed that fundamental to increasing the
number of African Americans, especially women, in teaching,
is making sure that they "understand how important teaching
really is" to the community and to African American
children. Moreover, they agreed that it was important to
them that someone had told them about teaching as a career.
They each mentioned that parents, teachers, or church
members had explained to them the importance of African
American teachers. Sharon stated that a career in teaching
had not occurred to her until an African American teacher
suggested it as a laudable profession for Black Americans,
and that she should consider entering. Sharon had not
considered a career in any profession because as she
stated, "before Mr. Jones told us, I did not know anything
about teaching programs, or Black colleges. I did not know
what an educated African American woman in rural Nebraska
could do."
In addition, most of them agreed that family,
particularly their mothers or othermothers had influenced
their career choice, and that church and social
organizations were significant paths to developing the
desire and leadership skills necessary for a teaching
career. They explained that they were given multiple

187
opportunities throughout their early socialization to
observe, and participate in, things that teachers do.
Keisha stated: "The fact that I had so many opportunities
in the community, in my family, and in the church to be
with so many kids influenced me that I was supposed to be a
teacher."
An important belief about recruiting African American
women into teaching underscored by some of the participants
was that teachers in general and African American teachers
in particular must "make a name for themselves and their
profession." Keisha believed that African American
teachers are doing little to encourage others to enter
teaching or change the existing educational practices.
Maxine argued that the "whole system is stifling and
inhibits creativity. I went into teaching to improve the
curriculum and foster creativity and pride in my students."
She further stated that African American women's decisions
to enter and remain in teaching would be influenced greatly
if they believed the opportunity existed to modify the
system to benefit children, especially African Americans.
The last, and perhaps the most influencing factor on
these participants' decisions to enter teacher education is
their belief that teaching is mothering, and that mothering
is powerful and prestigious. For the women in this study,
socialization across the Black institutions of motherhood,
church, and school have taught them that mothering is

188
necessary for the continuation of the African American
community and its children. Moreover, they have been
taught that women who assume this mothering role and
ultimately succeed in ensuring the survival and uplift of
the race and community are entitled to status, power, and
voice. Faye, in arriving at her decision to enter
teaching, concluded: "I have this big feeling that I am
continuing the tradition."

CHAPTER VI
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
The need for African American teachers is well-
documented (Boyer & Baptiste, 1996; Dilworth, 1990;
Darling-Hammond, 1990; Darling-Hammond & Sclan, 1996; Grant
& Secada, 1990; Haberman, 1996). As the number of
culturally and linguistically diverse students increases,
it becomes even more imperative that African American
teachers are visible in public schools. African American
teachers are significant role models for all children
(Graham, 1987) and may embrace teaching practices that
promote African American school achievement (e.g.. King,
1993b).
However, despite the growing demand for African
American teachers nationwide, the continuing decline in
their proportionate numbers suggests that current
recruitment policy and strategies have failed. Moreover,
conventional research on minority recruitment and retention
has resulted in little understanding about African
Americans likely to enter teaching today and the factors
that may influence their career decisions. Knowing the
characteristics and motivations of African Americans who
decide to teach may provide insight into how better to
attract more African Americans to the profession.
189

190
The present study was designed to investigate the
backgrounds of African American women who decide to enter
preservice teacher education and the sociocultural and
schooling factors that influenced them to do so. This
chapter begins with an overview of the study, followed by a
review of the findings and discussions of the implications
for female African American recruitment and retention,
limitations of the study, and suggestions for future
research.
Overview of the Study
The existing research on preservice teacher education
students has been criticized for its lack of attention to
inherent differences among subgroups of teacher candidates
(e.g., Boyer & Baptiste, 1996; Brookhart & Freeman, 1992;
Dilworth, 1990; Grant & Secada, 1990). Although teaching
is characterized as a service occupation that primarily
attracts women, only a few researchers have speculated
about what attracts culturally diverse individuals to the
profession. African American women, for example, have been
invisible in teacher education literature, although the
call for their recruitment has remained widespread for
several decades.
Researchers of minority recruitment and retention have
focused on identifying reasons African Americans decide not
to enter teaching. Teacher educators have responded to
these findings by restructuring admission standards and

191
implementing alternative routes to teacher preparation and
certification. In addition, they have made available to
their diverse teacher candidates financial assistance and
academic support through faculty-student mentorships and
tutorials. Nonetheless, recruitment strategies like these
have not motivated many African Americans to pursue
teaching. New approaches to research and recruitment must
be embraced to identify those motivated to teach. The
purposes of this study were (a) to identify and describe
the background characteristics of African American women
who enter preservice teacher education in elementary and
special education and (b) to identify and describe the
factors that influenced them to do so.
This study extends the existing knowledge base by
incorporating several important design features. First, I
surveyed female African American teacher education students
who were majoring in elementary and/or special education at
historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, to describe their
demographic backgrounds and characteristics, perspectives
on teaching as a career, and beliefs about teaching diverse
student populations. Second, through ethnographic
techniques, I examined six participants' personal and
schooling experiences, and their beliefs about teaching as
they related to career decisions. In my analysis, I
identified similarities, yet distinguished differences, in

192
experiences, beliefs, and expectations of African American
women who have decided to become teachers. In addition to
reporting frequencies, means, and standard deviations of
participant survey responses, I also presented themes that
emerged through ethnographic data analysis.
Summary of the Findings
The findings and major points of interest were
presented in Chapters IV and V. A summary of the findings
is presented in this chapter with specific discussions
regarding the respondents' personal and family
characteristics, schooling, entering perspectives and
beliefs, and sense of efficacy. The findings suggested
that, in many respects, the African American women in this
study were similar to the preservice teachers described in
previous studies. They were, however, different in ways
that may have important implications for the recruitment
and retention of African American women in teacher
education and teaching.
For example, from the survey, I found that the
majority of the respondents in this study were single,
attended school full-time, and were slightly younger than
preservice teachers entering teacher education today.
They were more likely to come from urban communities rather
than small towns or suburbs.
Another interesting finding related to ability. The
respondents were academically stronger than the African

193
American preservice teachers who entered teaching in the
1980s and were more likely to have passed teacher
competency tests. Unlike most preservice teachers who tend
to be first-generation college students, they were more
likely to be enrolled as second- and third-generation
college students.
Also noted as a significant difference was family
structure. Many of the respondents' mothers had achieved
high levels of education and were more likely than fathers
to have college degrees and to be employed in professional
and managerial positions. This finding was in contrast to
preservice teachers who generally have reported that
fathers were better educated and held professional and
managerial positions.
Most of the respondents had attended predominately
African American schools and had been taught by both
African American and White teachers. Other than their
White teachers, however, most reported having had little
contact with individuals outside the African American
community. They rated their experiences in school as
positive or somewhat positive.
The participants' motivations for entering teaching
were very similar to those reported in previous studies.
However, one important difference was their desire to
become role models for African American children and to act

194
as social change agents to ensure that all children receive
equal educational opportunity.
The respondents preferred to teach children who are
middle-class, of average ability, and who attend
traditional class settings. They least preferred to teach
children with disabilities, children from lower-income
families, and children who are bilingual.
Finally, I found that, like most preservice teachers,
the respondents have high levels of confidence regarding
their ability to teach students who are culturally and
linguistically diverse. However, unlike most preservice
teachers, they have high levels of confidence in the
effects of good schooling on student achievement.
These findings, and others, are discussed in the next
section.
The survey, however, could not explain how
sociocultural and schooling experiences may have differed
from preservice teachers in prior studies, or how these
factors may have influenced the participants' decisions to
become teachers. In-depth interviews were conducted and
through ethnographic analysis, 15 themes emerged.
The themes suggested that fathers were visible but not
very influential in the participants' decisions to become
teachers. Mothers, however, strongly influenced their
daughters' educational aspirations and career choice. An
equally compelling influence that shaped the participants'

195
views about their role and responsibility to African
American children and the appropriate career choice was the
tradition of community-based child care and shared
mothering pervasive in many African American communities.
The church was also a powerful influence on these
women's decisions. Church functions and teaching moments
provided the participants with opportunities to develop
leadership skills, while observations of churchwomen, many
of whom also were school teachers, shaped beliefs about the
power and voice attached to teaching.
Schooling experiences, both negative and positive,
shaped the participants1 conceptions of teaching and
beliefs about good and bad teaching. Racism and poor
teaching were among the worst of their schooling
experiences. High expectations; strict discipline and
control; authentic, responsive, and safe learning
environments; and caring, protective teachers were
characterized as positive experiences. Each of these
experiences shaped the participants' views of good teaching
and reinforced for them their beliefs about good mothering.
The women described a strong relationship between community
mothering and teaching that ultimately led to their
decisions to become teachers.

