Describing an Elementary Teacher-Student Relationship and Student Attainment Using a Culturally Sensitive Research Approach

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Describing an Elementary Teacher-Student Relationship and Student Attainment Using a Culturally Sensitive Research Approach
Kinsey, Terri M
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University of Florida
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Doctorate ( Ed.D.)
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University of Florida
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Educational Leadership
Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education
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African Americans ( jstor )
Cultural studies ( jstor )
Educational research ( jstor )
High school students ( jstor )
Hispanics ( jstor )
Learning ( jstor )
Minority group students ( jstor )
Schools ( jstor )
Students ( jstor )
Teachers ( jstor )
Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
collaborative -- culture -- engagement -- minority -- relationship -- student -- teacher
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government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
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Educational Leadership thesis, Ed.D.


The purpose of this single case study was to explore the culture-centered instructional practices that were implemented to actively engage African-American and Hispanic students during class. The setting for the study was an elementary school that has been successful in increasing the achievement of its minority students. Using a culturally sensitive research framework, the interactions between a highly effective teacher and her African-American and Hispanic students were examined to discover instructional strategies that engage these students. This study also explored teacher and student descriptions of how the teacher engaged with the students during instruction. The constant comparison method was employed to discover consistencies and variations within the text of multiple data sources. Five major themes emerged across data: individual student focus, student-teacher connection, cooperative/small group, social and emotional skills, and schematized learning environment. Findings from this study contribute to the extensive research that supports positive teacher relationships with and among their students in order to create an enriching learning environment. The findings suggest that teacher-student relationships are built through understanding human emotional needs, student culture, shared values, and a familial approach to classroom social relations. The findings also revealed that a collaborative approach must be reflected in teacher instructional strategies, an approach that encourages students to become knowledge experts and to share their knowledge cooperatively with the aim of raising achievement. ( en )
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Thesis (Ed.D.)--University of Florida, 2014.
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by Terri M Kinsey.

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2014 Terri M Kinsey


I dedicate this work t o my husband Hugh, daughter Heidi and my wonderful fa mily and friends.


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful to family and friends who supported me in pursuit of my degree. My husband Hugh and daughter Heidi were terrific travel partners back and forth to Gainesville. They were my biggest cheerleaders and enco uraged me to have fun along the way. My parents were incredibly supportive and proud throughout this journey. They have all been awesome grandparents to Heidi and happily entertained her when I needed to devote time to school. I thank my brother Mike sisters Tammy and Maegan who regularly asked me about school and listened with enthusiasm to my response. I thank my friends, Jack, Kelly, and Michael for their hospitality over many weekends. I thank Gainesville locals, Todd and Kristy for sharing fun times. I thank my colleagues, Jeff, JoAnn, Kim, Jarrod, and Fran for putting up with me through this process I thank Dorothy for her expert transcription services. I thank my consulting partner, Dr. Bill Bozeman, for his hu mor, words of wisdom, and his endless stories about his own doctoral students. I appreciate my LEAD cohort for their camaraderie and humor. I especially thank Donna for trying to keep our cohort informed and updating us on birthdays, illnesses, weddings, a nd babies. I also appr eciate Kristina for her willingness to be my peer reviewer. I thank my professors in the LEAD program for their faith in me. I am grate ful to my dissertation committee, Dr. Behar Horenstein, Dr. Eldridge, Dr. Oliver, and Dr. Pena for their patience and guidance. I appreciate my dissertation chair, Dr. Behar Horenstein for her calm, caring, and professional demeanor I am especially grateful to her for helping me make it across the finish line.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 7 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 8 LIST OF TERMS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 9 A BSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 12 Purpose ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 14 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 14 Significance of the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 15 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 16 Teacher Stud ent Relationships ................................ ................................ ............................... 16 Culturally Relevant Pedagogy ................................ ................................ ................................ 21 Engaging Minority Students ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 24 Minority Student Perspective of Teaching and Learning ................................ ....................... 26 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 29 3 METHODS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 30 Methodology ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 30 Culturally Sensitive Research Framework ................................ ................................ ...... 30 Case Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 31 Gaining Access ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 31 Setting ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 32 Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 34 Participant Descriptions ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 35 Instrumentation ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 35 Pilot Testing ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 36 Data Collection Procedures ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 36 Classroom Observations ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 36 Teacher/Student Interviews ................................ ................................ ............................. 37 Artifacts ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 38 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 38 Validity ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 39 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 40


6 ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 40 4 RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 42 Resear ch Question 1) What Culture Centered Instructional Practices Does the Teacher I dentify? ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 43 Research Question 1a) How Does the Teacher Describe Her Use of Culture Centered Instructional Practice for Hispanic S tudents? Research Question 1b) How Does the Teacher Describe Her Use of Culture Centered Instructional Practice for African American S tudents? ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 46 Research Question 2) What Instru ctional Practices Does the Teacher Use While T eaching African American and Hispanic S tudents? ................................ ......................... 51 Management of the Classroom ................................ ................................ ........................ 52 Me tacognitive Practices ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 53 Teacher Engagement ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 55 P ractic es? ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 57 Summary of Results ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 59 5 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 61 Teacher's Identificati on of Culture Centered Instructional Practices ................................ ..... 61 Teacher's Description of Culture Centered Instructional Practices for Hispanic Students and African American Students ................................ ................................ .......................... 62 Observed Instructional Practices Used with Hispanic Students and African American Students ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 64 ................................ ..................... 65 Implications for Practice ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 68 Provide All Students with High Performing Teachers ................................ .................... 68 Develop Culturally Responsive and Instructionally Responsive Teachers ..................... 68 Emphasize the Importance of Positive Teacher Student Relationships .......................... 69 Implications for Research ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 69 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 70 APPENDIX A UF IRB APRROVAL OF RESEARCH PROTOCOL ................................ ........................... 72 B LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT IRB APPROVAL OF RESEARCH PROTOCOL ............... 73 C OBSERVATION PROTOCOL ................................ ................................ .............................. 74 D INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 75 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 76 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 84


7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 3 1 Freedom Elementary 2008 2011 FCAT data ................................ ................................ ..... 32 4 1 Definitions of themes ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 42 4 2 Criteria for Glasser Quality Schools ................................ ................................ .................. 48 5 1 Culturally Responsive Pedagogy ................................ ................................ ....................... 67


8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 4 1 Basic needs w heel ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 50 4 2 School v alues ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 51


9 LIST OF TERMS Choice Theory Teaches that we choose all we do and we are all responsible for the choices we make (Glasser 2006). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy references in all aspects of learning (Ladson Billings, 1994 as cited online by The Education Alliance Brown University). Culturally Sensitive Research Framework Ethnicity/Race and culture are a central focus of the research process (Tillman, 2002) that allude relative to the study Dominant Culture For pu rpose of this study, it is represented by the white culture and how it interacts with minorities, specifically African American and Hispanic. The dominant culture voluntarily and involuntarily makes the other culture(s) feel subordinate (Ogbu, 2004). Five Basic Needs Part of choice theory states that we are driven by our genes to satisfy five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun (Glasser, 2006). Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) State accountability test was designe d to measure achievement of students in grades 3 11 ; consisted of criterion referenced assessments measuring selected benchmarks in mathematics, reading, science, and writing in comparison to state standards. Tracking The practice of dividing students for instruction according to their perceived abilities. Students are placed on a particular track s, i.e ., college bound, general, vocational, and remedial an d receive curriculum that varies according to their perceived abilities and future positions in life. At the elementary level, the practice is called grouping ( Underrepresented Students of a particular race, ethnic group, socio economic level or some other indicator who are disproportionately not enrolled in a course or special program compared to students from other races, ethnic groups, or socio economic levels. In this study underrepresented refers to Black and Hispanic students (Ford, Grantham, & Whiting, 2008).


10 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 Education DESCRIBING AN ELEMENTARY TEACHER STUDENT RELATIONSHIP AND STUDENT ATTAINMENT USING A CULTURALLY S ENSITIVE RESEARCH AP PROACH By Terri M. Kinsey May 2014 Chair: Linda S. Behar Horenstein Major: Educational Leadership The purpose of this single case study was to explore the culture centered instructional practices that were implemented to actively engage African American and Hispanic students during class. The setting for the study was an elementary school that has been successful in increasing the achievement of its minority students Using a culturally sensitive research framework the interactions between a highly effective teacher and her African American and Hispanic students were examined to discover instructional strategies that engage these students. This study also explored teacher and student descrip tions of how the teacher engaged with the student s during instruction. The constant comparison method was employed to discover consistencies and variations within the text of multiple data sources F ive major themes emerged a cross dat a: individual student focus, student teacher connection, cooperative/small group, social and emotional skills, and schematized learning e nvironment. Findings from this study contribute to the extensive research that supports positive teacher relationships with and among their students in order to create an enriching learning environment. T he findings suggest that t eac her student relationships are built through understanding human emotional needs, student culture, shared values, and a familial approach to


11 classroom social relations. The findings also revealed that a collaborative approach must be reflected in the teache strategies an approach that encourage s students to become knowledge experts and to share their knowledge cooperative ly with the aim of rais ing achievement


12 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In many U.S. classrooms Black and Hispanic students conti nue to lag behind their White peers. While much of the discussion has focused on student outcomes some researchers have targeted the disparities in resources and opportunities experienced by Black and Hispanic students (Goldenberg, 2014; Milner, 2012). Lad son Billings (2007) described these inequities as Examples of inequitable educational opportunities are evident in instances of the under representations of students of color in high tracked courses (Burris, Wil ey, Welner, & Murphy, 2008; Ford, Grantham, & Whiting, 2008), having instruction provided by fewer high quality teachers (Darling Hammond, 2000), and attending schools with fewer resources (Biddle & Berliner, 2002; Darling Hammond, 2012; Ladson Billings, 2 007). In addition, Black and Hispanic students are predominately educated in schools where their culture is unacknowledged and the dominant culture's preferences preponderate in their learning environment (Ogbu, 2004; Wiggan, 2008). Students of color somet imes feel inferior to White students as a result of teacher comments, misconceptions and ignorance (Bae, Holloway, Li, & Bempechat, 2008; Walker, 2010; West Olatunji, Behar Horenstein, Rant, & Cohen Phillips, 2008; Wiggan, 2007). Researchers have suggested that many of the educational disparities that minority students experience can be linked to the classroom teacher. The teacher is pivotal to the success of students of color (Ladson Billings, 2009; Darling Hammond, 2010). Ladson Billings (2007) explained that teachers must get to know their students in order to connect with them and engage them in learning. She claimed that bad


