Cultural vibrancy

Material Information

Cultural vibrancy exploring the preferences of African American students toward culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant curriculum
Sampson, Darlene
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
xvii, 298 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Doctorate ( Doctor of Philosophy)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
School of Education and Human Development, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Educational Leadership and Innovation
Committee Chair:
Garrison-Wade, Dorothy
Committee Co-Chair:
Diggs, Gregory
Committee Members:
Estrada, Diane
Joseph, Oscar III


Subjects / Keywords:
African American students -- Attitudes ( lcsh )
Education -- Curricula ( lcsh )
Educational anthropology ( lcsh )
History -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- United States ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 273-298).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Darlene Sampson.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
259098929 ( OCLC )
LD1193.E3 2008d S25 ( lcc )

Full Text
Darlene Sampson
B.S., University of Northern Colorado, 1980
M.S.W., University of Denver, 1986
A dissertation submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation

by Darlene Sampson
All rights reserved

This dissertation for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Darlene Sampson
has been approved
(UmH. h, am

Sampson, Darlene (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Cultural Vibrancy: Exploring the Preferences of African American Students
Toward Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally Relevant Curriculum
Dissertation directed by Assistant Professor Dorothy F. Garrison-Wade
This study examined the preferences of African American children
toward culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant curriculum, through a
six-week series of lessons in an American Elistory classroom. Culturally
relevant curriculum encompasses the ethnic reality of the child, and utilizes
everyday practical experiences, as well as historical artifacts, to support
academic engagement. Culturally relevant lessons included oral traditions,
music, ethnic relationships and differences, and a structured culturally
relevant field trip. Non-culturally relevant lessons are administered devoid of
cultural referents, and were administered utilizing the existing curriculum of
the study classroom.
This study utilized a mixed methods triangulated research design with
researcher as teacher. A structured student questionnaire was administered
after each lesson assessing student positive or negative regard for each lesson.
The study was conducted within a mixed grade (9-12) classroom in an
ethnically diverse high school setting in Northeast Denver.
Student evaluation of culturally rich curriculum has the potential to
yield important information regarding the academic preferences and academic
motivating factors of African American children, when utilizing culturally

relevant curriculum. The information gained from this study may inform the
process of inclusion of culturally relevant curriculum in classrooms, and can
provide valuable insight into lessons that appeal to African American
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates dissertation.
I recommend its publication.
Dorothy F. Garriiofr-Wade, Ph.D

I dedicate this dissertation to my parents, the late Alvin Sampson, Sr., and
Annie Sampson, who instilled a love of learning at an early age, referencing
that expectation to succeed with the words, college or death, which was
their mantra for excellence. To my mother, Annie Mae Sampson, who is still
here today, and who has insisted that she must call me Dr. Sampson before
she leaves this earth. There are no words to express the love I have for you
and the nurturance and wisdom you continue to provide today. Mama, thank
you so much.
To my son, Tristen Daniel Sampson-Wheeler, who challenged me to look
beyond my doctoral studies and always remember that family is of utmost
important. Son, I love you.
To my listening rod, my sister, Martha Harris, who constantly had to hear me
complain, rant, and, cry as I made this doctoral journey. Thank you for the
interruptions in my studies to ground me, thanks for diverting me from my
studies when I needed a break, and as always, thanks for listening to me.
To my brothers, Alvin Sampson Jr., and Bill Sampson, who supported me and
broadened me, and assisted me in always remembering that I am the youngest
in the family. Thanks for keeping me grounded. Your strength is unparalleled,
and your support and prayers are unprecedented.
To my siblings, and to my large extended family, and all the many spouses
and significant othersthank you for believing in me. You are right, I am
getting this degree for the whole family.
To my sistah girlfriends, Mitzi Brodnax, Kathy Hill-Young, Joyce Hurd,
Franki, and Debbie Mixon. You are my extended family. You heard me
ruminate and complain for the past six years. You epitomize the strength and
character of strong, beautiful, educated African American women. You are
mewe are each other.
To my friendly editors who are also my girlfriends. You stepped up at the last
minute to read over my dissertation when I could not fathom looking over it
one more time. Thanks, Joyce, Sue, Mitzi, and Darci-you are true friends!