196
Discussion
The purpose of this study was to describe African
American women's characteristics and experiences that
played a role in their decisions to become teachers. I
found that many of the respondents' survey responses to
questions about their demographic and family
characteristics and their motives for teaching were
consistent with those described in previous studies on
preservice teacher education students (e.g., Brookhart &
Freeman, 1992; Darling-Hammond, 1990; Darling-Hammond &
Sclan, 1996; King, 1993a; Roberson, Keith, & Page, 1983;
Su, 1993). However, other responses showed that there
existed significant differences between the respondents in
this study and what has been reported in prior
investigations on prospective teachers. Discussions of the
major findings are presented in this section.
Demographic and Family Characteristics
Like most preservice teacher education students, the
majority of the respondents in this study were single,
full-time students. Also, like most female preservice
teachers, 80% were elementary education majors. However,
they were slightly younger than the preservice teacher
candidates (24 years and younger vs. 25.7 years) described
in recent studies (Darling-Hammond & Sclan, 1996). Fewer
than one tenth could be characterized as one of the growing
cohort of talented, married women, with and without

197
children, who are entering teaching (Zimpher, 1989) as a
second career (Su, 1993). Finally, a substantial number of
the respondents reported high academic achievement (GPAs of
3.0 and above) and passing scores on teacher competency
tests. Thus, although the majority of these respondents'
personal characteristics mirrored those of preservice
teachers generally, there were differences found in terms
of age and ability.
The respondents tended to fit the traditional profiles
of preservice teachers rather than the nontraditional
characterizations (i.e., 25 years and older, married with
children). They were academically stronger than most of
the African Americans who entered preservice teacher
education during the 1980s (Roberson, Keith, & Page, 1983;
Witty, 1986). That these African American women were more
talented supports Darling-Hammond and Sclan's (1996)
finding that preservice teachers in general are
academically stronger than those who entered in the 1980s.
This finding, however, contradicts prior assertions by
researchers of minority recruitment and retention that
teaching is not attracting talented, career-minded members
of the African American community (Darling-Hammond & Sclan,
1996; Roberson et al., 1983). In fact, many of these
respondents were high achievers and viewed by their college
instructors as bright and articulate students. Most were
very much concerned about the professionalization of

198
teaching and improving the education system to ensure
teacher effectiveness for all children.
Also found were similarities and differences between
the respondents' geographical residences and family
backgrounds and those reported in earlier investigations.
Most of the respondents reported that they were from urban
and large urban communities, made up largely of African
American and other culturally and linguistically diverse
individuals. Most grew up in two-parent families, although
nearly a third indicated that their mother was the only
adult present in the home. Typically three or four
siblings were present in the home. In addition, many of
the women were second and third-generation college
students, and almost one third were second-generation
teacher education students. Many of them classified
themselves as middle-class.
These findings appeared inconsistent with Darling-
Hammond's (1990) findings that preservice teachers tend to
be small town and suburban residents; members of
traditional, working-class families; and first-generation
college students. Moreover, Darling-Hammond (1990) found
that many prospective teachers view teaching as movement
from lower to middle-class status. By contrast, however, I
found that most of the respondents believe strongly that
teaching is a means to ensure that their students are
equipped with the knowledge and skills to move from poverty

199
to middle-class, but do not see teaching as a step toward
their own upward economic mobility. Unlike the African
Americans who aspired to teach in an earlier sample
(Roberson et al., 1983), these respondents were less likely
to consider a career in teaching as financially adequate or
permanent, although they rated both as important factors in
career selections.
Another interesting difference between teacher
education students and these respondents was their family
structure. As reported in previous studies (Brookhart &
Freeman, 1992; Darling-Hammond, 1990; Dilworth, 1990), most
White preservice teachers have grown up in families with a
patriarchal structure. In such families, fathers were more
likely than mothers to be college graduates, often held
professional and managerial positions, and were the major
economic providers. In fact, in her review of the
literature, Dilworth (1990) reported that mothers of
teacher education students often had acquired less than a
high school diploma and were primarily homemakers and
caretakers. Working mothers' financial contributions were
considered ancillary to the total family income.
By contrast, many of the respondents' mothers had
achieved high levels of education and were more likely than
fathers to have college and advanced degrees. Mothers more
so than fathers were likely to be employed in
administrative and professional positions. More than one

200
third of the mothers were school teachers or
administrators. It was clear that many mothers were
decision-makers and contributed significantly to the total
annual family income. Also that one third of the
participants were raised in homes with a single, female
parent suggested that a substantial number of them were in
families with a matriarchal structure. The respondents'
family structure, including parental expectations, parents'
level of education, occupations, and income were factors
that influenced many of the women's decisions.
Schooling Characteristics
Like most preservice elementary teachers, the
respondents' prior schooling experiences and former
teachers have shaped their perspectives about teaching. A
majority of the respondents had attended schools that were
predominantly minority, although the number of African
American teachers they had encountered varied considerably.
For example, some reported that as few as 5% of their
former teachers were African Americans, while others
indicated as many as 75%. Small numbers responded that
they had been taught by African American teachers only or
by no African American teachers. Despite reported
differences in the number of former Black teachers, most of
the respondents described their schooling as positive and
many of their teachers as encouraging and supportive.
Finally, most of the respondents held memberships in

201
school-related clubs and indicated that participation in
such extracurricular activity influenced them to become
teachers.
These findings appear consistent with prior reviews of
literature (Haberman, 1996; Roberson et al., 1983)
suggesting that prospective teachers frequently enjoyed
school and experienced positive, engaging experiences with
former teachers. Moreover, as Lortie (1975) contended, the
desire to continue in such school-like pursuits may attract
many to teaching. It was clear that many of the
respondents chose to teach because they believe they can
make a difference in the lives of children. For those who
experienced positive schooling, their desire is to continue
providing other children, and African Americans in
particular, with similar opportunities. For those who
experienced negative schooling, a common response was that
their decisions to teach were influenced by their desire to
reduce potential racism and educational inequality for all
children.
Entering Perspectives and Beliefs
Another point of interest related to prior studies of
preservice teachers and student diversity. Public service
and helping children are strong motivators for entering
preservice teachers. However, according to some
researchers (e.g., Boyer & Baptiste, 1996), prospective
teachers' perceptions about race and ethnicity may limit

202
their ability to engage in effective teaching practices and
thus, limit the achievement of their students. Moreover,
they have had little contact with minorities, are
parochial, and have not experienced other cultures (Zimpher
& Ashburn, 1992). Although these African American women
have grown up mostly with other African Americans, they
also appeared to be lacking in their understanding of
student diversity. It was clear that most of them, like
their White counterparts, have had little exposure to
students who differ from themselves. Many of the
respondents have experienced cultural insularity in both
school and community, and have indicated a strong
preference to return to such environments to teach.
Although many of the respondents are not opposed to
teaching children from other cultures and backgrounds, they
would rather teach African American children in
predominantly African American schools.
Moreover, like preservice teachers in general, the
respondents tended to prefer teaching middle-class, average
ability children in traditional classrooms. Although they
believed that culturally and linguistically diverse
students bring unique challenges to the learning
environment that require curricular and social
accommodations, many of them indicated less willingness to
work with such students. For instance, the respondents
indicated that they least desired teaching students with