13 ial, cultural, economic, and political histories and Some researchers have examined classrooms where good teaching has occurred and students of color have thrived (Chol ewa, Amatea, West Olatunji, & Wright, 2012; Ensign, 2003; Ladson Billings, 1995; West Olatunji et al., 2008). These studies have linked classroom success to high expectations for all students, positive teacher student relationships, and making connections to student culture. For example, Ensign examined the level of engagement of fifth grade minority students in their mathematics instruction when the equations were relevant to their personal lives. He found that students were more engaged when learning was connected to personal experiences like the costs of their rent and other necessities. Ladson teachers of African American students because they helped their students to be academical ly successful, culturally competent, and socio Ladson approaches, but with similar criteria. Three broad instr uctional themes surfaced for culturally example, the teachers structured their social relations with their students by building relationships throughout instr uction and by encouraging students to care about one another. This study showcased examples of best practices used by teachers with their Black students. In recent years, a growing body of research has focused on culturally relevant pedagogy. The research supports the important role culture plays in student learning, however, researchers agree that few studies have linked culturally relevant pedagogy to student attainment (Sleeter, 2012; Young, 2010; Tillman, 2009). Foster, Lewis and Onafowora (2003) noted that identifying


14 what actually occurs in the classroom is challenging in culturally responsive research. In addition, there have been few studies dedicated to discovering how minority students respond to the behaviors of their culturally relevant teachers (Cholewa et al., 2012). Student reactions can be captured through observation and interview, but student interviews are seldom conducted in education research (Cook Sather, 2002). Cook Sather advocated for the student perspective because as she pointed o ut, schools are designed to serve and can provide insigh t into what engages them in a culturally responsive learning environment. Purpose The purpose of this study was to explore the culture centered instructional practices that were implemented to actively engage African American and Hispanic students during class. In this study the researcher observed and documented the interactions between the teacher and her minority students. The teacher and the students were interviewed and their perspectives were captured in a single case study. Research Questions This s tudy was guided by the following research questions: 1. What culture centered instructional practices does the teacher identify? a. How does the teacher describe her use of culture centered instructional practice for Hispanic students? b. How does the t eacher describe her use of culture centered instructional practice for African American students? 2. What instructional practices does the teacher use while teaching African American and Hispanic students?


15 3. How do students describe their teacher's instructio nal practices? Significance of the Study Some U.S. schools with high rates of poverty and high percentages of minority students are performing at high levels equal to or greater than their W hite counterparts. One of these schools, that made gains in closi ng the achievement gap, was the focus of this study (Peabody, 2005). This school was honored as a Title I Distinguished School by the Florida Department of Education for meeting all of the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements and Hispanic students who met or exceeded state standards in reading over a three year period (Florida Department of Education, 2009 2011) as compared to district and state averages. Th e performance of African American students at this school was almost 30% higher over the same three year period as compared to district and state averages.


16 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter presents an overview of research studies regarding the factors that impact minority student learning. The topics presented include: a) teacher student relationships, b) culturally relevant pedagogy, c) engaging minority students, and d) minority student perspective of teaching and learning. Teacher Studen t Relationships Extensive research supports the importance of positive teacher student relationship (TSR) and its impact on student behavior and academic achievement (Boykin & Noguera, 2011; Burchinal, Peisner Feinberg, Pianta, & Howes, 2002; Cornelius Whi te, 2007; Hamre & Pianta, 2001). Researchers define positive TSR in various yet similar terms. The relationship can be described as one where the teacher is empathic, warm, genuine, and encourages critical thinking and student self directed activities (C ornelius White, 2007). The positive support provided by the teacher can be categorized as emotional, organizational, and instructional (Curby, Rimm Kaufman, & Ponitz, 2009). A positive relationship can possess a high degree of warmth and low conflict (Liew Chen, & Hughes 2010). Regardless of the definition the research is clear in linking positive TSRs to positive student outcomes (Curby et al., 2009; Liew et al., 2010; Roorda, Kooman, Spilt, & Oort, 2011). Children benefit from positive relations with th eir teacher, but younger children, in particular, are better able to engage and learn from teachers with whom they have positive interactions (Burchinal et al., 2002, p. 417). Further, there is evidence these positive relationships impact student outcomes later in life. For example, Hamre and Pianta (2001) monitored young students as they progressed from kindergarten to eighth grade while observing kindergarten teacher relationships with students and impact over time. Researchers examined how TSR, as


17 perce ived by the kindergarten teacher, impacted student behavior and academic achievement over the course of eight years of schooling. This study included data from student screenings, student assessments, teacher questionnaires, school behavior records, school grades, teacher child rating scale, and a student teacher relationship scale. The results suggested there was a correlation between early TSRs and student behavior, and with academic performance in future years (at least through eighth grade which was the highest grade included in the study). Correlations between TSRs and behavioral outcomes were stronger than with academic outcomes, but the link with academics was still significant. There is research that reflects a greater connection between TSRs and aca demic performance (Cornelius White, 2007; Curby et al., 2009). Cornelius White (2007) conducted a meta analysis of studies that focused on TSRs and behavioral and cognitive student outcomes. He also reviewed literature pertaining to TSRs where person cente red education or a learner centered model was utilized. He synthesized the findings of 119 studies that were published between 1948 and 2004. He discovered a positive relationship between person centered instruction and student outcomes. The correlation be tween positive student teacher relationship and academic achievement was even higher. Cornelius nondirectivity, empathy, warmth, and encouraging thinking and learning are the specific teacher variables that are above In a longitudinal study administered by Curby et al. (2009) students were followed through kindergarten and first grade to determine if teacher student interactions impacted student academic p erformance. The y focused their inquiry on support provided to students in the classroom by the teacher in three domains: emotional, organizational, and instructional. Results indicated a positive association between student teacher interactions and student achievement in


18 phonological awareness and word reading. The researchers specified that lower achieving students grew at faster rates than the higher achieving students in phonological awareness and mathematics skills. Many low performing students are ill prepared for school as a result of family and environmental factors. In their research, Jerome, Hamre, and Pianta (2008) considered family and environment al characteristics to discover what influence these factors had on teacher relations with students. T hey asked teachers of students in kindergarten through fifth grade to rate their closeness and confl ict with their students and sensitivity, and student behavior issues caused initial conflict between teacher and student but conflict diminished over time. These same factors sl owed the development of teacher student bond Burchinal et al. (2002) considered family background in their longitudinal study of TSRs and student impact. The study addressed differences among chil dren whose parents held more authoritarian parenting views. Researchers surmised that while family characteristics greatly influenced student outcomes a close rela tionship with the teacher served as an alternative pathway for potentially at risk students challenged by family factors (p. 431). Many studies exploring teacher student relations and their impact on student outcomes have targeted minority students and/or students considered at risk, low SES, or from urban schools (Liew et al., 2010; Murray, Waa s, & Murray, 2008; Murray & Zvoch, 2011). Much of the research associated with teacher student interaction and impact on minority student behavior and work habits was motivated by the persistent achievement gap (Ferguson, 2003). At risk, low SES, and minor ity students typically were placed in classrooms with less supportive teachers (Liew et al., 2010). W hen provided with warm and encouraging teachers these same students


19 thrived in the classroom. Student potential was recognized by teachers who had positiv e relationships with their students and set students on a course for higher achievement (Cornelius White, 2007; Hamre & Pianta, 2001). Researchers have also explored both the negative and positive impact s of teacher student relations on student behavior an d performance (Murray & Zvoch, 2011; Roorda et al., 2011). Positive and negative TSRs influence d student engagement and achievement (Roorda et al., 2011). L ow SES students or students considered at risk because of learning difficulties were more influence d by negative TSRs. Positive TSRs had a greater effect on the achievement of low SES students and ethnic minority students (Hamre & Pianta, 2001). There was an association nority students of urban and low SES schools (Murray et al., 2008). Researchers agree d that more investigation was needed to understand the impact of TSRs on different ethnic minority groups (Hughes, Gleason & Zhang, 2005; Murray et al., 2008; Roorda et al ). Hughes et al. (2005) examined the impact of TSRs on Hispanic and African American students. They analyzed teacher perceptions of parent teacher relations and student teacher relations in association with student demographics and student academic abiliti es. White and Hispanic students were rated higher by their teachers than their African American counterparts in the areas of teacher support, academic abilities, and parent teacher relations. The researchers r perceptions of ability have consequences for school and student teacher relationships offer a possible route for narrowing the achievement gap for African 304). Similar studies have found an association between TSR


20 Much of the research on TSRs utilized teacher perspective while a few studies provided the student point of view. Even i n research where both perspectives were considered teacher and student perceptions of positive TSRs were often different, leading researchers to call for further study (Murray et al., 2008). Several studies of TSRs cited lack of child report data as a lim itation (Burchinal et al., 2002; Jerome, et al., 2008). Hughes (2011) emphasized the significance of the student perspective in her research of TSR involving elementary students. Students have the cognitive ability to realistic a lly self appraise by second or third grade (Cole et al., 2001). Hughes found that students who perceived a positive relationship with their teacher were more likely to perceive themselves positive in relation to academics. She emphasized the importance of including the student perspe was The student point of view can help researchers better understand how minority students perceive their education experience in relation to their interactions with teachers. Shiller (2009) accounted for the student perspective in an ethnographic study of a teacher and a group of high school students. Students in the study were from three area schools that utilized small school enrollments as a means for improving relations between teachers and their students. The researcher determined that small school enrollment alone was not sufficient for building positive TSRs. She found that teacher perceptions of their students had a greater influence Her Shiller recommended teachers at these schools receive professional development in culturally relevant instruction and in building positive relationships with their students.