To everyone who ever supported me that I failed to mention. Thank you, and
please forgive methis has been a long journey.
To the students who so graciously supported my study. Your quest for
knowledge is noted, your comments and support appreciated, and your
resilience is acknowledged.
My Brothers Prayer of Support
I know you realize this is historical and monumental! Just look at how God
has blessed you and our family. I am more than proud of your
accomplishments. This is glorious!
Our Prayer: Heavenly Father, our God and Lord Jesus, Our Savior: We thank
you this very moment, today, and every day for your grace, your peace, your
loving kindness, your mercy, and above all your salvation. We acknowledge
you because you are who you are. We are mindful of your goodness. Now, we
thank you for our sister, Darlene, who you have favored with greatness. We
thank you for blessing her with a plan she pursued with vigor, determination,
and courage. We honor you for never ever giving up on her whether she was
close to you or far. We thank you. We beseech you on behalf of the tedious
task that she is yet to complete. Please bring forth her best effort of excellence
to master her moment that you have so blessed her with. We claim this victory
in Jesus name and even now present again to you, Dr. Darlene Sampson,
Ph.D, your servant. Amen
Bill Sampson
March 3, 2008.

Dr. Dorothy F. Garrison-Wade. Your mentorship and support of me was
phenomenal, just as you are. I revel in your knowledge and insight, and have
carefully studied the philosophy of mentorship that you have provided. I could
not have made this doctoral journey without you. Thank you for supporting
me and helping me to visualize the end of my doctoral studies, and the
beginning of my academic life. I will consider it a privilege to join the
Academy with scholars of your caliber.
Dr. Oscar Joseph III. You planted the initial doctoral seed, and finished the
six-year journey with me. Your support has been invaluable, your time and
energy have not gone unnoticed as I made this race. Thank you for navigating
my highs and lows, and making me get up when I was down. You are a true
colleague, friend, and mentor.
Dr. Gregory Diggs. You challenged me to understand areas in which I
struggled, and always provided thoughtful insight. I thoroughly appreciate
your time, energy, and willingness to assist me whenever I needed your
support. I look forward to continued collaboration with you.
Dr. Diane Estrada. You graciously agreed to come on as the last member of
my committee. Your knowledge and past experiences complimented and
supported me. Thank you for your expertise and valuable insight.
Many professionals assisted me in completing my doctoral studies. There are
too many to count. I sincerely thank all of you for your expertise and support.

Figures................................................. xiv
Tables.................................................. xv
1. INTRODUCTION......................................... 1
Statement of Research Problem.................... 2
Background/Purpose of the Study.................. 3
Operational Definitions.......................... 7
Theoretical and Conceptual......................... 10
Critical Theory/Critical Race Theory......... 12
Racial Identity Development.................. 14
Guiding Research Questions......................... 18
Overview of Methodology............................ 18
Significance of Study.............................. 19
Limitations.................................. 20
Delimitations................................ 21
Researchers Perspective........................... 22
Summary............................................ 26

2. LITERATURE REVIEW....................................... 27
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy........................ 27
Literature Search of Culturally Relevant Pedagogical
Studies............................................. 30
Culturally Relevant Pedagogical Studies............. 32
African-Centered Pedagogy........................... 46
Culturally Relevant Curriculum...................... 48
Culturally Relevant Curriculum Studies.............. 53
Social Skills and Affective Education Literature.... 65
Summary............................................. 68
3. METHODOLOGY............................................. 72
Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally Relevant
Lessons............................................. 74
Research Design..................................... 78
Quantitative Methods.......................... 80
Qualitative Methods........................... 80
Setting....................................... 81
Study Participants............................ 83
Sampling...................................... 85

Data Collection...................................... 86
Triangulation........................................ 89
T ransition Group.................................... 91
Focus Group.......................................... 92
Classroom Teacher Observation........................ 95
Data Analyses........................................ 98
Quantitative Analysis......................... 98
Qualitative Analysis............................. 100
Transition-Termination Feedback
Sheet............................................ 103
Data Integrity................................... 104
Generalizability................................. 107
Reliability/Validity............................. 107
Summary................................................. 112
4. FINDINGS...................................................... 114
Classroom Configuration and Pre-Research
Activities.............................................. 116
Qualitative Inquiry of Culturally Relevant and Non-
Culturally Relevant Lessons............................. 121
Focus Group............................................. 134