203
mental, learning, emotional, or physical disabilities and
students from lower-income families. Thus, regarding
attitudes and beliefs about student diversity, they are in
many respects similar to other preservice teachers. Many
of the respondents' understandings about diversity may be
limited to their experiences with their White teachers and
African Americans much like themselves.
Motives for Entering Teaching
The respondents reported that job-related factors were
significant in career choice. Among those factors were
careers considered interesting and important, job security
and permanence, freedom to make decisions, career
advancement, working with sociable and friendly people, and
work schedule.
Personal factors that contributed to the respondents•
decisions to teach were helping children develop
academically and emotionally, making a difference in the
lives of children, and serving as role models for children.
In addition, experience with children and inspirational
community leaders, parents, and relatives contributed to
their decisions. Although the respondents indicated that
their teachers were generally positive, less than 20% of
them mentioned former teachers as a factor contributing to
career selection. However, their write-in responses
suggested that former teachers played a significant role in
shaping their conceptions of teaching. Finally, although

204
important to the respondents, few considered salary and job
status as factors in their decisions. Recruitment
initiatives such as television and radio announcements or
other publications, lack of other career options, and
scholarships were not viewed as factors that influenced
their decisions to enter teaching.
Most of these findings appear to be consistent with
prior studies, such as those of Book and Freeman (1986),
Jantzen, (1981) and Pigge and Marso (1988), although the
wording of the influences presented to teacher candidates
varied somewhat from study to study. For example, these
researchers found that for samples of teachers studied from
the 1940s through the 1970s, participants reported that an
interest in children was the primary reason they entered
teaching. Similarly, Roberson et al.'s (1983) review of
literature pertaining to motives for teaching indicated
that former teachers, liking children, and prior
experiences with children influence the decisions of those
who entered teaching in the 1980s. Moreover, Roberson et
al. found that those who aspired to teach were also
influenced by family, church, and community. I also found
that serving as a role model was a motivating factor for
most of the respondents in this study.
Teacher Efficacy
I examined the respondents' teaching efficacy and
personal teaching efficacy. Their level of agreement with

205
four personal teaching efficacy statements suggested that
they believe in their own ability to have a positive effect
on student learning (Ashton, 1985). Moreover, there is a
strong sense of personal responsibility for their students'
achievement in school. Their level of disagreement with
four teaching efficacy statements indicated their belief
that effective teaching is the key to student success,
despite home and environmental influences that weigh
against success in school. Therefore, the respondents
believe (a) that good teaching is a potentially powerful
factor in student learning and (b) that they have the
ability to engage in good teaching and are personally
responsible for doing so.
Although the respondents shared with preservice
teachers similar personal teaching efficacy beliefs, they
differed in their beliefs about teaching efficacy. For
example, prior studies of entering preservice teachers'
beliefs suggested that prospective teachers hold strong
images of good and bad teaching, but are highly confident
of their own abilities as teachers (Book & Freeman, 1986;
Darling-Hammond & Sclan, 1996; Goodlad, 1984). In fact,
Weinstein (1988, 1989) suggested that preservice teachers'
perceptions of their own abilities to improve student
outcomes are unrealistic. Clearly, the respondents in this
study were highly optimistic, but also they tended to have
simplistic conceptions of teaching as the replication of

206
their views of good teaching or elimination of their
beliefs about bad teaching (Su, 1993) .
However, the respondents did not share preservice
teachers beliefs about teaching efficacy. Brousseau and
Freeman (1988) found that entering preservice teachers
often believe that some elementary and secondary students
are not capable of learning basic skills. This belief was
not as evident among the respondents in this study.
Moreover, although preservice teachers tend to believe that
teaching does not make a difference in students'
achievement, the respondents strongly opposed this view.
In addition, Darling-Hammond and Sclan (1996), in their
review of the research on the preparation for teaching
diverse learners, determined that most newly qualified
teachers feel inadequately prepared to teach the full range
of diverse learners in their classrooms, especially
students with disabilities and students with culturally
diverse backgrounds. Yet, the participants reported a
higher sense of efficacy for teaching both groups of
students and believe that social upbringing and attendance
in an HBCU were contributing factors to these beliefs.
Sociocultural and Schooling Experiences
Fifteen themes, described earlier, emerged from an
analysis of interview data regarding the sociocultural and
schooling experiences of six women. Those themes are
discussed in the following sections.

207
Mothering
With regard to sociocultural experiences, the most
recurring theme was that the participants1 mothers strongly
influenced their educational aspirations and career
decisions. Many of the participants described the powerful
yet complex relationships with their mothers as demanding
but protective, controlling but caring. However, they
interpreted these mothering behaviors as necessary and
significant determinants of their perspectives on
education, work, and responsibility to self, family, and
the community. In fact, the participants identified their
mothers as one of the most influential factors in their
decisions to enter teaching.
This finding supports the historical position many
African American mothers may assume in rearing their
children. Collins (1991) noted that African American women
have long understood that mothering includes physical,
social, and psychological responsibility. The meaning of
mother has been expanded to include women who create,
nurture, and protect. Wade-Gayles (1984) made the point
this way:
[Mothers] do not socialize their daughters to be
passive or irrational. Quite the contrary, they
socialize their daughters to be independent, strong
and self-confident. Black mothers are suffocatingly
protective and domineering precisely because they
are determined to mold their daughters into whole
and self-actualizing persons in a society that
devalues Black women, (p. 112).

208
Community Mothering
Given the expanded meaning of mothering in many
African American communities, it was not surprising to find
that an equally compelling influence on the participants'
decisions was their understandings about community-based
child care and community mothering (Collins, 1991). All of
the participants recalled early observations of and
positive relationships with women in their family,
community, and church who shaped their beliefs about their
role and responsibility to African American children.
Years of watching othermothers raise the communities1
children helped to clarify for them mothering and mothers'
work. In addition, these women witnessed the power
bestowed upon African American women who stepped into the
role of mothering and teaching to maintain cultural norms
and promote group survival. This empowering of the female
African American teacher appears to be a significant
influence on some of the participants' decisions to become
teachers.
Thus, these findings appear consistent with previous
results suggesting that individuals who aspire to teach are
strongly influenced by family, church, and community
(Roberson et al., 1983) and that mothers, grandmothers, and
community leaders are significant determinants in African
American women's educational and career decisions (King,
1993a). Also, Ogbu's (1978) assertions that the specific

209
roles and responsibilities assumed by African Americans
result from the cultural expectations communicated by
important individuals in their lives throughout their
childhood hold true for these women as well.
African American Women's Work
An interesting finding was the participants' beliefs
about African American women and their work. Most of the
participants felt a deep sense of obligation to work as
teachers because it demonstrated their commitment to the
community and African American children's survival. Sharon
believed that teaching was doing her part to help the
community's children, while Maxine saw a career in teaching
as the primary means of restoring creativity and hope in
children whom the existing system had failed.
Most researchers have characterized White women as
affective nurturers primarily responsible to their own
individual children. Work has been viewed in direct
conflict with their roles and responsibilities as mothers.
African American women who traditionally have been economic
providers and nurturers, on the other hand, have combined
work and family without seeing a conflict between the two.
Little distinction has been made between their working for,
and their mothering of, their children. Instead, being
economically productive and contributing to the family-
based economy has been an integral part of Black motherhood
(Sudarkasa, 1981).

210
These understandings about work for most Black women
result from a socialization process in African American
culture that emphasizes that their actions are for both the
struggle of group survival and institutional transformation
(Loewenberg & Bogin, 1976). Often African American women
see themselves more as uplifters than as working women
(Neverdon-Morton, 1989).
More important for their recruitment into teaching,
however, is the fact that African American women learn that
value is assigned to an occupation as it relates to serving
the African American community and succeeding in bringing
about change. Black women also understand that their work
undergirds personal power and voice within and outside the
community. As Reagon (1978) noted, "the power of Black
women [is] the power to make culture, to transmit folkways,
norms, and customs, as well as to build shared ways of
seeing the world that [insures] our survival" (p. 168).
These participants realized that, although they have chosen
a low status profession, status attainment is highly likely
through their rendering successful service to their
communities; thus, as teachers, their ultimate goal would
be to ensure that the community's children achieve in
school.
Teaching as Community Mothers' Work
Collins (1991) asserted that the goal of most African
American women is to protect African American children.