21 The research clearly links the quality of teacher student relationships with student behaviors and student engagement and achievement (Roorda et al. 2011). Studies targeting minority students emphasized the benefits of positive teacher student connections particularly in regard to academic outcomes. The proposed study will further explore the relationship between teacher and minority students from bo th the teacher and student perspective. Culturally Relevant Pedagogy Culture plays an important role in student learning (Howard, 2003; Nasir & Hand, 2006). When student culture is part of learning it allows students to make meaningful connections between who they are and what they learn. Teacher culture is the dominant influence when the cultural identity of the student is not considered. The majority of U.S. classrooms are taught by White, female, middle class teachers (Feistritzer, 2011). Researchers ha ve linked lack of cultural relevance in instruction to the achievement gap (Morrison, Robbins, & Rose, 2008). Culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) is defined as instruction that encourages students to have a positive identification with their own culture w hile experiencing academic success and becoming critically aware of the world around them (Ladson Billings, 1995, p.469). Gay (20 02) defined perspectives of ethnically 106). The review of research on CRP provided an understandin the cultural conditions under which teaching and learning transpire Much of the cultu rally responsive literature references the work of Gloria Ladson Billings a noted expert in CRP. Her book, The Dreamkeepers has been cited numerous times by other researchers (Schmeichel, 2012). Ladson Billings introduced the theory of CRP in 1995. It is based on her study of eight exemplary teachers of African American students. Ladson and demonstrated


22 three broad instructional themes concept a nd perceptions of others, social relations, and knowledge concepts. She observed specific characteristics displayed by teachers associated with each of these themes. For example, teachers encouraged knowledge sharing among their students This study was se minal to Ladson the work of many other researchers in this field. Other researchers, like Gay (2002) have written about the importance of using culturally responsive pedagogy to facilitate the success of ethnically diverse stu dents. She pointed out that i t is essential for teachers to understand the influence culture has on the attitudes, values, and behaviors of students and teachers within the classroom. CRP teachers are aware of their is influences their learning. Gay advised teachers to which ethnic groups give priority to communal living and cooperative problem solving 107). Research ers advise against using generalizations of certain ethnic groups that could be considered racial stereotyping, one of the problems that culturally responsive teaching tries to address (Schmeichel, 2012). Some students do not respond to strategies designed for their cultural background. If teachers approach CRP as an approach for certain cultural groups, then how can the learning needs of all children be met? This raises the issue of how to implement CRP without inequities and without cultural bias. Involvi ng teacher participants in the research has helped bring out cultural bias and reveal the challenges to implementing CRP (West Olatunji, Behar Horenstein, Rant, & Cohen Phillips, 2008; Young, 2010). The researchers utilized teacher participants as co resea rchers and trained them in using lesson study as well as concepts related to CRP and collaborative learning. The teacher participants were African


23 American, like their students, and yet, they were initially unaware of how their culture impacted teaching an d learning in their classrooms. The researchers found the lesson study approach to be a useful method for engaging teachers in their own learning and teaching techniques. Co researchers in the study by Young (2010) raised concerns about the c hallenges of i mplementing CRP. These challenges include the need to, (a) raise the race consciousness of educators and encourage them to confront their own cultural biases, (b) address systemic roots of racism in school policies and practices, and (c) adequately equip preservice and inservice teachers with the knowledge of how to i mplement theories into practice (p. 257). CRP appears to be addressed in most teacher education programs, but teacher candidates are challenged to put theory into practice when given the oppo rtunity (Morrison et al., 2008). Practicing teachers have cited inadequate teacher education programs as their challenge with implementing CRP because cultural instruction was not part of their teaching internships (Walker, 2010). Prerequisites for develop ing CRP include, Others suggest that t eacher candidates should be exposed to reflective teaching tools that cont emplate the diverse cultural potential of s tudents (Howard, 2003; West Olantunji et al., 2008). Research has explore d the work of teachers who are considered highly effective in instructing African American students (Ladson Billings, 1995, 2009; Walker, 2010; West Olatunji et al., 2008). Other rese arch has focused on Hispanic students and their cultural learning needs ( Santamaria, 2009). Building strong relationships between teachers and students is a a relatio nship with students that entails connecting not only with individual students, but also with Olatunji, & Wright, 2012, p. 268). The


24 researchers specified that r elationship building should be developed in context with the teaching process More research is needed to better understand the challenging yet important task teachers have in implementing CRP ( Morrison et al., 2008; Nasir & Hand, 2006; Sleeter, 2012; Young, 2010). Nasir and Hand asserted that gre ater and shift our analyses of race, class, and learning away from models of reproduction and essentialism and toward more (p. 469). The proposed study seeks to explore the characteristics that typify CRP by looking at a classroom where historically students have performed at or above grade level and where culturally responsive teaching is present. Engaging Minority Students Student engagement is important to the learning process. Students who pay close attention to instruction and are directly involved in classroom activities may experience greater awareness, confidence, and performance (Uekawa, Borman, & Lee, 2007, p. 2). Teachers must know when students are actively engaged in their learning and what causes them to become engaged (Boykin & Noguera, 2011). Crumpton and Gregory (2011) suggest ed the academic relevancy of what students are asked to learn can impact their motivation and engagement. Academic releva ncy refers to how students regard the utility of their schoolwork and its impact on their present and future success. Students, regardless of race, appear to be equally motivated by the value of what is taught. This emphasizes the importance of academic re levance in motivating and engaging all students. For students to engage in a learning task they must also be choice theory to explain how students are motivated to learn when they anticipate success and fun associated with the activity.


25 competent work if t eachers made the effort to connect with them and helped them to understand the value of quality work. Teachers utilize a variety of instructional practices that have the potential to engage students. While lecture and seatwork tend to dominate U.S. classro oms there are more engaging strategies (Uekawa, et al., 2007; Wenglinsky, 2004). In order to better understand minority student achievement it is helpful to know what engages them. Studies have shown there are additional influences in the classroom that e ngage students, particularly African American and Hispanic students (Crumpton & Gregory, 2011; Foster & Peele, 1999; Huerta, 2011). Different racial/ethnic groups, in general, tend to prefer instructional practices other than solely seatwork For instance, Latino students have been found to be more engaged by group work as compared to Asian students who prefer individual learning activities (Uekawa et al., 2007). Latino student engagement appears to be more dependent on the type of instructional method as c ompared to African American students who tend to be less affected (p. 36). There are, however, specific instructional practices that link to higher African American student achievement (Foster & Peel, ritual, rhythm, recitation, repetition, and relationships editing, and common sight word recognition was found to benefit all students ( Foster and Peele ). Wenglinsky (2004) reported that African Ame rican students benefited from time on task in mathematics while Latino students preferred project based work. In contrast, strategies such as extensive testing and writing about mathematics were found to negatively impact student learning. According to re search, there are optimal learning environments that support minority student engagement (Kyburg, Hertberg Davis, & Callahan, 2007; Salinas & Garr, 2009; Ye,


26 Varelas, & Guajardo, 2011). Learner centered classrooms have been found to encourage student engag ement (Cornelius White, 2007). Salinas and Garr (2009) examined the impact of learner centered education on minority student achievement. The schools selected for the study represented six different states (CA, CT, FL, MA, NJ, and TX) and were considered l earner centered because they focused on student choice, individual pacing, greater personal responsibility, and critical thinking among other criteria. Test data of minority and non minority students were compared. Researchers found little or no performanc e gap between the two student groups in learner centered classrooms. Kyberg et al. (2007) suggest ed that students can provide insight into what engages them in learning. They found that students preferred more creative classroom environments where teacher s communicate d respectfully and genuinely believe d their students could succeed. Huerta (2011) found that Latino elementary students thrived in class settings where instructional a humanizing approach such as i n structional conversatio n, shared reading and w dents and teachers in the study also cited close teacher student relationships as an important part of the learning environment. Teacher student relationship has been linke d in other studies to student engagement and achievement (Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Roorda et al, 2011). Ye et al. (2011) found that close teacher student relationships and culturally relevant instruction helped engage students in learning. Hughes and Kwok (20 07) found the quality of teacher student relations contributed to student engagement and achievement. Minority Student Perspective of Teaching and Learning Students can offer unique insight into what they perceive works for them in the class room. Cook Sath er (2002) asserted that student perspective should be an integral part of educational research since these studies explore an educational system created to serve students.


27 She further espoused that students should be recognized as authorities in reforming e ducation. Cook Sather highlighted approaches such as constructivism and critical pedagogy that lend themselves to student perspective. For example, constructivists view students as active creators of their knowledge rather than recipients of others' knowl edge In recent years, student perspective has been included in more education research, particularly studies related to African American and Hispanic students (Archer Banks, 2007; Brand, Glasson & Green, 2006; Hughes, 2011; Nichols, 2006; Singleton, 2012; Stevens, Hamman, & Olivarez, 2007). Minority students can provide important perspective on what is occurring in the classroom and how it may help or hinder their learning (Howard, 2001). Ogbu (2004) found that minority students associated good grades with negatively impacted their academic performance. Ford, Grantham, and Whiting (2008) interviewed African American gifted students who viewed good grades as important, but emics, poor behavior, and different clothing. perspect found that African American students viewed academic achievem ent as a pathway to success and reported no peer pressure associated Singleton (2012) reported that none of her African American participants expressed concern regarding negative peer influence related to academic success. Studies have also examined minority student perspective in relation to teacher expectations. Tyler and Boelter (2008) found that when African American students perceived their teachers as having high expectations for them they valued academics more and they tended to be more engaged. Chenoweth (2009) found that high expectations by teachers were common


28 in the high performing, high minority schools included in her reporting Students interviewed by Chenoweth described other schools as having a distinct group of smart ki ds, but at their school Teacher expectations have been found to differ depending on student race/ethnicity and student academic performance level such as general, honors, and special educatio n (Shaunessy & McHatton, 2009). For example, in the study by Shaunessy and McHatton, low performing students reported more positive academic feedback and more punitive corrections than the high achieving students. White students received less feedback over all than Hispanic and African American students. Special education students received the most feedback and expressed more enthusiasm for subject content, and pedagogi cal expertise ignited a desire in their students to Student sense of belonging is linked to teacher expectations and teacher student relationship. Stevens, Hamman, & Olivarez (2007) examined the perceptions of fifth and sixth grade Hispanic students regarding mastery goal orientation and academic pr essure placed on them by their W hite teachers. The more teachers emphasized learning over performance, the more students reported feeling s of belonging. Nichols (2006) found that Hispanic students, the majority culture in the school, felt mo re sense of belonging than the W hite students. Students defined sense of belonging as inclusive of their interpersonal relationships with peers and teac hers and included academic achievement as well as involvement in extra activities. Wiggan (2008) explored student perspective in a manner described by Cook Sather (2002) that is when students were recognized as active participants in reforming education. African American students were asked to describe their educational experience, share thoughts