Focus Group Discussion-Summary of
Findings....................................... 135
Focus Group Questionnaire...................... 144
Quantitative Inquiry of Culturally Relevant and Non-
Culturally Relevant Lessons........................... 154
Analysis of Variance Results................... 155
Additional Quantitative Results................ 169
Transition-Termination Group Findings.......... 172
Research Joumal and Teacher Observation............... 178
Summary............................................... 178
5. DISCUSSION....................................................... 181
Key Findings and Interpretation of
Qualitative Data...................................... 182
Key Findings and Interpretation of
Quantitative Data..................................... 192
Implications................................... 194
Limitations.................................... 195
Information for Educators............................. 196
Future Research....................................... 205
Recommendations for Teachers.......................... 205
Recommendations for Future Research................... 208
Final Words........................................... 211

PARTICIPATE......................................... 214
Spanish Consent Form................................ 217
Student Agreement to Participate.................... 221
FORM................................................ 223
FORM................................................ 225
D. FOCUS GROUP GUIDE................................... 226
Focus Group Protocol and Questions.................. 228
QUESTIONNAIRE....................................... 230
Lesson 1: Ellis Island.............................. 233
Lesson 2: United States History Quiz................ 245
Lesson 3: The N Word................................ 247
Lesson 4: The Declaration of Independence
Hip-Hop Lesson...................................... 256
Lesson 5: Culturally Relevant Field Trip Experience. 266
Lesson 6: The Top 5 Test Review..................... 268
G. TEACHER OBSERVATION................................. 270
H. HUMAN SUBJECTS APPROVAL............................. 271
I. FAMILY NIGHT INVITE................................. 272

3.1 Triangulation of Date.............................. 90
4.1 Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally Relevant
Responses-African American Students................ 157
4.2 Question Four Responses by Ethnicity..................... 158
4.3 Question Four Responses by Gender........................ 160
4.4 Question Five Responses by Ethnicity..................... 161
4.5 Question Five Responses by Gender........................ 163
4.6 Question Six Responses by Ethnicity...................... 164
4.7 Question Six Responses by Gender................... 165
4.8 Question Seven Responses by Ethnicity.................... 167
4.9 Question Seven Responses by Gender....................... 168

2.1 Culturally Relevant Studies......................... 58
2.2 Culturally Relevant Research........................ 62
3.1 Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally Relevant
Lessons Introduction Timeline....................... 79
3.2 Study School Profile and Demographics............... 83
3.3 Data Collection Strategies.......................... 87
3.4 Data Analyses....................................... 98
3.5 Pilot Lesson Date....................................... 110
4.1 Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally
Relevant Study Lessons and Descriptions................. 115
4.2 Student Participants by Lesson.......................... 116
4.3 Theme 1: Student Feedback Sheet/Questions 1-3......... 124
4.4 Theme 2: Student Feedback Sheet/Questions 1-3......... 126
4.5 Theme 3: Student Feedback Sheet/Questions 1-3......... 128
4.6 Theme 4: Student Feedback Sheet/Questions 1-3......... 130
4.7 Theme 5: Student Feedback Sheet/Questions 1-3......... 132
4.8 Theme 1: Focus Group Discussions........................ 138
4.9 Theme 2: Focus Group Discussions........................ 139
4.10 Theme 3: Focus Group Discussions........................ 140

4.11 Theme 4: Focus Group Discussions.................... 141
4.12 Theme 5: Focus Group Discussions.................... 142
4.13 Theme 6: Focus Group Discussions.................... 143
4.14 Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally
Relevant Responses-African American
Students............................................... 158
4.15 Lesson 1-6 Means by Ethnicity.......................... 159
4.16 Question Four by Gender................................ 160
4.17 Question Five by Ethnicity............................. 162
4.18 Question Five by Gender................................ 163
4.19 Question Six by Ethnicity.............................. 165
4.20 Question Six by Gender................................. 166
4.21 Question Seven by Ethnicity............................ 167
4.22 Question Seven by Gender............................... 169
4.23 Overall Mean Survey Question Scores
By Ethnicity........................................... 170
4.24 Overall Mean Survey Question Scores
By Culturally Relevant and Non-
Culturally Relevant Lessons............................ 170
4.25 Overall Mean Survey Question Scores
By Gender.............................................. 171
4.26 Overall Mean Survey Question Scores
By Lesson.............................................. 172

4.27 Frequency Count all Student
Participants.......................................... 174
4.28 Frequency Count-African American
Students.............................................. 176
A.l Focus Group Guide and Questions........................ 228
A.2 Lesson 2: The United States History Quiz............... 246
A.3 Lesson 4: The Declaration of Independence.............. 259