211
The participants in both the survey and the interviews
stated over and over that their primary reason for entering
teaching was to help children succeed in an educational
system that is often insensitive to their cultural
upbringing and unwilling to honor or accommodate their
differences. Despite their experiences in positive,
stimulating learning environments and encounters with
racism and poor teaching, the participants have reached a
similar conclusion: They are needed in teaching to teach
in ways that promote learning for all children.
It was apparent that all of the respondents tended to
believe that they "should" be held accountable to and
responsible for the socialization of the community's
children. The interviews revealed that most of them, after
observing mothers and othermothers engaged in community
mothering, believe that community mothers are teachers, and
fundamental to good mothering is good teaching. For
example, Maxine suggested that good teaching is more than
merely teaching academics; it is also equipping students
with the knowledge and skills for coping with the
cognitive, affective, and cultural demands of their
community, school, and society. Good teaching translates
into students' economic, political, and social improvement.
Thus, for the participants, mothering and teaching are not
for the sake of saving their children solely, but rather
for saving an entire group and culture. Subsequently,

212
their destined role is community mother, and as a community
mother, the natural choice of work is teaching.
Continuation and Good Teaching
Continuation, as defined by Lortie, referred to a
fondness for the school setting and a medium for expressing
interests and talents. It was clear that, despite some
negative experiences in school (including racism and poor
teaching), these women have experienced positive role
models and what they view as good teaching. Most of them
identified numerous influential teachers from elementary
through high school who have shaped their decisions to
teach, their teaching methods, or both. Most memorable
have been female African American teachers who were highly
visible in the church, community, and school.
The participants believe that they know what good
teaching should look like for African American children.
Indeed, their conceptions of good teaching coincide with
previous research (Hale-Benson, 1986; Irvine, 1990; King,
1993b; Shade, 1982; Zeichner, 1993) on African American
learning styles and the characteristics of effective
teachers for culturally diverse students. All of the
participants' cited high teacher expectations for student
achievement, cultural responsiveness, strict discipline,
and caring, protective relationships with students as
fundamental elements of good teaching for many students,
including African Americans.

213
As stated earlier, student achievement is strongly
correlated with teaching efficacy (Ashton & Webb, 1986;
Woolfolk Sc Hoy, 1990). Participants' personal teaching
efficacy beliefs appeared similar to those espoused by
other preservice teachers. They discussed in great detail
the need to "put yourself in your students' place, and to
understand their needs" so that the teacher could carry out
teacher functions found to work with diverse students.
Moreover, the curriculum and field experiences combined
with their own personal experiences have resulted in
unusually high confidence that, if the present schooling
can be transformed, they are equipped with the knowledge
and skills to bring about high student achievement.
Their teaching efficacy beliefs, however, appear
incongruent with most preservice teachers' beliefs that
some students are incapable of learning and will fail
regardless of their ability to teach them. The
participants tended to believe that all children can learn,
and that the cornerstone of school achievement was good
schooling. Therefore, the theme of continuation as an
attraction to teaching holds true for these women because
they want to emulate their own successful mentors for other
children. However, continuation also means helping African
American children remain proficient culturally and
socially.

214
Conclusions About The Women Who Have Decided To Teach
A survey administered to 112 African American women at
three HBCUs provided substantial information about the
demographics, backgrounds, and motivations of Black women
in preservice teacher education. These data supported the
conclusion that the respondents in this study have social
and economic backgrounds similar to those described of
preservice teachers in previous studies. Also, their
motivations for teaching and perspectives on teaching as a
career choice appear congruent with preservice teachers in
general. Nonetheless, the participants were different from
previously profiled preservice teachers in several
important ways, and understanding these differences will be
useful for informing teacher educators about recruitment
policy and strategies.
The findings support the assertion that sociocultural
backgrounds within a racial context are at work in the
decisions to enter teaching (Feiman-Nemser & Floden, 1986).
Indeed, the six women who shared their stories revealed
that social, cultural, racial, and schooling factors were
powerful influences on their decisions to enter teaching.
Moreover, in their own voice, they confirmed that not all
African American women have been deterred from teaching,
nor have they forgotten why many of their foremothers
became teachers. As Foster (1994) argued, African American
teachers "are not only educating the mind--they are

215
educating for character, personal fulfillment, and success
in the larger society as well as for competence in the
local community" (p. 240).
Implications for Recruitment of African American Women
Results from this study suggested that research that
focuses on the African American motives for teaching rather
than reasons for not teaching may be more useful in
informing teaching education recruitment and retention.
The findings indicated numerous similarities between the
participants' and preservice teachers1 personal and
background characteristics. However, important differences
were found with regard to sociocultural and schooling
experiences, and beliefs about teaching.
These differences may hold important implications for
future recruitment and retention and ultimately reversing
the chronic disproportionate representation by African
Americans in teacher education.
First, the participants' family structure was a strong
influence on their perceptions of work and career choices.
Mothers, in particular, were found to be the most
influential. Also highly influential in their career
decisions were other women besides the biological mother.
Churchwomen, women community leaders, and former female
teachers often played an important role in modeling for
these participants their expected roles and responsibility
as educated women in the African American community.

216
Thus, a triad model akin to athletic recruitment in which
family, former teachers, and church members were highly
involved in the scouting and selection of prospective
teachers would likely increase the representation of
African American teachers. However, an approach like this
would work only to the extent that these influential
individuals were convinced of actual benefits realized by
the community and the prospective teachers.
Second, the finding that most of the participants want
to be social change agents suggested that they are likely
to be drawn to teaching if it is perceived as liberatory
and empowering for traditionally disenfranchised groups.
That is, although they may have a calling to teach, they
are less likely to enter teaching than some other
profession because of their disapproval of the existing
system and the inability to change it. Their ultimate
desire is to conserve the African American tradition and
transform the tradition of poor schooling for many Black
students. Moreover, their desire to serve as role models
suggested that if given a preference, they would accept
teaching assignments in urban schools with large diverse
student populations.
Finally, the community othermother tradition (Collins,
1991) was an important influence on their attraction to
teaching and is perhaps a key future recruitment tool.
Unlike the traditional mentoring so widely held in

217
educational literature, the mothering that takes place
between teachers and their female students can not be
underestimated. Teacher education recruitment must begin
to develop policy and strategies that promote attracting
women who embrace community mothering beliefs and
understandings. Hooks (1989) explained the special vision
of teachers who see their work in community othermother
terms:
I understood from the teachers in those
segregated schools that the work of any teacher
committed to the full self-realization of
students was necessarily and fundamentally
radical... in order to pass on tradition and to
teach in a way that liberates ... (p. 50).
Limitations of the Study
There were several aspects of the study that limited
the generality of the findings. First, the scope of the
study was limited geographically to three states in the
south, and second, the participants were selected from one
of the three historically Black colleges and universities
(HBCUs) included in the study. Therefore, sample size and
sample uniqueness limited the generality of the findings to
other African American teacher education students at HBCUs
in the south.
Due to purposeful sampling and participant nominations
in the qualitative portion of the study, the question of
whether all African American women's decisions to enter
teaching are affected by social, cultural, and school
experiences in the same way can not be answered by this

218
research. The findings may not be applicable to the career
decisions by African Americans attending HBCUs in other
regions of the country. Consideration was not given to
African American women who have chosen to attend
predominantly White universities; therefore, the findings
may not explain their decisions for entering teaching.
Also, because the design did not control for variables such
as SES, geographic location, ability, or mother's education
and occupation, it is not clear if participants are
significantly different in their schooling experiences, the
kinds of teachers they may have had, their beliefs and
perspectives about teaching, their understanding of
cultural differences and student diversity, and their
willingness to work with students who are culturally
diverse.
Second, the sample was made up of African American
women who have decided to enter elementary and special
education teaching. It is not possible from the current
findings to conclude whether these results are applicable
to African American women in secondary teaching.
Third, the sample did not include African American
women who have decided not to enter teaching and instead
have made the choice to enter other professions. To
further validate such concepts as community mothering and
mothering beliefs, and responsibility for the African