29 on school success, and suggest ways U.S. schools could improve. S tudents reported that engaged teaching w as the most influential factor to their success. Students described teachers who were disengaging as teacher centered, dismissive, unprepared, and possessing a low interest in teaching. Student suggestions for improving education included school funding reform, improved teacher pedagogy, better extracurricular a ctivities, and making college affordable. Summary The research confirmed a strong correlation between teacher student relationship and student behavior and academic achievement (Burchinal et al., 2002). This is true for both positive and negative influenc es of teacher student relationship (Roorda et al., 2011) The research also supported the notion that teacher student relationships had a greater impact on at risk, low SES, and minority students. Hughes et al. (2005) asserted that improving teacher studen t relationships may narrow the achievement gap. Extensive literature supported culturally relevant pedagogy as a means for improving teacher student relationships of minority students (Cholewa et al., 2012). Walker's work (2010) linked c ulturally relevant pedagogy to improved student achievement for minorities, but was also found to benefit non minority students. Researchers who examined instructional practices that engaged minority students found that student culture was included by teachers who were cons idered culturally competent (Ladson Billings, 1995). Researchers who sought student input along with teacher input found that these groups offered different, but important perspectives about the teaching and learning that occurred within the classroom (Wi ggan, 2008). Several researchers who did not engage the student perspective reported this as a limitation to their study or recommended student perspective for future studies (Jerome et al., 2009). The current study extends the work of previous research by exploring culture centered strategies used by one teacher with her minority students in a school that has demonstrated success in closing the performance gap.


30 CHAPTER 3 METHODS This chapter provides an overview of how the study was conducted. Information about the methodology, study setting, participants, methods, analysis, and research bias are described. Methodology Culturally Sensitive Research Framework Using a specific case and a culturally sensitive research framework this study examine d the in teractions between the teacher and her African American and Hispanic students to discover instructional strategies that engage these students. This study also explored teacher and student descrip tions of how the teacher engaged with the student s during ins truction. A culturally sensitive research framework is unique; it places the focus of inquiry on the culture of the group(s) under study (Tillman, 2002). This approach was constructed using research methods, knowledge, analyses, theory and practice that we re informed by the culture that was the research focus. For example, this study use d the method of interviews and observat ions which Tillman (2006) referred learning environm ent. As expected, t he researcher considered her own cultural knowledge in relation to the culturally sensitive exploration throughout the study and her positionality The ne school to help African American and Hispanic students excel. Neilson and Suyemoto (2009) recommend ed knowledge, experiences, and possible biases can serve as an asset or a deficit in the research p. 92). The researcher described these issues in the research bias section of this chapter.


31 This framework was used to capture the authentic voices of African Ame rican and Hispanic students and to empower those who are marginal ized by giving them a voice in the research (Banks, 1998 ). Th e researcher also consider ed students' lived experiences and all that impacts them in and outside the classroom The analys i s in this study standpoints and the particular ex American and Hispanic students (Tillman, 2006, p. 271) that were shared during the study Case Study A case study design was employed to investigate student engagement (Creswell, 2011). Case study allow s the researcher to explor e in depth the participants' experiences through observation, interview, and document review. This design i s preferred when the researcher needs to us e multiple sources in order to discover the phenomenon within the real life setting (Schwandt, 1997, p. 13 ). Gaining Access The researcher received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from the University of Florida (Appendix A ) and IRB approval ( Appendix B ) from the local school district where the study was conducted. The researcher, an employee of the school district, had access to the study site and its participants. Permission was granted from the principal of the school selected for the study. The participating teacher, who was recommended by the principal, consented to participate and assisted the s chool principal in obtaining parent/guardian permission to observe Twelve minority students in a class of 20 were invited to participate. Six families returned s igned consent forms that were given to the researcher prior to the study. Each student participant agreed to be interviewed and to be recorded.


32 Table 3 1 Fre edom Elementary 2008 2011 FCAT d ata Student Subgroups FCAT Reading % Level 3 5 FCAT Mathematics % Level 3 5 2008 2009 2010 2011 2008 2009 2010 2011 Black 71 72 83 74 78 72 76 60 Hispanic 73 82 75 76 80 89 82 80 White 84 88 89 81 85 88 90 80 Economically Disadvantaged 74 83 82 76 79 84 83 76 District Avg. 72 75 74 74 69 73 73 75 State Avg. 70 72 71 69 72 72 * = deno tes formula change for reporting 2011 State Avg. Source: FL Dept. of Education Setting The setting for the study was a single elementary school in a southern Florida school district that has been successful in increasing the achievement of its minorit y students as indicated by the data provided in Table 3 1 Freedom Elementary (pseudonym) serves approximately 950 students in grades pre kindergarten through fifth grade including those 83% eligible for free/reduced lunch, 56.6% W hite, 26.7% Hispanic, 9.4 % African American, and lunch rate qualified Freedom as a Title I school under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The school is located in a lower middle class suburb of the county. G rades three through five students were required by state statute to take the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) each year. FCAT scores were reported by student subgroups including White, B lack, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, economically disadvantaged, Limited English Proficient, and students with disabilities. According to FCAT results provided in Table 3 1, Freedom Elementary closed the achievement gap in mathematics between its Hisp anic and W hite students in 2009 and 2011. In 2010 only 6 percentage points


33 separated Black and W hite students in FCAT reading. Freedom earned state and national awards for its overall student academic performance and its stakeholder satisfaction results. Under and the school was identified as above the 80 th The s taff of Freedom Elementary does not reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of its student population. The instr uctional staff is predominately W hite ; 20% of employees who are African American or Hispanic primarily serve in support staff roles. The school operates using a management approach to governance which means that all members of the instructional and suppor t staff were expected to be active collaborators and decision makers. The school's retention rate for its teachers is statement calls for the school to use a continuous improvement model that focuse s on utilizing data, building strong relationships and creating a safe and engaging learning environment that supports high educational performance. In 2006 Freedom Elementary was recognized as a Glasser Quality School by the William Glasser Institute for their approach to te aching and learning. Criteria for Glasser Quality Schools is provided in Table 4 2, but essentially the school has created a sense of community, a collaborative culture, focus on skill mastery and academic success, and where the student is the prevailing c ontributor to the learning environment (Rose, 2003). with their key stakeholders. The school identifies their key stakeholders as the students and their families, busi ness partners, and the surrounding community. stakeholder input. Students, parents and staff are surveyed multiple times during the school year


34 The school regula rly hosts academic and family events during the school year in order to showcase student work and to engage family and community in school activities. academic events include two student led conferences where students present their best work to family. During the 2012 t one of four academic events. The staff also reaches out to their fami lies by hosting family events at neighborhood centers or churches. The school provides transportation to families when events s campus. These outreach effort s create a strong partnership between the school and families. Participants who s/he considered to be culturally compe tent, specifically someone who had worked at the school for at least five years, and had taught third, fourth or fifth grade. This process in part mirrors what occurred in Ladson Billings (1995) Ladson Billings, however, also used parent input t o cross reference the principal 's input in the selection of teachers for the study. The class was com prised of seven Hispanic, five B lack and eight W hite students. All students within the class were either identified as students with special learning needs and received additional services through Exceptional Student Education (ESE) or were being considered for testing to determine ESE eligibility Twelve minority students were invited and six of them returned signed parent consent forms to participate in th e study. The researcher included student s to be participants because research has shown that their voice is essential when the aim of an investigation is to further understand the teacher student relationship and because students experience the greatest im pact by classroom activities and interactions (Wiggan, 2007; Howard, 2001). The rationale for targeting student participants in grades three, four or five was based on Cole et al. (2001) who has shown that children have developed the abilit y to report thei r self concepts by around third grade. The


35 researcher read a child assent script to each student in order to secure verbal agreement to participate Each participant was given a pseudonym to maintain confidentiality (Gibbs, 2007). Participant Descriptions The participating teacher, Sarah Casey, (pseudonym) had been teaching for 15 years. She is the mother of two daughters, one who is still at Freedom the other who graduated from the school and now attends a neighboring middle school. Ms. Casey explained th at she chose the teaching profession because she enjoyed kids and literature and hoped to integrate the two by sharing her love of reading with students. All class. Descriptions of the student particip ants were compiled using student interview data from the study and demographic information provided by the teacher. Two of the six participants were girls and Hispanic. Carla liked all subjects, especially reading and Evelyn enjoyed math ematics and lunch. The remaining participants were boys. Michael was Hispanic. He reported that he liked his teachers and enjoyed all subjects. Darius, Malik, and Anthony were African American. Darius liked his friendships with his teacher and classmates. Malik enjoyed readi ng and math ematics and playing football with his brothers. Anthony liked all of the learning activities and declared that Freedom Elementary was the best school in comparison to another school he had previously attended Instrumentation The researcher 's o bservation protocol as shown in Appendix C was used as a template for recording notes during the classroom observations (Creswell, 2011). The two column format of the protocol allowed the researcher to record observation notes in the left column and her reflection notes in the right column. The observation notes were written to provide a chronolog ical narrative of the events that occurred during classroom instruction, including


36 teacher and student interactions. The reflection notes allowed the researcher to document emergent insights, themes, or ideas about what was observed Pilot Testing The interview protocol for the teacher was piloted with two teachers from Freedom prior to the study. The teachers were provided a copy of the interview questions (See A ppendix D ) just prior to the interview. They were informed that the researcher would take notes and they agreed to be recorded using an iPhone. The researcher shared the purpose of the study, the confidentiality of the interview, and approximate time neede d for the interview. An ice breaker question was used at the beginning followed by six study related questions. The researcher noted the challenge and importance of remaining as neutral as possible during the interview process. The questions elicited resp onses that appeared to be applicable to the study. No changes were made to the teacher interview questions based on the pilot testing. The interview protocol for students (Appendix D ) was piloted with two third grade students from another elementary. A sim ilar protocol was used with the students. They were provided a copy of the questions and agreed to be recorded during the interview. They were informed of the purpose of the study, the confidentiality of the interview, and approximate time needed for the i nterview. The student questions included an ice breaker and six additional learning related questions. No changes were made to the questions based on the pilot testing. Data Collection Procedures Classroom Observations The researche r's observations of the teacher and student participants focused on teacher interactions with student participants, student interactions with the teacher, and on interactions b etween the teacher and students The classroom observations occurred 4 times per week over a period of four weeks during September and October. The teacher and six student participants