Basically, the erroneous core assumption is that African American
children are nothing more than incomplete copies of Western
European white children. When it is recognized that African American
children have a unique culture, that culture is usually seen as inferior
to the Western European culture (Hilliard, 1995, p.92.)
Asa Hilliard (1995) raised some imperative questions regarding the
negative perceptions of African American children, the invalidation of their
culture, and the failure of the educational system to recognize and authenticate
these differences. These distinctive patterns that African American children
bring to the academic setting are described by Irvine-Jordan (1991, 2000), as
cultural traditions, rituals, language, behaviors, style, dress, mannerisms,
learning styles, movement, and African-centered perspectives. Because of the
differences in cultural behavior, African American children often experience
cultural discontinuity in schools; particularly schools in which the majority,
or Eurocentric persons, control, administer, and teach. (Irvine-Jordan, 1991,
p. 15). Cultural discontinuity can produce apathy, academic disengagement,
and school discontent (Irvine-Jordan, 2000). This discontinuity has been
evidenced by a well-documented academic achievement gap, which has

repeatedly shown that African American children are lagging behind
academically in all areas (DAmico, 2001; Haycock, 2001).
Many scholars have indicated the need to provide culturally relevant
curriculum and experiences, and culturally relevant pedagogy to improve the
achievement gap (Gay, 2000; Hale-Benson, 1982, 2001; Ladson-Billings,
1994, 1995, 2000, 2006; Lynch, 2006; Thompson, 2004; Webster, 2002). This
study evaluated African American students preferences for culturally relevant
or non-culturally relevant lessons. African American student preferences will
add to the current body of knowledge related to curriculum, instruction,
school connectedness, and motivation.
Statement of Research Problem
Although numerous curricular, programmatic, and systemic
interventions have been implemented, the minority achievement gap continues
to be problematic. While some positive changes were noted particularly in the
early 1970s, the achievement gap has widened in the past ten years (Johnson
& Viadero, 2000). Another important wide-sweeping initiative was the
implementation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, which
mandates that schools demonstrate that all students are achieving
academically, and that teachers are competent within specified time frames, in
all instructional areas. There are consequences for failure to meet the

standards and requirements of NCLB. Despite NCLB, limited progress has
been made in diminishing the achievement gap; although some gains have
been made on the part of African American children in mathematics and
writing skills.
Consequently, this study explored African American student responses
to culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons. Through the infusion
of culturally relevant lessons, the researcher examined student responses to
this curriculum, to assist in understanding what curriculum and what lessons
were preferred (favored-liked) by African American students.
Background/Purpose of the Study
Cultural Vibrancy, the title of this study, was conceived while
watching the vibrant faces of African American children engaged in a
culturally relevant lesson. The interest level, teacher-student camaraderie, and
connectedness to the culturally relevant curriculum were exceptional during
the lesson. Students indicated that the creativity and energy generated by the
lesson was unprecedented in their short academic lives. Sadly, the students
indicated that this pedagogical innovation was infrequent. Allowing students
to connect with their culture, while achieving academic success should not be
a matter of cultural conflict for them. It should be the standard upon which
learning and cultural connection is based.

There has been national concern regarding the African American
achievement gap, and the limited improvements in solving this concerning
issue. African American scholars have called for culturally relevant curricular
interventions as an avenue toward increasing achievement and school
connectedness for African American children (Asante, 1992; Banks, 2001;
Giddings, 2001; Hale, 2001; & Ladson-Billings, 1995). Culturally relevant
pedagogy and curriculum create a marriage in which African American
children can be validated. This study was designed to explore the culturally
relevant curricula preferences of African American children, in an attempt to
connect them to their culture, and thus, to academics.
The research suggests that African American children have a
distinctive manner of learning and engaging that is characterized by
expressive learning styles, and highly physical interactions with their
environment (Gay, 2000; Hale-Benson, 1982; Neal, 2001; Thompson, 2004).
The need for experiences and curriculum that mirror home life, community,
and African-centered principles such as collectivity, engagement, sharing, and
respect, are often devoid in educational settings where the majority of African
American students are taught by non-Blacks.
A cultural mis-match or lack of cultural sync described by Irvine-
Jordan (1991) often occurs, when African American children do not see