219
American community, it would be important to study women in
nonteaching occupations as well.
Therefore, caution must be taken in reaching any
conclusion about African American women's decisions to
enter teaching until larger samples of African American
women are studied. Nonetheless, the present findings do
suggest several important hypotheses about the influences
of sociocultural, schooling, and efficacy beliefs on
African American women's career choice and entry, and will
have important implications for future investigations about
African American women in teacher education and female
preservice teachers in general.
Suggestions for Further Research
The present study showed that African American women
in preservice teacher education have motives for teaching
similar to those reported in previous studies. Yet, as
Joseph and Green (1986) warned, researchers should
interpret motives cautiously given that they may represent
only learned responses. Indeed, careful examination of the
participants’ responses about their reasons for becoming
teachers revealed that whereas there are similarities
between African American women preservice teachers and
preservice teachers generally, they do look different in
some interesting ways. For instance, it was clear that the
participants in this study have views of good teaching and
these perspectives about teaching tend to parallel their

220
beliefs about good mothering. Moreover, their decisions to
enter the field went beyond the traditional idea of
teaching as an altruistic occupation in which one simply
wants to help students learn. As Gordon (1994) noted, the
decisions by African Americans to enter teaching are
complex and multifaceted.
Based on the findings in this study, future African
American recruitment and retention in teacher education and
the field must include efforts to explain in more
systematic ways the effect family, community, and school
have on beliefs about teaching and aspirations to pursue
careers in the field. A comprehensive teacher education
recruitment policy and strategic initiative should reflect
an in-depth understanding of the profile of African
Americans who aspire to teach and trends in their
recruitment, selection, retention, and job placement.
Therefore, a number of issues should be addressed in future
investigations.
First, efforts should be made to develop a profile of
female African American preservice teachers that is more
definitive so that those who aspire to teach are identified
and receive attention and encouragement. More research is
needed to tease out differences among African American
women and determine if any of the demographic variables are
predictive of the women entering teaching. An important
question is, Are the predictors of teacher entry the same

221
for all African American women? Are they the same for
women in elementary teaching and special education
teaching? Are they the same for women who enter teaching
and women who choose other careers?
Second, it was clear that family, and particularly the
mother, is a powerful influence on the decision to become a
teacher. To further explore this theme, an important
question is, Does the inclusion of mother's attitude toward
teaching, mother's education, and mother's occupation
result in a better prediction of entry and nonentry for
African American women? Other questions should ask, Can we
conceptualize and validate the construct community
mothering and If so, does the inclusion of this construct
result in a better prediction of teacher entry and nonentry
for both African American and non-African American women?
A substantial research agenda is necessary with respect to
developing meaningful assessments of community mothers and
community mothering beliefs with emphasis given to
quantifying the relationship between such beliefs and the
probability of entering teaching and nonteaching
professions.
Third, the participants indicated that although their
choice to enter the field was not directly linked to
teachers, the kinds of teaching they experienced strongly
motivated their decisions. Thus, it would be important,
especially relative to interventions, to further

222
investigate schooling experiences. Particularly, it should
be determined to what extent teachers encourage or
discourage teaching as a potential career choice for their
female students. Which teaching practices and teacher-
student interactions lead to a positive, or negative,
attitude about teaching as a profession? What types of
students are encouraged to pursue teaching careers, and
what leads teachers to target such students?
Fourth, the community must be examined in terms of who
is considered a community leader and whether there exists a
relationship between community leaders and African American
women who become teachers. Other inquiries should focus on
the messages transmitted to prospective teachers, the types
of experiences provided them by community leaders, the
rewards of teaching as perceived by the community, and the
ways in which African American teachers are rewarded by the
community.
Fifth, studies are needed to determine the
relationship between personal commitment and entry into
teaching. An important but unanswered question is, Are all
African American women socialized in the same way or are
they socialized to some other values? Is it possible that
all African American women experience similar socialization
and yet develop different values, perspectives, and beliefs
about career choice, women's work, and community role?

223
Finally, differences were found relative to the
respondents' sense of efficacy. Future investigations
should seek to determine the relationship between efficacy
and the decisions by African Americans to enter teaching.
Perhaps decisions about the education major, the types of
students to teach, the types of classroom settings, change
agent, and role model are based on the sense of confidence
an African American woman feels in being able to relate to
students, to serve as a role model, and to become a change
agent. What sociocultural beliefs and schooling
experiences lead to high and low levels of efficacy, and Is
efficacy predictive of African American women's career
decisions and career commitment?
How successful teacher education and the profession
will be in recruiting African American women depends, in
large part, on the extent to which we are able to answer
these questions. Tools for identifying women who possess
these qualities and have had these experiences will be an
important aspect of recruiting, screening, and selecting
prospective teachers from the African American community.
As suggested at the onset of this study, to increase the
participation of African American teachers, a
transformation in recruitment policy and strategies
informed by new perspectives, epistemologies, and new ways
of interpreting minority teacher entry may be necessary.
In the future, perhaps more fruitful inquiry for teacher

224
educators will be What is teacher education's role in
identifying and recruiting African American teacher
candidates, and Can teacher education be reformed in ways
that promote the entry of those who aspire to teach?

APPENDIX A
PERMISSION LETTERS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD
HBCU DEAN
RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS

226
UNIVERSITY OF
FLORIDA
Institutional Review Board 114 Psychology Bldg.
PO Box 112250
- Gainesville, FL 32611-2250
Phone: (352) 392-0433
June 7, 1996
Fax: (352) 392-0433
TO:
Ms. Audrey Davis McCray
109 McCray Drive , i
Hammond, LA 70401 ^
FROM:
C. Michael Levy, Chair, (\\l|
University of Florida Instiratlbnal
Review Board \J
SUBJECT:
Approval of Project # 96.311
Factors influencing African American women’s decision to enter
elementary and/or special education teaching
Funding: Unfunded
1 am pleased to advise you that the University of Florida Institutional
Review Board has recommended the approval of this project. The Board
concluded that participants will not be placed at more than minimal risk in
this research. Given your protocol it is essential that you obtain signed
documentation of informed consent from each participant. Enclosed is the
dated, IRB-approved informed consent to be used when recruiting participants
for this research.
If you wish to make any changes in this protocol, you must disclose your
plans before you implement them so that the Board can assess their impact
on your project. In addition, you must report to the Board any unexpected
complications arising from the project which affect your participants.
If you have not completed this project by June 7, 1997, please telephone
our office (392-0433) and we will tell you how to obtain a renewal.
It is important that you keep your Department Chair informed about the status
of this research.
CML/h2
cc: Dr. Paul T. Sindelar
Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Institution

227
LETTER TO HBCU DEAN
June 14, 1996
Dear
I am a doctoral student in the Department of Special
Education at the University of Florida in Gainesville and at
present am completing data collection for my dissertation
research.
I am writing to request permission to conduct a survey
with the African American women enrolled in the Departments
of Curriculum and Instruction and Special Education. The
data collected from participants in this study will be used
for analyses in this dissertation only, and I will be happy
to share my findings with you and your faculty.
In short, this study seeks to answer two fundamental
questions relative to the underrepresentation of African
Americans in the teaching profession: What are the
backgrounds of African American women who decide to enter
preservice teacher education in elementary and/or special
education and How do African American women's sociocultural
experiences, schooling experiences, and beliefs about
teaching influence their decisions to enter the profession?
I believe that a better understanding of these factors, and
how they may shape beliefs about teaching and career
decisions will lead to more fruitful minority teacher
recruitment and retention policy and strategies.
I have designed an Elementary and Special Education
Teacher Education Survey and Life History Interview Guide to
gather data from African American women currently attending
HBCUs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas and majoring in
elementary and/or special education teaching. I believe
these respondents will provide valuable and usable
information that can have significant implications for
future recruitment and further research. It would be a
privilege to include the African American women in your
college in this important study.
Due to the nature of surveying and the probability of
higher returns, with your permission, I would like to visit
your campus and conduct the surveys and interviews on site
in individual classrooms by February 15, 1997. The actual
questionnaire can be completed in 35 minutes or less, and I