37 were observed at various times during the morning and afternoon in order to notice interactions in different instructional settings. For example, small group instruction for reading took place in the morning while large group science instruction occurred in the afternoon. The researcher varied the observation times in order to observe each of the six student participants interact with their teacher in the teacher led small gro up as well as their participation in other learning activities such as the computer center or collaborative skills practice. Teacher/Student Interviews The purpose of the teacher interview was to discover teacher identified pedagogical and interpersonal s trategies used with her African American and Hispanic students. The teacher was asked to describe her relationship with her minority students, describe approaches she used to engage them, and identify indicators of engagement. Additionally, she was asked to discuss how student culture influenced her instruction and to identify the culture centered practices she used with her African American and Hispanic students. Two 20 minute i nterviews with the teacher took place in her classroom after school. The first interview occurred at the onset of the study and the second occurred following the completion of the observations. The purpose of the student interviews was to discover how minority students describe their relationship with their teacher and what they ide ntify as interesting and fun learning activities. Student participants were asked about feelings of success, teacher relationship, favorite learning activities, and classroom activities that allowed for personal expression. The six participants were inter viewed during the second and fourth week of the study Student interviews took place in the school media center or in the classroom, in order to create Thorpe, 20 11, p. 81). Interviews took approximately 10 minutes and the researcher was mindful of student and teacher schedules. Student interviews occurred either before school or during


38 physical education class, with the exception of one interview that took place d uring lunch. Interview questions were structured, open ended questions (Krahenbuhl & Blades, 2006) and with participant permission interviews were recorded (Creswell, 2011). Artifacts The artifacts used in the study surfaced from the initial observations and interviews with the teacher and student participants. The researcher selected four artifacts that were photographed and used in follow up interviews with the teacher and student participants. The artifacts included: a class schedule, a photo of a sign depicting a student daily needs survey (Figure 4 (Figure 4 2). The purpose of the ar tifacts was to elicit more detailed responses from the to help them recall details of classroom interactions and activities (Danby et al., 2011). Data Analysis Data analysis involved organizing, coding, and sy nthesizing running notes that the researcher documented during the observations and interviews, and participant responses to artifacts in the classroom (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007). Classroom observation notes were read and reread immediately following the visi ts to help ensure their accuracy (Bogdan & Biklen). After notes were reviewed some details were added or clarified. For instance, the resource teacher who was observed working with a small group of students was mistakenly labeled a paraprofessional in an i nitial observation and this was corrected. Interviews were transcribed from audio tapes by a third party who agreed to confidential treatment of the information. The researcher compared actual recordings to transcriptions to ensure accuracy. Transcribed d ata were then compared to To provide member checking, t he teacher was invited to review her


39 interview transcripts to ensure information was captured accurately (Ladson Billings, 2009). Transcripts reflected teacher and the student c omments as they reviewed artifacts to help them recall information related to the interview questions and research questions (Danby et al., 2011). The researcher read all data and made notes in margins and re read all of the data prior to analysis. The o bservation data and the interview data were analyzed using open coding (Gibbs, 2007). Data from multiple sources were then gathered based on topics that surfaced. Topics were listed and then grouped as appropriate by categorical, analytic and theoretical c odes. Coding was completed using NVivo 10 software. The constant comparison method was employed to discover the meaning of the text through contrast and comparison (Gibbs). Triangulation was used in the study by gathering multiple sources of data (teacher interviews, student interviews, observations, and artifacts) to compare information from each data source and verify the information and also to the intent of dis covering emerging themes. Major themes surfaced from analyses of the interview and observation data. Validity Multiple strategies were used to increase the validity of the research (Creswell, 2009). Multiple data sources (e.g., observations, interviews, an d documents) were adopted to collect and analyze data, and develop themes. The teacher participant reviewed the transcript of her interview to verify the accuracy of the transcribed data. In addition, thorough descriptions of multiple observations were det ailed to create a more vivid picture. A peer review was conducted by a fellow graduate student who worked at a state university as a supervisor of student teachers. The peer reviewer read 10% of the data that included a preliminary analysis. She reported her concurrence with a majority of the findings; however, she indicated that the Family Teacher Relationship theme was not as prevalent as the


40 other themes. The researcher reexamined the data and determined that the teacher placed greater emphasis on build ing the student relationship; therefore, Family Teacher Relationship was replaced with Student Teacher Connection. The peer reviewer also indicated that a visual example of the Basic Needs Chart referenced in the data would be helpful in the final report. Figure 4 1 in Chapter 4 reflects the Basic Needs Wheel that was posted in the classroom and referenced in the interview and observation data. Limitations The study involved one teacher and six students who were selected based on their race/ethnicity and t heir willingness to participate The teacher was selected by principal recommendation and teacher permission. The findings of the study were limited to those students student and researcher points of view were part of the stud y; parent/family perspective was not a focus. The findings of this study were restricted by time in the field. Data collection was limited to approximately four weeks. Tillman (2002) recommends that the researcher possess cultural knowledge in order to conduct culturally sensitive research. The researcher is a W hite, female educator and doctoral student who has no experience in culturally sensitive research and very little experience in collect ing and analyzing qualitative data. Despite her lack of research experience, she has been a teacher, an administrator, and doctoral student. The researcher has worked as an educator for 20 years. She taught middle school and high school English and serv ed as an administrator at the elementary, middle, high, and district level. She worked at four schools with varying demographics : a middle and high school whe re the majority population was W hite with few low income students, and at middle and elementary sc hools that were predominantly African American with a high free or reduced price lunch rate.


41 In her five years of teaching, she taught special needs students wi th varying exceptionalities and high performing students in an International Baccalaureate progr am. She served as the boys track coach and the girls cross country coach during her teaching stint. The researcher served as an assistant principal at a high performing high school with an International Baccalaureate magnet program. She also worked as an a ssistant principal for a predominately W hite middle school and a Title I, diverse elementary school. Over the past 10 years the researcher has held district level administrative positions and is currently the coordinator of grants and program development. As a teacher, coach, and administrator the researcher had numerous interactions with students from diverse backgrounds, particularly African American and Hispanic students. She has focused on getting to know the students and building authentic relationsh ips with them while being self reflective about her efforts. She has taken the same approach in working with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. She has made a concerted effort to be aware of her own culture and how it influence s her perceptions. In addit ion, she has completed graduate diversity coursework where she wrote a cultural autobiography and participated in class activities and discussions to better understand culture and its important role in education. She focused the majority of her doctoral co ursework on the achievement gap and its impact on minority students. Although these experiences do not make this researcher proficient in culturally sensitive research, she was aware of her limited cultural knowledge and has made a conscious effort to be c ulturally sensitive in her research (Tillman, 2002) This was accomplished through personal jour naling and peer review with a fellow graduate student who is Mexican American. The researcher though still an outsider looking in, remained mindful of her posi tion and sought to understand the dynamics of the teacher student relationships and as well as instructional practices


42 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS The purpose of this chapter is to present the findings related to the research questions. The first question addresse centered instructional practices utilized in class, particularly with her Hispanic and African American students. Question 2 targeted observed cultural centered practices. The final research question focused on th e student perspective related to instructional strategies experienced in the classroom. Five major themes emerged from an analysis of participant interviews and classroom observations : Individual Student Focus, Student Teacher Connection, Cooperative/Small Group, Social/Emotional Skills, and Schematized Learning Environment. The conceptual definition of each theme is provided in Table 4 1. Table 4 1. Definitions of t hemes Theme Conceptual Definition Individual Student Focus Teacher considers each student in context of his/her distinct learning needs experiences, and expertise. Student Teacher Connection Teacher works to build a positiv e relationship with each student that is built on mutual respect background, fam ily and personal interests. Cooperative/Small Group Students are grouped by the teacher based on the results of reading and mathematics assessments Social/Emotional Skills Teacher and students share values that guide their interaction with one anothe r. Teacher and students understand their own basic needs, the impact of these needs and how to meet them. Schematized Learning Environment Teacher creates an environment that supports the social, emotional, and cognitive growth of students using data dr iven decision making, cooperative/small group instruction, physical room arrangement, shared set of values, and support of basic needs.


43 Research Question 1) What Culture Centered I ns tructional Practices Does the T eacher I dentify? The first theme, Indivi dual Student Focus, referred to the method used by the teacher to organize learning around the unique qualities of each student and engage him/her in the process Ms. Casey emphasized the importance of recognizing student individual capabilities by underst anding what they brought from their own life experiences Her focus on students as individuals was evident in the way that she interacted with them. C lassroom observation s showed how often Ms. Casey position ed herself next to a student, maintained eye cont act with the student and showed interest (by smiling) as the student spoke. She acknowledge d each setting. In one situation Ms. Casey taught a small group of studen ts how to check their own math work and she spoke with each student individually while teaching to the group. For example, s he asked questions and then provided instructional feedback Do you know what I am going to say your mistake is? Yes, you need to wr ite neatly so If you were teaching me how to do a math problem what comes first? we all On another day, Ms. Casey was observed working with a small group on what she described as combining mathematics and reading to graph student data in folders. In an interview she described the se folders Students are guided [by] setting goals for themselves. They also have to create a plan for working toward making learning, as well as setting and meeting goals, its own intrinsic motivation for working hard. Ms. Casey shared with her group the vision and mission of the school national role model for academic excellence. Our mission is to continuously improve by making


44 data driven decisions, b uilding strong relationships, and providing a safe quality learning environment to ensure high academic excellence Then she had the students recite their own class mission from memory. One of the student s pointed out that the mission was supposed to remi nd them of why they were in school. The students set individual quarterly goals in order to support the class mission. Ms. Casey explained, You get to set your next goal and I want you to select one that is higher than where you are currently. I want you t o do this as a run chart and you can also color in a bar graph, but you must connect the dots for the run chart. Ms. Casey guided the students in developing a plan for how they would accomplish their goals for reading and mathematics. She provided an examp them graph their current ass essment scores for reading and math ematics During the interviews, the students explained that Ms. Casey provided them with individual attenti on W hen asked to describe how she learned best Carla I am with the teacher because if I explai ned that he felt successful when his teacher helped him learn and told him that he had done she shows me where to Ms. Casey valued the unique qualities of each student and encourage d them to recognize one another as individuals yet to be accepting of and celebrate individual differences. She used the example of a student who was able to speak Spanish and English and encouraged the student to share her expertise She told her student s