themselves in the curriculum, and have frequent experiences in which their
cultural behavior is not honored or accepted. Several studies have indicated
that school achievement and motivation improves significantly when
protocols and procedures of teaching are synchronized with the cognitive
abilities, physical and verbal style, ethnic frames of reference, and African-
centered principles of African American children (Albury, 1992; Boykin,
1978, 1982, 1994; Diamond & Moore, 1995, Gay, 2000; Howard, 1998;
Krater, Zeni & Cason, 1994; Tatum, 2000; Tharp & Gallimore, 1988; Tuck &
Boykin, 1989).
This pedagogical process coupled with the basic premise that African
American children are valued, intelligent, and can and must succeed, has a
significant impact on African American achievement. If African American
children are able to fully see themselves and be honored in the educational
process, educational institutions must mirror their lives and history. It is these
culturally relevant experiences that connect the African American child to
their cultural self, and these experiences that have the ability to improve their
motivation and academic success.
All students and teachers can bridge this cultural disconnect and rise to
meet these current challenges through culturally relevant curriculum and
pedagogy. Infusing cultural perspectives in curriculum is designed to increase

educational equity for all students, and incorporates for this purpose, content,
concepts, principles, theories, and paradigms from history, the social and
behavioral sciences, and particularly from ethnic and women studies (Banks,
1995). Given that there are significant changes in the racial, ethnic, and
language groups that make up the nations population, it is imperative that
educators respond to the diversity within the student population. According to
Sowell and Oakley (2002), most white children attend a school that is over
78% white; however, the average Black child attends a school that is over
57% Black. In contrast, the teaching force is made up of 84% white teachers,
who will be charged with teaching African American students with whom
they have often had few experiences (National Center for Educational
Statistics, 2003).
The inclusion of diverse curriculum allows teachers and students to
examine and dissect racial attitudes and behaviors while addressing diverse
student needs. Stephen and Stephan (2004) further argue this point by
asserting that students with diverse curriculum and diverse thinking can
develop more positive attitudes and behaviors towards individuals of different
groups, with the inclusion of diverse curriculum and expectations. Curriculum
becomes more than cognitive; it has the ability to transform students and
teachers culturally, politically, academically, and socially.

A small piece of this dilemma was addressed in this study through the
infusion of culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons, and student
responses to these lessons, to assist in understanding what curriculum and
what lessons were preferred by African American students. This study
provided knowledge about the curricular preferences of African American
children, and has the potential to inform further research regarding lessons
that appeal to and potentially have a positive impact on the academic
achievement of African American children.
Operational Definitions
This researcher has found the prevalence of the following terms in the
culturally relevant literature; all of which characterize theoretical or
operational concepts to describe culturally relevant pedagogy or practice. No
one term or definition is utilized to describe culturally relevant practice;
however, all terms describe culturally relevant behaviors, theoretical concepts,
or culturally relevant practice. The operational definitions used in this study
are delineated below:
African-centered pedagogy: This pedagogy is based on critical re-
interpretation of existing structures, curriculum, and general educational
frameworks, which also include student-centered learning, cultural

frameworks complimentary to the African experience, and cooperative
learning strategies (Asante, 1991; Murrell, 2002).
Climate watcher: A term first introduced in the early 1980s by an
African American scholar who was concerned about the numbers of African
American children residing in foster care. A climate watcher is responsible for
monitoring the climate in which African American children are residing for
purposes of cultural responsibility, and to ensure the well-being of African
American children (Unknown).
Culture: Implicit and explicit characteristics of a person that are
developed through background and current experiences, knowledge
disposition, skills, and ways of understanding that are informed by race (the
social construction of ones skin), ethnicity (history, heritage, customs, rituals,
values, symbols), identity (how one perceives and represents himself or
herself), class (economic/resource situation), and gender (Milner, 2006).
Culturally incongruent: Education and behavior that is incompatible
with the learning styles of African American children (Ogbu, 1989, 1992).
Cultural deficit model: Research and behavior in the 1960s and
1970s that assigned pathological attributes to African American family life,
behavior, and cognitive abilities (Cummins, 1989).

Culturally relevant: A term inspired by the work of several African
American scholars, that refers to teaching to the diverse needs of students
through the use of cultural artifacts, language, ethnic referents, and cognitive
and linguistically contexts familiar to children of color (Gay, 2000; Irvine-
Jordan, 1991; Ladson-Billings, 1994).
Culturally relevant pedagogy: Teaching that is consistent with the
values, behaviors and historical context of the student (Gay, 2000; Hale, 2001;
Ladson-Billings, 1994; Murrell, 2002; Nichols, Rupley, & Webb-Johnson,
Culturally responsive: An approach to teaching that empowers
students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically, by using cultural
references to import knowledge, skills, and attitudes (Ladson-Billings, 1994
Cultural synchronization: Has roots in anthropology, and refers to
identifiable norms, behavior, language, movement, and characteristics of
African Americans that are often out of synchronization with Eurocentric
paradigms (Irvine-Jordan, 1991).
Equity pedagogy: Pedagogy that is modified to meet the needs of
diverse students and provides for equal representation of all groups (Banks &
Banks, 2004; Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1994).