228
will need to collect from 35 to 50 questionnaires. Of those
surveyed, two will be selected based on their survey
responses and professors' nomination and interviewed during
dates and times that are convenient for them. I have
attached a copy of the survey and interview questions for
your review.
Also included with this request are copies of approval
to conduct the research from the University of Florida
Institution Review Board and the consent form. These
documents should provide further explanation of the nature
of the study and assurance that steps have been taken to
protect the confidentiality of the respondents and
participating universities.
I look forward to your response and can be reached at
(504) 345-8518.
Sincerely,
Audrey Davis McCray
Doctoral Candidate

229
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN'S DECISIONS
TO ENTER ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHING
CONSENT FORM
TO RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS:
As a graduate student at the University of Florida in
the College of Education, I am gathering information from
African American women who are students in teacher
education programs for my dissertation. My faculty
supervisor is Dr. Paul T. Sindelar, Chair and Professor,
Department of Special Education.
A survey and interview have been designed to gather
information about teacher education students; that is,
their backgrounds, attitudes, and perceptions about
teaching as a career. Specifically, the interview seeks to
gain information about the participants' school
experiences, former teachers, and beliefs about teaching
and their roles and responsibilities as future teachers.
For the purposes of this study, culturally and
linguistically diverse students have been defined as
African American/Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander,
and American Indiana/Native American/Alaskan Native. In
completing the survey, I would like you to choose one
ethnic/racial group that describes you best.
SURVEY PARTICIPANTS: You have been selected to
participate in a survey conducted at your university,
during an assigned class meeting approved by your dean of
the College of Education, respective department head, and
course instructor. Upon survey participants' consent, a
questionnaire, consisting of 46 items, and a pencil, will
be distributed to you. It is anticipated that it will take
you 45 minutes to complete. The investigator will collect
all questionnaires prior to the participants leaving the
classroom. All information gained from the survey will be
kept confidential to the extent provided by law and
reported in aggregate form for this dissertation only.
Survey participants have been asked to provide the last
four digits of their social security number for coding
purposes only and their telephone number and mailing
address if willingness to participate in a follow-up
interview is indicated on the questionnaire. At no time
will survey participants' name be used in isolation or in
association with a particular university identified.
Participation is voluntary, and without payment.
Survey participants have the right to withdraw consent at
any time and refuse further participation. Also, survey

230
participants may choose not to answer any question that
they do not wish to answer. Only members of the
investigator's dissertation committee will have access to
the data reported on the questionnaire.
INTERVIEWEES: Interview participants have been
requested to participant in an in-depth, 3-series
interview. They were selected based upon responses
provided in a questionnaire completed earlier in the study,
or recommendation from their respective classroom
instructor. Upon receiving interview participants'
consent, and arranging a time and place acceptable to both
the investigator and interviewee, each interview
participant will be interviewed 3 times for approximately
90 minutes each. If the interviewee consents, each
interview will be audiotaped. Interview participants may
refuse to answer any question they do not wish to answer,
and can withdraw consent and participation in the interview
process at any time.
Participation in the interview phase of this study is
voluntary and is without payment. All information gained
during the interviewing with the researcher is confidential
to the extent required by law. Interview participants will
not be identified by name. Each taped interview will be
erased at the end of the project. The members of the
investigator's dissertation committee will have access to
the typed transcript of each interview. Each interview
participant will also have access to her typed transcript
and may amend or delete statements made during the
interviews. The investigator reserves the right to reach,
and let stand, any interpretations of participants'
statements, comments, and actions rendered during the
interview process.
Interview participants in this study may ask questions
about the procedures of the study at any time. The
principal investigator may be reached at (504) 345-8518.
Additional questions and concerns about the research or
participants' rights can be directed to the UFIRB office,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-
2250.
To consent to participation in this study, each survey
and/or interview participant is requested to sign, date,
and return the attached consent form the primary
investigator.
Thank you,
Audrey Davis McCray

231
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN'S DECISIONS TO
ENTER ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHING
CONSENT FORM
I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily
agree to participate in Audrey McCray's study on African
American women who decide to enter teaching and I have
received a copy o this description.
Person Surveyed/Interviewed Date
Researcher
Date
Witness/Title
Date

APPENDIX B
ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION
TEACHER EDUCATION STUDENT SURVEY

ELEMENTARY AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER EDUCATION STUDENT SURVEY
233
Will you please answer these questions to help teacher educators and policy makers Identify the backgrounds
of teacher education students and the (actors that Influence their decision to enter teaching? This
Information will be kept confidential 1o the extent required by law and used only (or statistical purposes In
combination with other answers that the researcher receives. Thank you for your help.
I. BACKGROUND DATA
1. Are you a
â–¡ full-time student
G part-time student
2. What is the highest degree level you
eventually expect to attain?
C Bachelor's
â–¡ Bachelor's plus 30
G Master's
â–¡ Specialist
â–¡ Doctorate
â–¡ Professional Degree
Z I don't know
3. What is your academic major?
Z Early Childhood Education
0 Elementare' Education
Z Secondare' Education
Z Special Education
Z Bilingual Education
Z Vocational Education
Z Other
(please specify)
4. Do you have a degree in another major?
â–¡ Yes â–¡ No
If no. please continue evith question ffS
5. If yes, please specify:
6. Your current overall GPA is:
â–¡ A â–¡ B DC D D OF
7. .Are you a
D Freshman
â–¡ Sophomore
0 Junior
0 Senior in a 4-year program
Z Senior in a 5-year program
0 Post-baccalaureate student
8. Are you
â–¡ .African American 0 Hispanic
â–¡ Non-white Hispanic 0 White
â–¡ American Indian'Alaskan Native
â–¡ .Asian American
9. Gender
â–¡ Male â–¡ Female
10. How old will you be on December 31,
1996?
â–¡ 17 or younger 0 31 -40
O 1S-24 D 41-50
G 25-30 C 51 or older
11. Is English your native language?
â–¡ Yes â–¡ No
12. Are you
â–¡ Single
G Single with Children
0 Married
G Mamed with Children
G Divorced
â–¡ Divorced with Children
â–¡ Widowed
â–¡ W'idowed with Children
(The next five questions request information about
your parents or guardians )
13. Growing up, who did you live with?
G Father or male guardian only
â–¡ Mother or female guardian only
â–¡ Father and mother
0 Father and stepmother
â–¡ Mother and stepfather
â–¡ Foster Parent(s)
â–¡ Grandparent(s)
G Non-relatives
1

234
14. What were your parents expectations for
your schooling?
Z Less than high school graduation
Z High school graduation only
â–¡ Vocational, trade, or business school
College program
C Less than two s ears of college
D Two or more years of college
D Finish college (Bachelor's)
D Master’s degree
â–¡ Doctorate Professional Degree
15. What was the highest level of education
completed by your parents/guardians? (Please
check one for mother and one for father.)
Mother- Father
Female Male
Guard Guard
Elementar)' school or less G C
Some high School G â–¡
Fiigh school graduate G G
Vocational, business, or
trade-technical school C â–¡
Two-year College graduate G â–¡
Some college, but did not
graduate _ G
Four-year college graduate G â–¡
Master's degree G â–¡
Doctorate â–¡ â–¡
Professional degree
(law. medicine, etc ) 0 G
16. Please describe below the job most recently-
held by your parents or guardians even if they
are not working at present. (WRITE IN)
Which of the categories below comes closest to
describing that job? (MARK ONE).
Mother Father
Female Male
Guard Guard
CLERICAL such as â–¡ â–¡
bank teller, bookkeeper,
typist, mail earner, ticket
agent
CRAFTSMAN such as baker â–¡ â–¡
automobile mechanic.machimst,
painter, carpenter
16
Mother
Father
Female
Male
FARMER. F.ARM
Guard
Guard
MANAGER
â–¡
â–¡
HOMEMAKER
â–¡
C
LABORER such as
construction worker,
car washer, sanitary-
worker. farm laborer
â–¡
â–¡
MANAGER,
ADMINISTRATOR such
as sales manager, office
manager, school
administrator, buyer,
restaurant manager,
government official
â–¡
â–¡
MILITARY such as
career officer, enlisted
in .Armed Forces
(->
r-i
U
OPERATIVE such as
meat cutter, assembler,
machine operator, welder,
taxicab, bus or truck driver
n
PROFESSIONAL such as
accountant, artist,
registered nurse, social
worker, singer, athlete,
politician, but not
including school
PROFESSIONAL such as
clergyman, dentist, lawyer,
physician, scientist, instructor
â–¡
n
PROPRIETOR OR OWNER
such as owner of small
business
â–¡
â–¡
PROTECTIVE SER MCE
such as detective, police
officer, shenff, guard
â–¡
â–¡
SALES such as sales¬
person, advertising, or
insurance agent
â–¡
0
SCHOOL TEACHER
â–¡
â–¡