45 She helped her students to recognize each other as collaborators in making knowledge meaningful. The second theme, Student Teacher Connectio n, developed fro m the interactions and emotional relations between the teacher and her students. Ms. Casey emphasized the importance of building relationships with her African American and Hispanic students in the same way she de veloped relationships with her W hite stude nts. She explained, Regardless, you have to build that relationship with them and I think some stand back and you have to draw them in, and others are right there and ready to go and we just have to keep them focused on where it is they are going. I try to do that regardless of race. When asked what advice she would give to new teachers, Ms. Casey stressed the importance of making connections with students. She encouraged teachers to get to know their students and their backgrounds. She warned them not to be afraid to reach out to the families of students and make home connections. Vandiver and Behar Horenstein (2013) encourage new teachers to learn from colleagues like Ms. Casey who have built successful relations with culturally diverse families. Ms. Cas ey emphasized student teacher relations for students with special challenges by stating, Some of your hardest kids are the ones that really need the most love. Try to find that because they have come the farthest. St udents were asked to describe their relationship with their teacher. Darius defined it as, fr explained his connection with his teacher


46 reed that her teacher made learning fun and felt Ms. Casey was one of the best teachers. Evelyn, who was mostly quiet in the and liked the way that Ms. Casey helpe d her with things that she did not know. Ms. Casey built relations with her students during instruction. She pulled them into the lesson by encouraging each one to share personal information related to characters they read about in stories In one instanc e, Evelyn said she liked to write, but wanted to improve her go encouraged students to relate their personal interests back to a learning activity. Engaging in personable and warm interactions was one of the ways that Ms. Casey used to engage her students. Research Question 1a) How D o es the T eacher D escribe H er Use of Culture Centered Instructional Practice for Hispanic S tude nts? Research Question 1 b) How D o es th e T eacher D escribe H er Use of Culture Centered Instructional Practice for African American S tudents? Ms. Casey explained that she did not differentiate her instructional practices based on race/ethnicity, but instead on individual student nee ds. Ms. Casey initially expressed concern because she could not recall strategies she used specifically to address the needs of her African American and Hispanic students. A third theme, Cooperative/Small Group emerged as Ms. Casey described how she worked with a small number of students at a time and set up rotating centers that included cooperative learning activities. She believed that the center rotations


47 positively impacted student engagement and allowed her to draw in her students regardless of race/ ethnicity. She organized three centers that included: small group instruction, computer assisted skills practice or assessment, and skills reinforcement using partner/cooperative learning or games. T he centers were schedule d in 20 25 minute blocks. Ms. Ca sey explained ematics She described how students were grouped and regrouped based on their learning need s for both subjects. Her approach was to teach and reteach until students mastered particular skills and she explained that this kept the groups somewhat fluid without being too disruptive. ted in the observation data. Students were observed regularly participating in various center activities Students at the computer station took responsibility for their own equipment and set up. Students at another station read in pairs either on the floor story and discussed what they read. A student read aloud and as he stumbled on a word another their hea smiled and then scanned the room observing the other groups working at the computers and independently. Observations of c ooperative and small group rotations are described i n greater detail in Research Question 2.


48 Table 4 2. Criteria for Glasser Quality Schools Criteria 1. Relationships are based upon trust and respect, and all discipline problems, not incidents, have been eliminated. 2. Total learning competence is stressed and an evaluation that is below competence or what is Every Student Can Succeed has been replaced by useful education. 3. All students do some Quality Work each year that is significantly beyond com petence. All 4. Students and staff are taught to use Choice Theory in their lives and in their work in school. Parents are encouraged to participate in study groups to become familiar with choice th eory ideas. 5. Students do better on state proficiency test s and college entrance examinations. The importance of these tests is emphasized in the school. 6. Staff, students, parents, and administrators view the school as a joyful place. Source: Glasser, 200 6, p. 2 the school wide approach used at Freedom Elementary to teach and support the social and emotional needs of students. This theme was supported in the interviews with the students and in the classroom observations. Ms. Casey referenced Freedom a Glasser Quality School. The criteria for this designation are provided in Table 4 2. She explained how she and her colleagues at Freedom applied choice th eory in the classroom in order to empower students and engage them in meaningful learning Choice theory i s based on the premise that everyone makes his or her own choices and that happiness and unhappiness a re relat ed to one of five basic surviva l, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun (Glasser, 2006, p. 40). Instead of using external controls such as coercion to motivate students, Ms. Casey explained that she school to be a Ms. Casey described the basic needs approach as,


49 We have water, food and shelter and that is what we call our survival needs because you need that in order to go throughout the day if you are thinking about those things, then the kids about those needs. We say, it is kind of like the engine part of your car and if one of them is missing then you wil that day. So we will do a lot at the beginning of the year talking to them about what their needs are. Ms. Casey explained that she and the students identified examples of how to meet their basic needs in sc hool. One example she gave for freedom was to go to the restroom without asking avior car represented student choices, what drove them, why they made the choices they did, and taking ownership of their car (choices). She shared that discussions of basic needs started with the students in kindergarten and were reiterated and supported at the beginning of each year the students were in school. Ms. Casey explained that as students progressed in school and learned more about basic needs they became responsible for meeting their own needs. A basic needs wheel was posted on a bulletin board ( Figure 4 1 ) She explained that she and her students had wooden clothes pins with their names on them. Each day members of the class were asked to place a clothes pin on what they needed most for that day. The teacher explain ed the significance of the daily informal survey She stated survival If I find a kiddo whose clip is on survival I make sure to meet with him/her privately to find out what the issue is. They may not feel


50 Figure 4 1. Terr i M Kinsey. Basic needs w heel September 25, 2013. Ms. Casey explained that the school values were linked to the basic need s. The values were represented on another bulletin board in her cla ssroom and are provided in Figure 4 2. Glasser (2006) referred to them as and students were expected to treat one another The s tudents were observed holding the door for help other students without being asked.


51 Figure 4 2. Terri M Kinsey. School v alue s September 25, 2013. Research Question 2) What I nstructional P ractices D o es the T eacher U se W hile T eaching African American and Hispanic S tudents? The fifth theme, Schematized Learning Environment, was reflected in the management of the classroom, the metacognitive practices adopted level of engagement during the school day. The classroom appeared to be clean and neat. There were bins with books and baskets with supplies that were in various locations throughout the room and appeared to be strategically placed for communal use. The w alls were decorated with teacher made and store bought posters with positive phrases and class information. For example, there eti n boards that included: the basic n eeds wheel, the class schedule, student and class data center, and school values.


52 Management of the Classroom The teacher considered time, resources, placement, and preparation in her management of the classroom. The cl ass schedule reflected three hours of small group instruction and center rotations for reading and mathematics which was confirmed in the observation data. Whole group instruction and lunch occurred each day while learning labs and specials (music, art, ph ysical education, and technology) followed a rotating schedule. Ms. Casey explained, We have very little whole group time. We do a lot of small group because we know this l Student Education) or are pretty high up in the RTI (Response to Intervention) process and getting ready to be tested (for ESE services). Ms. Casey coordinated with an ESE resource teacher and a class volunteer who assisted with some of the center act ivities. The volunteer who previously had worked as a banker desired a career change and become a classroom teacher. The principal had paired the volunteer with Ms Casey because the principal considered Ms. Casey an exemplary teacher. The volunteer and the resource teacher were observed more than once working wit h a small group of students on math ematics or reading review activity, usually set up in the form of a game. During an observation the volunteer guided a group of students in a math ematics game. Ms. Casey had instructed the volunteer in how to lead the group activity. She utilized the volunteer to reinforce the skills students had acquired. The volunteer timed the activity which appeared to encourage the students to move their game pieces around q uickly. The volunteer complimented the group for their speed, focus, and knowledge of how to carry numbers. The volume level in the room remained low even when the students moved rapidly during their timed game. Meanwhil e students in the other groups/cent ers did not appear to be distracted by the students involved in the math ematics game.


53 One example of Ms. Casey maximizing time on task was observed a t the end of a school day She proceeded in giving students homework instructions and directing them to pr epare backpacks to go home for the day. Students put their backpacks on and placed their chairs on top of the desks. Ms. Casey turned out the classroom lights and began calling the students to line up at the door by group color. She realized the class was ready for dismissal a little premature so she used the extra time to verbally quiz them about a skill they had learned in class that day. She asked for an example of a declarative sentence regarding something they had learned. One it was time for students to exit class Ms. and other personal remarks. Metacognitive Practices Ms. Casey repeatedly asked her students to explain how they determined answers to questions and she ask ed more detailed explanation s She encouraged them to work problems in their heads or to think of a response even if they were not directly asked a question. She encouraged everyone to participate by providing students the opportunity to share responses with other classmates During one observation Ms. Casey worked with a sm all group on math ematics equations. T he students use d manipulatives and calculate d the problems in their heads. She asked one student to pick the largest number from the manipulatives Ms. Casey then asked the student to explain his thinking. She coached h im on how to analyze the number and she involved other members of the group by asking them to work the problem out in their heads. She encouraged everyone to take time to process the question. She asked them to give her thumbs up if they agreed with the re sponse or thumbs down if they did not agree.