Multicultural Education: Transforming curriculum and behavior to
account for multiple views and perspectives, and critically and reflectively
adopting differing perspectives to assist social and political reform through
education (Banks, 1995).
Non-culturally relevant lessons: Lessons that do not encompass
cultural relevance or referents to culture, race, ethnicity, or political and social
Sankofa: A Pan African concept meaning go back to the past in order
to build on the future. Sankofa represents self-identity, re-definition, and
vision for African-centered people The Sankofa bird is a mythic bird that flies
forward while looking backward. Culturally relevant teaching is embedded in
the concept of Sankofa, as it denotes, direction, reflection, cultural awakening,
and vision (Willis, 1998).
Warm Demander: A phrase coined to identify characteristics of
African American teachers who simultaneously teach with authority; yet,
validate African American children (Irvine & Fraser, 1998).
Theoretical and Conceptual Framework
Cultural relevance to the educational life of the African American
child is overlooked, just as researchers overlook cultural paradigms that are
emancipatory. It is absolutely critical that researchers engaged in studying

populations of color not operate in a color blind mode, and that they take into
account the cultural reality of the population being evaluated, to accurately
assess these issues. Therefore, theoretical applications must also be culturally
relevant. Various scholars (Ford, Moore, & Milner, 2005; Lewis, 2001)
suggest that researchers of color must open up their color blind lenses and
limiting theoretical orientations, to fully understand and examine data, and to
interpret their findings accordingly. Ignoring race according to Milner (2006)
can result in mis-perceiving cultural issues, and can also result in overlooking
system barriers and discriminatory practices in educational institutions that are
critical in analyzing data and experiences.
This study is based on the theoretical framework which indicates that
culture and ethnicity are the foundations of learning and interactions. Critical
Race Theory and Racial Identity Development support this research, and this
researchers frame of reference. Critical Race Theory acknowledges the
power, privilege, and inequities inherent in society, and specifically in school
settings that impact the mis-education of African American children. Racial
Identity Development assists in understanding the self-esteem and identity
components of the African American psyche, which African American
children bring to the classroom on a daily basis. Each theoretical perspective
and its relationship to cultural identity, pedagogy, education, curriculum, and

power and privilege, will be discussed briefly and woven throughout Chapter
Critical Theory/Critical Race Theory
To evaluate the broader political and social constructs in educational
settings, critical theory has been utilized by researchers of color to understand
marginalized individuals, and to provide a theoretical lens providing an
emancipatory approach to research design, which breaks down and identifies
systems barriers (Crenshaw, 1988; Decur & Dixson, 2004; Dillard, 2000;
Giroux, 1994; Greene, 1995; Ladson-Billings, 2000; McLaren, 1999). Critical
theory according to Patton (2002) seeks not just to study and understand
society, but rather to critique and change society (p. 131). Critical theory
inquires about social justice, educational inequities, social consciousness, and
hegemony in educational settings. The foundations of critical theory stem
from the well-known work of Paolo Freire (1970), who sought to question
structures of power and privilege and the marginalization of people.
African American, Latino, and other minority critical theorists broaden
the foundations of critical theory by insisting that it address the roots of
racism as a deeply rooted component of American life, which is ingrained
through historical and ideological consciousness (Bell, 1988; Delgado, 2002;
Harris, 1993; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Matsuda, 1987; Williams, 1987).

Thus, these scholars are critical race theorists, who have inserted issues of
race into the power and privilege components of critical theory. The need for a
richer discussion about critical theory emanated from the concern that the
underpinnings of critical theory does not address basic rights, which have
been of concern to African Americans throughout history. African American
critical race theorists desire to open up and confront the issues of race and
racial oppression, and charge that traditional critical theorists have failed to
address these issues (Crenshaw, 1988; Harris, 1983).
To expand critical theory to educational settings, pedagogy is viewed
as a political construct that is not value-free, and that is not operationalized
without political, economic, and social influences. Therefore, teachers must be
aware of the influences that power and privilege have upon the lives of
students of color. More importantly, teachers must understand their own
biases and experiences that they bring to the educational arena, to monitor for
unconscious and conscious practices that maintain educational inequities. The
ultimate goal of critical race theory is to analyze the individual and complex
system issues that create inequities in education, and to scrutinize systems that
continue to subjugate and maintain power disequilibrium for the African
American child.