235
16
Mother
Father
Female
Male
Guard
Guard
SER\1CE such as
barber, beautician,
practical nurse, house¬
keeper or maid. cook,
janitor, waitress or
waiter
â–¡
â–¡
TECHNICAL such as
draftsman, medical or
dental technician,
computer programmer
â–¡
â–¡
OTHER
â–¡
i--
U
NE\"ER WORKED
p
â–¡
DON’T KNOW
u
0
17. What is the best estimate of your parents'
or guardians' total income last year?
(Please check one.)
Less than S9 999 â–¡
54(1.000-49.999 D
510,000-14.999 D
550.000-59.999 D
$15,000-19.999 D
$60,000-69.999 â–¡
520.000-24,999 â–¡
$70,000-79,999 0
$25,000-29,999 C
$80,000-89.999 G
$30,000-39,999 O
$90,000-99,999 â–¡
$100,000 or more â–¡
18a. Which of the following best describes the
place where you Us ed when you attended
(a) Elementary (b) Middle (c) High
School? School? School?
A rural or farming community
â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
A small city or town of fewer than
50.000 people but not a suburb
â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
A medium-sized city (50,000-100,000 people)
D 0 â–¡
A suburb of a medium-sized city
â–¡ 0 â–¡
/
A large city (100,000-500,000 people)
â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
A large city (500,000-1,000.000 people!
â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
A large city (1,000,000 or more people)
â–¡ â–¡ 0
A suburb of a large city
â–¡ â–¡ D
A military base or station
â–¡ O G
18b. Please give the name of the city and state
in which you lived most of your childhood.
City State
19. How many brothers and sisters do you
have? (Include stepbrothers and stepsisters if
they live or have lived in your home.) MARK
ONE.
None
â–¡
Four
â–¡
One
0
Five
â–¡
Two
â–¡
Six or More
â–¡
Three
â–¡
3

236
20. What year did you graduate from high
school? PLEASE CHECK ONE.
Before 195-1 C 1979-1985 â–¡
1954-1965 D 1986-1995 â–¡
1966-1978 C GED D
21. Your average grade in high school was:
â–¡ A G B â–¡ C â–¡ D GF
22. The racial composition of your
neighborhood when you attended high school
was
less than 10° o minority C
at least 30° o minority G
6(i° o or more minority G
other G
23. The racial composition of your high school
was
less than 10° o minority C
at least 3(1° o minority 0
60° o or more minority C
other â–¡
24.The minority students at your high school
were predominately: (PLEASE CHECK
ONE.)
.African-American C
Hispanic G
.Asian Pacific Islander C
.American Indian-.Alaskan Native G
Other 0
2?. What type of school did you attend
during these years?
Public
Catholic
C>ther Religious
Private
(non-religious)
Home Schooling
ELEM MID HIGH
C C â–¡
G G â–¡
D â–¡ â–¡
G G Q
G 0 G
26.How many African American teachers
were there in your school during these years?
None
ELEM
â–¡
MID
n
HIGH
â–¡
1°« to 5°o
â–¡
Q
â–¡
5% to 25%
G
0
0
25% to 50%
G
G
G
50° o to 75° o
0
â–¡
Q
75% or more
C
â–¡
â–¡
All
â–¡
Q
G
27.How many Caucasions/Anglo-Saxon
teachers were there in your school during these
years?
ELEM
MID
HIGH
None
G
G
C
o
O
•«/»
o
n
L_J
n
i—
0
5% to 25° o
n
u
0
â–¡
25% to 50%
U
â–¡
n
u
50» oto 75° o
n
G
â–¡
75° o or more
â–¡
C
u
.All
G
Q
Li
28. Do you consider your experiences in
school
â–¡ positive
D somewhat positive
â–¡ no opinion
G somewhat negative
O negative
29. Did anything other than academic class
work prepare you for college?
Q Yes 0 No
If no, please continue with question #31.
30.If yes, did these activities include:
career counseling G
'â– future clubs" (FBLA, FRA) 0
sports teams 0
school counseling
theater-drama 0
musicbandorchestra Q
Other â–¡
4

237
II. PERSONAL TEACHING EFFICACY
.Agree Disagree No
Strongly Agree Disagree Strongly Opinion
31.If I try really hard, I can get through to even â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
the most difficult or unmotivated students.
32. I can help a child learn even if he/she is from a
culture different from my own.
33. The amount a student can learn is primarily
related to family background
34. A teacher is not limited in what he/she can â–¡
achieve even though a student’s home
environment may have a large influence on
his/her achievement
35. Even a teacher with good teaching abilities may â–¡ â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
not reach many students.
36. When it comes right down to it, a teacher really GDC
can’t do much because most of a student’s
motivation and performance depends on his/her
home environment.
â–¡ 0 â–¡ â–¡
â–¡ â–¡ â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
â–¡ â–¡ â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
37.Today’s student does not value an education
to learn from even the best teacher.
D â–¡ â–¡ â–¡
38.If the grades of my students improve, it is C â–¡ â–¡ C
because I found more effective teaching
approaches.
III. ATTITUDES/PERSPECTIVES ON TEACHING AS A CAREER
factors in determining the kind of work you plan to be
39.How important was each of the following
doing for most of your life?
a Previous work experience in the area
b Good income to start with or within a few years
c Job security and permanence
d Job status and prestige
e Career advancement
f An interesting and important career
g Freedom to make your own decisions
h Work with sociable, friendly people
Not
Somewhat
Very
Important
Important
Important
a
â–¡
0
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
0
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
0
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡

238
40. Which of the following contributed to your
decision to choose teaching as a career?
(PLEASE CHECK ALL THAT APPLY.)
C heard and or saw TV "Radio commercials on
the teaching profession
â–¡ volunteered as an aide at a daycare center
and or something comparable
D talked to friends who studied to become a
teacher
â–¡ learned that teachers were needed
G learned that teacher's salaries were increasing
Ü considered teaching a reasonably easy field to
enter
â–¡ hoped to help children grow academically and
emotionally
G had a particularly inspirational leader
G liked the idea of having summers off
â–¡ parents relatives encouraged me
I parents relatives who were teachers inspired
me
G people look up to teachers in my communin'
G Sunday School teacher
G baby-sitting experience
G worked with children with disabilities
â–¡ I want to make a difference in the lives of
children who come from my background
â–¡ there is nothing else to do in my community
â–¡ my former teacher (specify)
â–¡ bad expenences in school (explain please)
â–¡ availability of financial scholarships stipends
41. When you enter into teaching, which of the
following situations would you prefer?
(PLEASE CHECK ONE.)
â–¡ To be free to teach exactly the way I consider
best without interference from anyone
0 To be a part of a group of competent teachers
who work together to do the best possible job
â–¡ To be a part of a school organization where
goals and purposes are spelled out by the
principal
42. How important is it for a teacher to be able to perform the following tasks?
Help students work through problem situations
(racism sexism)
Not
Important
â–¡
Somewhat
Important
â–¡
Very
Important
[
Get students from diffenng cultures
to interact with each other
â–¡
â–¡
r
Present diversity of cultures as a positive feature
of .American heritage
p
L-i
â–¡
[
.Analyze instructional materials for potentially
racist sexist attitudes
â–¡
â–¡
[
.Assist all students to understand the feelings
of people from other groups
0
â–¡
C
Help students examine their own prejudices
â–¡
â–¡
[
Identify how language and cultural norms
affect performance on certain test items
â–¡
0
c
Identify the similarities and dissimilarities
between .Anglo-.Amencans and other cultures
â–¡
â–¡
[
6