54 On another occasion during social s tudies whole group instruction Ms. Casey probed the class to explain w hat was mean t by settlers trading food. She provided think time and then asked students to share with a neighbor what they thought it meant. She asked individual students for cher asked the students the interview with Ms Casey she referred to this line of questioning and explained, I just kind of talk to the kids here the way that I would talk to my children at home and them thinking and they get more excited about it, instead of just simple questions like, Ms. Casey also taught her students how to be thoughtful learners and build on their knowledge. In another observation Ms. Casey worked w ith a small group to develop their own graphic organizer s She explained the purpose was to help them organize information in a way that would be easier to understand and they could review the information as needed. First Ms. Casey showed them how to creat e a graphic organizer then she asked students to create their own graphic organizers. The students were instructed to label each corner with the headings: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They discussed synonyms and similar terms for ea ch and added the terms under each heading. Ms. Casey explained that the class would add more


55 words to the graphic organizer as they discovered them The teacher indicated that the graphic organizers were an example of the manipulatives she used to keep her students engaged. Teacher Engagement W hen asked about her schedule, Ms. Casey explained that there was very little down time for her or her students throughout the day. She found it necessary to keep her students busy with learning activities because the re was plenty of room for improvement. Ms. Casey remained with her class even when they attended writing lab under the direction of a full time instructor Ms. Casey was so committed to the success of her students that she took advantage of the opportunity to observe what her students were learning outside of her class She explained, I want to know what they are doing with the group this When we are doing the writing sometimes I am sitting with them, but I am constantly She explained that spending all of school time with her students was important because she wanted to constantly know what the y were learning so she coul d build on their knowledge through instruction and reinforce their learning. Ms. Casey explained that every student and every student group was different that she needed to see what w orked well and what did not and then make adj ustments as needed. She described this. Every kid is different. I think the thing that works best is knowing that what worked with instruction was observed on several occasions. In one example she adjusted instruction midstream in order to meet student needs. For example, while working in small group instruction Ms. Casey noticed that as the students read aloud they had trouble reading some of the vocabulary and the proper names in the story. She decided the group would choral read, even though the other groups had taken turns read ing aloud. She directed the


56 two girls to read with her fir st, then the two boys and followed by a discussion. Ms. Casey led discussions with the students and encouraged them to make personal connections to the story. This provided opportunity for students to bring in their culture and/or family background. Ms. Casey looked directly at the students as they talked; she smiled, expressed interest in their responses and used a calm voice when s he probed for more information. Ms. Casey was frequently observed using these instructional practices when working with stu dents. Even in situations where Ms. Casey needed to redirect students who were off task she kept her statements There was o ne exception where a student attempted to share information about his culture in relation to the learning topic, but he was cut short by Ms. Casey. The class was discussing the tudents with an example of how product comment and moved on She did not allow time for the student to explai n his conne ction to Guatemala, thus thwarting a knowledge sharing opportunity for her student. Ms. Casey indicated in the initial interview that her instructional strategies were design ed for individual student needs and for building on knowledge and pers onal experiences She valued student culture, although she admitted that her lessons would have been enhanced by an increased use of culturally relevant strategies She explained, I was thinking about your question, and I was looking back at some of the ES OL strategies and I was thinking back to some of the stuff that we had done on ethnicity and race and I think that because we learned it a while ago this is my 16 th year teaching I k about each strategy specifically, I think a lot of it is just kind of built in to the way that we work now. I could probably do a little bit better by going back and looking at them (the strategies) again.


57 Ms. Casey indicated the relationship with her st udents and their families was an important aspect of her job. When asked about advice for new teachers she stated, to connect with them and find out what they ne ed. And the more they know you care, the more willing they are to work with you. Research Question 3) How D o S tudents D esc ribe T heir T I nstructional P ractices? The student participants were asked what they liked about class and each of them addre ssed components of the cooperative and small group centers that were part of their reading and mathematics instruction. The students enjoyed the computer center where they navigated through programs that reinforced skills from instruction. Carla liked participating in the computer center because it helps me learn when I am not with the Student participants indicated they liked the skills practice for reading and math ematics They favored working cooperative ly with cl assmates or in small group s Anthony said that he partner because he said it made learning more fun. Darius agreed that learning was more pleasurable when working with a fellow classmate. Students said they liked working with Ms. Casey in the small group setting. Carla explained, She (Ms. Casey) likes to do activities with us, making our work more fun. I like to do stuff with her because I get to learn more and spend time with her. In reading she asks us improves my interest. Darius and Mi chael a lso expressed preference for working in a small group with Ms. Casey. Carla repeated her sentiments in a follow up interview,


58 I like that we get to do activities with our teacher and have fun while learning. I learn best when I am with my teacher because if I mess something up the teacher helps me. She gives me respect and helps me when I need help. onstrated use of the school values during class observations, student interviews, and during informal interactions with the students. In the follow up interviews the students were shown photos of the classroom bulletin boards that referenc ed the school values and the basic needs wheel. Darius when asked what the values in the to be good. Like with listening I am listening to you trusting as, must trust them that they respecting Student participants ten ded to be descriptive and included examples when asked about the basic needs wheel. Anthony described the basic needs as, s. It that means y about them is because it comes from the heart and the fun is where you play; power is Darius e xplained t hat he mostly needed fun and freedom and he knew how to fill those needs himself. He described fun as being able to play games a nd interact with friends while freedom was the privilege of making safe choices without permission. Evelyn, like Anthony and Da rius, provided examples for the five basic needs; however, Evelyn focused most of her disc ussion on her need for survival Evelyn shared a story about how she and he r siblings were split between her mom and dad for a time. She described living with


59 other family members temporar ily and so she felt she needed survival. Evelyn explained that she ng that happens in the house to keep it in the survival was the need she watched most closely. The teacher interview and the class observations reflected an emphasis on student culture, but this was not apparent in the student interviews. The student participants were asked about learning activities that allowed them to share personal interests and information about family and interes ts or family background. Even though the teacher encouraged the students to share some of their cultural knowledge as was demonstrated by the observation data there were not enough opportunities to make it memorable for the students. In this instance, th e teacher missed an opportunity to create a stronger connection with the students and their lived experiences The students did, however, demonstrate connections between school and home. Michael explained that he brought home what he learned at school by helping his mother with English words and helping her use the computer. He described how he liked helping his mother because it made her smile and in turn it made him happy. Summary of Results Participants reported that individualized learning, relations b etween the teacher and students, center rotations, values/basic needs, and a supportive and organized learning environment helped contribute to their engagement and desire to learn. Classroom observations reflected what the participants reported. Each of t he participants described teacher 's instructional practices in favorable terms and offered no changes to her teaching methods. They favored the small group and cooperative learning activities that Ms. Casey had identified as being best to address her stude


60 The student participants preferred the small group instruction with Ms. Casey because they received individual feedback and liked the personal interactions with their teacher. The students described Ms. Casey as kind, caring, respectful, fun, and interested in their learning. Ms. Casey emphasized the importance of building a positive relationship with her students and she explained that it was done through a set of shared values and helping them learn to meet their own emotional needs. The teac her and her students were observed applying the values and addressing their own needs. The learning environment was organized to support the individual and class learning activities and to maintain engagement by the students throughout the day. The teacher closely interacted with the students and appeared to maximize instructional time by keeping the activities constant, rotating the activities, and maintaining her engagement with her students. The emergent themes were consistent among the interview and obs ervation data. The findings showed that students were engaged in learning because of their positive relationship hip in the learning process.


61 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION The purpose of the study was to explore the culture centered instructional practices that were used to engage African American and Hispanic students in the classroom. The findings and implications of the study are summarized in this chapter. The chapter concludes with recommendations for future research. Teacher's Identification of Culture Centered Instructional P ractices Ms. Casey described her culture abilities and needs and making instructional decisions based on individual student data. She indicated that the process was extensive, but explained that it was important to understand individual student needs. She emphasized the importance of building a strong relationship with each student by getting to know the student, understanding his/her background, and celebrating her the opportunity to make connections and develop a rapport with each of her students. The emphasis on building positive relations with students is supported in research particularly for younger students who are better able to engage in learning because of positive teacher connections ( Burchi nal et al., 2002 ). Ladson student relationships of culturally responsive teachers as equitable and reciprocal. Ms. Casey displayed support, concern, and interest for each of her students and this was reiterated by the student participants (Table 5 1) special learning needs, and students of low income families. Ms. Casey explained that the students were deliberately placed in her class because of her previous success with student


62 t risk, low SES, and minority students typically placed with less supportive teachers (Liew et al, 2010). Consistent with Ladson who views knowledge as fluid and shared by students Ms. Casey encouraged her students to share their knowledge and experiences in order to connect with class discussions. Ms. Casey v iewed student culture as a positive asset to the academic discussion She sought student input of their own culture (Table 5 1) Ladson Billings and Gay (20 02) research supports including student culture in the learning process so students can make personal connections to what they are learning. Ms. Casey took the time to learn about each student and understand what he/she brought to the conversation based o n his/her personal experiences. At times, Ms. Casey highlighted and responded to student culture. This was evident in her use of differentiate d instruction based on student ability and need. Gay (2002) supports this approach and suggests that teachers use pedagogical techniques that match student learning styles Gay shares the importance of (p. 112), like the use of cooperative and small group instruction The teacher was purpos eful in not generalizing about the race/ethnicity of her students. Schmei chel (2012) advises against a generalization of minorities because that could result in inequitable treatment of students. Teacher's Description of Culture Centered Instructional Prac tices for Hispanic Students and African American S tudents Ms. Casey believed the small group and center structure supported the learning styles and needs of her students regardless of their race or ethnicity. She indicated that this structure provided her with greater opportunity to monitor student progress and make adjustments as


63 needed. The centers provided occasions for students to teach and learn from one another (Table 5 1) Ladson oratively and She emphasized the importance of students working community of learners. Ms. Casey, like the teacher in Cho lewa et al. (2012) encouraged knowledge sharing among classmates. Ms. Casey explained that when students were given an active role in the learning of others they became more en gaged in their own learning. Her small group and center activities are supported by research focused on Latino student engagement (Uekawa et al., 2007). The researchers found that Latino student engagement was more dependent on instructional method than Af rican American student engagement. African American student performance appeared to be more influenced by the teacher relationship than by instructional methods (Boykin & Noguera, 2011; Burchinal et al., 2002; Cornelius White, 2007; Hamre & Pianta, 2001). and emotional skills. This was accomplished through a school wide approach using a shared set of values and by understanding and trying to meet personal physical and emotional needs. She students were taught about their emotional needs and as they progressed they learned how to meet these needs themselves. She engaged the stude nts in developing ways they could meet their own needs at school. She surveyed students on a daily basis to determine their dominant need for that day. She further explained that if any student indicated survival then she immediately took action to address this critical need of food, shelter, or related necessity in a respectful way. Ms.