Racial Identity Development
The world of the African American child cannot be viewed thoroughly
unless it is coupled with racial identity development, which assists in
understanding the self-esteem and identity components of the African
American psyche (Sheets & Hollins, 1999; Tatum, 1997). These components
are brought to classrooms every day by African American children, and
provide challenges to teachers who are unable or unwilling to understand the
unique qualities and racial experiences of African American students.
Banks (2001) has postulated that teaches who state they do not see
color are not providing African American children with favoritism; rather,
they are validating white privilege, and negating racial identity development
when refusing to acknowledge the social, political, and economic differences
that exist, and that African American children face. More importantly, this
lack of acknowledgement has the potential to maintain the status quo, and
informs African American students that the value of their identity and
experiences is unimportant.
Banks (2001) and Tatum (1997) suggest asking the African American
child about differences seen or perceived, while immersing oneself in the life
of the child to foster better understanding how these differences are
demonstrated, and how the child views themselves and their world.

Racial identity is an important concept, as students of color do not
leave their racial and ethnic identities at the school door. Rather, they bring
their language, style, movement, and cultural realities and differences to the
school experience on a daily basis. Invalidating or denying the culture of the
student can impact self-esteem, and can produce what Ogbu (1991) refers to
as oppositional cultural behavior. Oppositional cultural behaviors occur when
African American children develop a strained relationship with white teachers
because of teacher misunderstanding of African American student behavior
and cues (Ogbu, 1991). In this cultural mis-match, African American students
actively resist schooling, behavior, and institutions that they believe subjugate
them and their differences. Often students of color act out in the school day
and develop their own positive or negative peer groups to counteract this
Students who perform well academically also face a plethora of issues
impacting self-esteem, identity, and academic achievement, according to
Ogbu and Fordham (1986). They are often ostracized by same race peers who
perceive them as acting white or conforming. As academic skills rise for many
African American students, peer connectedness decreases due to the
perception of acting white. This dilemma, coupled with teacher
misunderstanding of the African American child's racial identity

development, can produce multiple invalidating experiences for teachers, and
more importantly, for students.
Racial identity development is characterized by several important
components outlined by Cross (1971, 1978). To understand the African
American experience, Cross developed one of the first and well-noted models
of racial identity development, entitled the Nigrescence Model. This model
delineates a five-stage process from whiteness to total immersion in the Black
experience. The African American transformative process includes the
following stages: (1) pre-encounter; (2) encounter; (3) immersion-emersion;
(4) internalization and; (5) internalization-commitment.
Within the pre-encounter stage, Cross (1971, 1978) describes an
individual who has limited knowledge of their Blackness, and often assigns
negative connotations to themselves and other African Americans. Pre-
encounter behaviors include refusing to embrace Blackness, history, and
characteristics of Black culture. As the person evolves, the encounter stage
becomes a stage of reckoning, as the person is exposed to a situation or crisis
that reminds them of their Blackness, and the racial issues inherent in society
that impact them. This stage also assists the individual in re-interpreting their
racial identity, as a result of an assault on their reality. The encounter stage is

a catalyst for further development along the continuum toward racial identity
The immersion-emersion stage that Cross (1971, 1978) describes,
allows the individual to re-integrate back into their Blackness. Often the
individual in this stage chooses to engulf themselves with African-centered
culture. However, this stage is devoid of authentic Black self-esteem. Since
racial identity development is a process, the individual must pass through the
immersion-emersion stage on to the emersion stage, which allows for a greater
and deeper understanding of self. Finally, in the last two stages of racial
identity development, the individual finds that within the internalization stage,
there is an appreciation and acceptance of Blackness; characterized by inner
peace. Lastly, in the internalization-commitment stage, the individual is
accepting, proud, and active in social change in behavior and consciousness.
Cross (1971, 1978) laid the foundation for understanding the process
of becoming Black. Later, several scholars have challenged and revised the
theories of nigrescence to address each stage of development; particularly
from a non-pathological perspective (Sellers, Shelton, Cooke, Chavous,
Rowley, & Smith, 1998; Vandiver, 2001). Cross (1991, 1995) later revised
and expanded his own work, and collapsed the fourth and fifth stage of his
original model to account for incorporation of racial differences over time.