239
42. cont’d (How important is it for a teacher to be able to perform the following tasks?)
Not Somewhat Very
Important Important Important
Identify- solutions to problems that may arise
as a result of cultural diversity
Develop instructional methods that promote
intercultural cohesiveness
Know ways in which various cultures contribute
contnbute to our pluralistic society
Identify societal factors influencing opportunities
for minority group members
43. Listed below are a variety of different types of students, educational, and geographical settings.
IIow desirable would each be to you for your first teaching assignment? (Please check one for each
item.)
Most
Desirable
Desirable
Least
Desirable
TYPES OF STUDENTS
av erage ability
0
D
â–¡
gifted talented
n
n
C
low ability
n
â–¡
â–¡
physically disabled
n
G
â–¡
mentally disabled
Li
â–¡
â–¡
emotionally disabled
LJ
â–¡
â–¡
learning disabled
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
minority setting
â–¡
â–¡
G
non-English speaking children
D
â–¡
â–¡
EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS
traditional classroom
n
LJ
â–¡
inclusive classroom
D
â–¡
â–¡
high income setting
D
â–¡
â–¡
middle income setting
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
low income setting
D
â–¡
â–¡
GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS
rural
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
suburban
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
urban
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
my hometown
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
my geographic region
â–¡
â–¡
â–¡
7

240
4-1. Upon completion of your teacher program,
what area do you expect to teach? (Please
check one.)
2 Early Childhood Education
2 Bilingual Education
â–¡ Elementary Education
â–¡ Vocational Education
â–¡ Secondary Education
C Special Education
â–¡ Other
(specify)
4?. Do you believe that teachers should have
to take the National Teachers Exam (NTE)?
1 Yes
2 No
46. Have you taken the NTE?
2* Yes
2 No
47. Did you obtain a passing score?
2 Yes
2 No
2 Some parts
48. How well do you feel you have been
prepared for the National Teachers'
Examination (NTE)?
2 Very Well
2 Well
2 Adequately
2 Poorly
49. Has e you been admitted to the Teacher
Education Program at your school?
â–¡ 'l es. with full status
2 Yes. with conditional status
G No
50. Why did you choose to enroll in teacher
education at an historically black university?
51. Is your present feeling toward teaching:
(Please check one.)
â–¡ Enthusiastic
â–¡ Slightly enthusiastic
0 Neutral
â–¡ Not very enthusiastic
â–¡ Not enthusiastic at all
52. Write in here what you plan to be doing
professionally in
3 years
5 years
1 (i years
Would you be willing to talk w ith me in an
interview ?
2 Yes 2 No
If yes, how can I reach you?
(Address/Telephone)
FOR CODING ONLY
SSN
UNIVERSITY
8

APPENDIX C
LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW GUIDE

242
Interview 1
Teacher Education Student's
Life History:
Exploring Past Experiencing Influencing the Decision to Enter Teaching
Introductory Statement: This is the first of three interviews that I will be conducting with
you to explore the reasons that you became a teacher. Today, I'd like to talk to you about
your past. Specifically, I want to talk to you about your parents and relatives, your
neighbors, your community, and your early years.
First, I want to hear about you.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you decided to become a teacher.
Now, let's talk about your parents (or guardians) and family.
2. What were your parents' (or guardians') attitudes about school and education?
3. What were your parents' (or guardians') expectations for your educational training?
4. Were your parents (or guardians) involved in your decision to become a teacher?
If so, in what ways?
5. Were any other members of your family influential in your decision to become a
teacher? If so, in what ways?
Let’s talk about your community.
6. What kinds of things did your neighbors say about school and education?
•What did they say about teachers who lived in your neighborhood?
7. What kinds of roles did teachers play in your community?
8. Did you hear about school and education when you attended church?
•What kinds of things did you hear?
•What kinds of things did you hear about teachers and teaching?
•What kinds of things did you hear about other careers?

243
Interview 2
Teacher Education Student's
Life History:
Detailing Experiences Influencing the Decision to Enter Teaching
In this interview, I am going to ask you to tell me your stories about school, your teachers,
and teaching.
1. Think about the teachers you encountered in elementary, middle, and high school.
•What stands out in your mind about good teachers? What did they do?
•What stands out in your mind about poor teachers? What did they do?
2. Did you have experiences with special education teachers? If so, how were they
similar to or different from your experiences with regular education teachers?
3. Tell me about the students in your schools.
•What were they like? (Racially diverse? Socioeconomically diverse? Range of
abilities and disabilities?
•Did teachers treat different students differently (racial differences, socioeconomic
differences, differences in abilities)? If so, in what ways?
4. Describe what you were like as a student.
•How were you treated by your teachers?
•Did your teachers treat you the way you thought they should?

244
Interview 3
Teacher Education Student's
Life History:
Making Sense of Experiences: Understanding How Experiences Have Influenced the Decision
to Enter Teaching
This is our last interview. I want to thank you for sharing your stories and experiences with
Now, I want to understand what all of your experiences mean to you.
1. Based on your prior interviews, I developed the following perceptions of the influence of
your parents on your decision to enter teaching....
•Does that sound right to you? Please elaborate.
2. Based on your prior interviews, I developed the following perceptions of the influence of
your community on your decision to enter teaching....
•Does that sound right to you? Please elaborate.
3. Based on your prior interviews, I developed the following perceptions of your beliefs
about teaching and your decision to enter teaching....
•Does that sound right to you? Please elaborate.
Now, let's turn to recruiting others like you into teaching.
4. What do people in your family, community, and church say about teaching today?
•How are teachers perceived?
5. In what ways do you think school experiences and relationships with former teachers
influence African American women's decisions to enter teaching?
6. Do you think it's important to recruit African American women into teaching? If so,
why?
Now, I have one final question for you.
7.Please finish this sentence. I decided to become a teacher because....

245
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256
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Audrey Davis McCray was born in Clinton, Louisiana, on
February 9, 1960, the daughter of Mary Idella Turner Davis
and James Otis Davis. After completing her work at Clinton
High School in Clinton, in 1978, she entered Southeastern
Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. She graduated
with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1982, majoring in Business
Education/Administration. She continued her education at
Southeastern and received a Master of Education in Special
Education degree in 1987. She taught secondary and
elementary students, and students with disabilities, in the
East Feliciana, Livingston, and Tangipahoa Parish School
Systems.
Following five years as a classroom teacher, Audrey was
employed by Southeastern Louisiana University as
Coordinator, Project Promote, a federally supported minority
teacher recruitment and retention project from 1987 to 1996.
She taught undergraduate and graduate courses including
Introduction to Special Education, Classroom Management and
Organization, The Inclusive Classroom: Methods of Designing
and Assessing Curricula for Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse Exceptional Individuals, and Theoretical Approaches
to Teaching Students with Learning and Behavior Problems.

257
Audrey has made numerous presentations at international,
national, and regional conferences including her most recent
presentation at the Teacher Education Division Conference of
the Council of Exceptional Children entitled, "African
American Motherhood and Teaching: An Old Practice, A New
Recruitment Tool." She has 6 publications. She entered the
doctoral program in Special Education at The University of
Florida in August, 1991.

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
¿T &uA ¿
Paul T. Sindelar, Chair
Professor of Special Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Karen Kilgore, Cochair
Assistant Scholar of
Special Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Elizabetl{jBondy /J
Associate Professor^of
Instruction and Curriculum
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degriíiPof Doctor of Philosophy.
—1\ C&lhSLQ. ^
Vivian Correa
Professor of Special Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree Professor of Special Education

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate
Faculty of the College of Education and to the Graduate
School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
December 1997 Q •
Dean, Collect of EducatioTr-
Dean, Graduate School



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