64 Casey explained that the school values were primarily emphasized when reminding students of agreed upon behavior. Students set the expectations for how they treated one ano ther. Students expected each other to be academically as well as emotionally supportive. positive student teacher relationships (Cornelius White, 2007). Cornelius eta analysis linked positive relationships to improved student achievement. Cholewa et al. (2012) addressed the importance of emotional connectedness between teacher and student and emphasized the significance of the relationship in and among the entire cl ass. Ms. Casey explained that she used class conversations to discuss shared values and encouraged her students to be aware of fellow ( Table 5 1) Ladson approach to classroom social rela tions. Observed Instructional Practices Used with Hispanic Students and African American S tudents Ms. Casey created an environment that was structured to maximize student emotional and academic development. This environment was organized and neat and suppo rted mostly small group learning activities. The teacher continuously interacted with each of her students. She assessed and addressed their learning needs by providing them with self directed opportunities. There was no discernible difference in the instr uctional methods Ms. Casey used with her students in relation to their race or ethnicity. Sharing and helping one another was evident among the students and their teacher. This communal approach was also depicted in Cholewa et al. where the teacher encoura ged relationships among classmates in addition to the individual relationships she built with each student. Cholewa et al. was similar to this study because it targeted one highly effective teacher and her students and focused on the relationships she buil t with them.


65 Emotional connectedness, a major theme from Cholewa et al. was supported in this study in her instructional interactions with the students and thr ough her emotional support of them. Ms. Ms. Casey constantly probed the students to garner their input, engage them in the learning process, and to challenge them in t and African American s tudents. She was, however, not perfect in her approach and admittedly addressed her concerns. There was one observation where the class was involved in a discussion about the trade of products and a student expressed knowledge about a country that was ment provide opportunity for the student to share what he knew about the country or how it related to him personally. Howard (2003) and Nasir and Hand (2006) emphasized the i mportance of student culture in making meaningful connections to learning. In this instance, Ms. Casey did not let that happen and quashed a teachable moment. ractices The student perspective is an importan t part of this study. As consumers within the system, they can self appraise, and relate what they like and dislike about the learning process. Student point of view is seldom considered in research pertaining to teacher student relations ( Burchinal et al. 2002; Jerome, et al., 2008 ). However, Cook Sather (2002 reminds us that student point of view is critical to reforming education since its purpose is to serve students. The student participants represented the elementary student perspective and the mino rity student point of view regarding their first six weeks in third grade. They provided information


66 about their experiences related to specific class activities, feelings of success, relationship with teacher, teacher support, and personal interests. The students confirmed much of what was shared by the teacher and as well as what was observed in the classroom. The student participants cited examples related to their small group and cooperative learning centers as the activities they enjoyed most in school The students spoke favorably of the small group instruction provided by their teacher because they had greater opportunity to work directly with the teacher. The students praised rotation activities such as the computer center and the skills reinforcemen t games. Curby et al. (2009) identified three areas where children need positive support from their teachers: emotional, organizational, and instructional. The students described their relationship with their teacher in positive terms. They used terms suc instructional and emotional supports they desired. Each of the students provided several examples of their values and needs a nd what these meant to them. They expressed enthusiasm for having the opportunity to share their need each day and for being able to meet their own needs at school. They appeared to have a clear understanding of their values and needs and how these impacte d them personally. Even Carla, who had shared her experience with survival, seemed to benefit from being able to identify and understand her emotional and physical needs.


67 Table 5 1. Culturally Responsive Pedagogy CRP teaching P ractices Teacher identif ied practices Observed teaching practices Positive self concept Yes Yes Positive association with student community Yes Sometimes Belief that all students can succeed Yes Yes Help students make personal connections to learning Yes Yes Positive teac her student relations Yes Yes Encourage collaborative learning Yes Yes Knowledge is viewed critically Yes Yes T eacher passionate about content Yes Yes Focus on skill mastery Yes Yes Diversity is viewed as an asset Yes Sometimes Source: Ladson Billing s, 2009, pp. 38, 60, 89


68 Implications for Practice The findings from this study suggest issues for policymakers, prospective and practicing teachers, and school administrators to consider. The teacher and student participants in the study revealed instru ctional, emotional, and organizational supports that contributed to the learning process. Curby et al. (2009) described positive teacher student interactions in terms of these Provide All Students with High Performing Teachers Too often low socio economic, high risk, special needs, and/or minority students are placed with novice or poor performing teachers (Liew et al., 2010). The student participants described their teacher as smart, fun, and warm. As an experienced instructor, Ms.Casey was also considered to be a high performing teacher by her school principal. These students had the opportunity to benefit by being specifically placed in her c lass. All student s deserve high performing teachers, especially those students with the greatest learning needs. School administrators should focus on hiring the most qualified instructors and providing new teachers with inten sive support from seasoned high performing teac hers. Develop Culturally Responsive and Instructionally Responsive Teachers Students are better able to engage in learning when they make personal connections with what is being taught (Howard, 2003). Ms. Casey created an environment that supported studen t connections with the subject matter, though she could have placed more emphasis on student culture. Her use of small group interactions, cooperative learning, values and personal needs, individual student focus, and emphasis on positive teacher student r elations provided her students with the support to make connections with what they were learning. Ms. Casey emphasized the importance of being flexible and responsive to the changing needs of her students. New and practicing teachers need training to devel op or expand their knowledge and


69 application of culturally responsive pedagogy and individual student focused instruction (Ladson Billings, 2005). Emphasize the Importance of Positive Teacher Student Relationships There is extensive research linking teach er student relations to student behavior and academic performance (Boykin & Noguera, 2011; Burchinal et al., 2002; Cornelius White, 2007; Curby et al., 2009; Hamre & Pianta, 200; Liew et al., 2010). The findings highlight the significance of the teacher st udent relationship and its impact on student learning. Ms. Casey and the student participants featured their positive interactions as a key component of their class. Administrators and educators must emphasize the importance of the positive teacher student connection and provide opportunity to build and nurture the relationship. Middle and high school teachers who may be challenged by large numbers of students or by less student contact time need to be creative and work collaboratively with colleagues to bu ild strong connections with students. Implications for Research The findings reveal several ideas that may be considered for further research of minority student engagement. 1. Continue to explore student perspective on classroom engagement. 2. Study minority student perspective of teacher student relations at the middle and high school levels. 3. Examine parent perceptions of student engagement. 4. Examine the connections between culturally responsive teaching and student academic performance. 5. Explore other Glasser Quality Schools and examine minority student engagement. 6. Explore other high performing schools with little or no achievement gap and examine minority student engagement. 7. Study principal perceptions of student engagement.


70 Conclusion While many African Amer ican and Hispanic students struggle from the educational disparities in their schools some are experiencing success through culturally responsive pedagogy. In some cla ssrooms where the teachers are W hite females and the children are culturally diverse, stu dents are excelling. Extensive literature supported culturally responsive pedagogy as a means for improving the relationship between teachers and their minority students. A vast amount of literature underscores the value of positive student teacher relatio ns The current study explored the relationship between a single teacher and her African American and Hispanic students at a school that has demonstrated success in closing the performance gap. This study also explored both the teacher and student perspectives about how students are engaged by culture centered instructional practices. The findings of this study rably impact student learning. Positive teacher student relations were integral to the learning environment created by the participating teacher and her minority students. The teacher understood that her students were not motivated by external controls su ch as threats and rewards, but instead were motivated by the meaningful connections that were made between teacher student and student student. She seized each moment with her students creating learning opportunities that were enriching, collaborative, and fun. She used strategies such as cooperative learning and small group instruction that helped capture student interest. Elements such as criticism, blame, threats, and punishment were not needed in an environment where there was support, encouragement, tr ust, and friendship (Glasser, 2006). Pre service and classroom teachers need to become skilled in human relations. The teacher role is greater than subject matter expert and instructional pedagogue. Teachers need to


71 become relational experts. Positive rel ations with students are integral to successful teaching. Student connections are made by understanding the important role of culture in learning and by integrating student culture into the classroom. Teachers would benefit from culturally responsive pedag ogy training that incorporates building positive relationships, creating meaningful learning through student culture and empower ing students in their learning. School Leaders are encouraged to provide all students, especially minority students, with posit ive and supportive teachers that value student relations and student culture. Administrators can also benefit from cultural proficiency training to support diverse student and staff populations. Administrators can help support their teachers and students b y creating an environment absent of external controls, where students thrive as active participants in their acquisition of knowledge.






74 APPENDIX C OBSERVATION PROTOCOL Time: Setting: Observer: Date: Description of Reflective Notes Interactions between teacher and students


75 APPENDIX D INTERVIEW PROTOCOL Date and Time: Lo cation: Interviewer: Interviewee(s): Position of Interviewee(s): The purpose of this study is to examine the interactions between teacher and students to discover instructional practices that engage the students. No personal names will be associated with the report of this study. I have received your consent form. The interview will take approximately 15 minutes. [Turn on tape recorder] Questions for the Teacher 1. What do you like most about teaching? 2. How do you celebrate the successes of your students? 3. H ow would you describe your relationship with your African American and Hispanic students? 4. What instructional strategies do you use to engage your African American and Hispanic students? 5. How do you know if those instructional strategies engage your African American and Hispanic students? 6. 7. How would you describe your culture centered instructional practices for African American students? Hispanic students? Questions for the Student 1. What do you l ike about your class? 2. When do you feel successful? 3. How does your teacher help you feel successful? 4. How would you describe your relationship with your teacher? 5. What does your teacher do to make class interesting? 6. What classroom learning activities do you li ke best? Why? What classroom learning activities allow you to express personal interests and information about your family and friends?


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84 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Terri M. Kinsey was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Florida. Her siblings and parents are native Floridians. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writin g and certification in education from Florida State University in 1992 She taught high school for four years before completing Terri became a school administrator and worked as an assistant principa l at high school, middle school, and elementary over the next seven yea rs. In 2002, Terri was hired as the school o stay home with her new daughter, Heidi. She returned to work in 2005 as the grants coordinator for the district and currently remains in this position. Terri has amassed over $ 70 million in competitive grant funds for her district. In addition, Terri par tnered with a retired university professor in 2007 to provide evaluation consulting services to other school districts. She and her partner have worked with four school districts providing evaluation services for five multi year projects. Terri currently resides in Florida with her husband, Hugh and daughter, Heidi. She enjoys her role as an involved parent of a public education student. Her life long love of learning led her to pursue her doctorate. She plans to continue her career in educational administ ration and continue her research on minority student engagement

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