Cross also addressed multi-ethnic identities, socio-political influences, and his
thinking around self-worth in the pre-encounter stage within his later model.
He continues to be the premier scholar of racial identity development having
laid the foundation for many other scholars.
Guiding Research Questions
This study has been guided by the following research question:
(1) Do African American students prefer culturally relevant or non-
culturally relevant lessons in school?
(2) How do culturally relevant lessons relate to the lives of African
American students?
When African American children receive culturally relevant curriculum
aligned with their home, family, and cultural history, they are more likely to
perform better academically, and connect successfully with their school
experience (Gay, 2000; Giddings, 2001; Hale, 2001; Haycock, 2001; Ladson-
Billings, 1995). This is the premise on which this study is based.
Overview of Methodology
This is a mixed methods, triangulated analysis of African American
childrens preferences for culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant
curriculum. The researcher was also the teacher administering the lessons.
Students received six-weeks of lessons; three of which were culturally

relevant, and three which were non-culturally relevant, and derived from the
existing lesson plans of the study curriculum and classroom. At the end of
each lesson, students indicated their like or dislike of the lesson through the
application of a Likert-type scale, and through a series of quantitative and
qualitative questions.
This data also provided the foundation for the final transition-
termination and focus groups. The transition-termination group further
explored African American students preferences through a questionnaire in
which students indicated their top three favorite lessons. At the final focus
group that occurred after the transition group, African American students
engaged in a free-flowing exchange with this researcher regarding the overall
study experience. The initial quantitative and qualitative questionnaire
administered after each lesson, and the transition group data helped to drive
the focus group format and group reflection. Both the classroom teacher and
researcher maintained an observation and reflection log for reflection and
confirmation purposes.
Significance of Study
Due to the increasing achievement gap between African American
students and students from non-minority groups, and the need for culturally
responsive curriculum, this study has an important role in understanding the

preferences of students of color regarding culturally relevant lessons. This
study assisted African American students in recognizing what lessons
specifically appeal to them, and also exposed them to innovative pedagogy.
By exposing African American students to creative curriculum that mirrors
their home life and peer relationships, and by infusing curriculum that
connects them to their community, their history, and to parent/guardian
familiarity, may also provide them with some understanding of how to request
unique curricular approaches in their school day from their teachers. There
may also be benefits for teachers in assisting them in understanding how and
what lessons may be beneficial, and what lessons appeal to students of color.
Culturally relevant lessons also have the potential to increase school
motivation and school connectedness as they are interesting, familiar, and
validating. Although the design of this study was solely developed to evaluate
African American student preferences toward culturally relevant and non-
culturally relevant curriculum, this study may have an impact on assisting
educators in understanding what type of curriculum students prefer; thus,
supporting greater motivation, and in turn greater academic success.
A study of this design presented many challenges, but had the ability
to yield important information regarding the academic preferences and

motivating factors of African American children when utilizing culturally
relevant lessons. This study may support the inclusion of culturally relevant
curriculum in classrooms. It is impossible to observe all situations, and to
account for all differing responses; however, the study site provides for a
diverse group of student participants.
This researcher is also employed as a social worker in the study
setting, which had an impact on the study experience and data, as some of the
students who engaged in the study have a relationship with the researcher.
This will be discussed further in Chapter Five. The boundaries of the study
experience will be acknowledged initially in the pre-research activities, and
clarifications will be made with students regarding their participation in the
This study is not generalizable given the specific study design. Due to
time constraints and student access issues, and due to the lack of random
assignment, this study cannot be re-produced in its current design. However,
this study design is valuable in determining African American student
preferences for culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons, and can
lend some important data and reflections regarding the preferences and

thoughts of African American children regarding their school experience,
when engaged in culturally relevant lessons.
There were also a sizeable number of Latino students who engaged in
the study, which can provide the opportunity to conduct further research and
comparisons on other students of color in future research. Delimitations will
be monitored through triangulation of the data through researcher and teacher
reflection, and via student feedback of quantitative and qualitative inquiry and
data analysis.
Researcher's Perspective
Any educational or training system that ignores the history or
perspective of its learners or does not attempt to adjust its teaching
practices to benefit all its learners is contributing to inequality of
opportunity (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995, p. 26).
For the past 25 years, I have worked as a social worker in a variety of
educational, mental health, child protection, research, and health settings. In
every environment, I have advocated for cultural responsiveness for African
American families and children. I am specifically interested in the health,
education, and welfare of African American families. It is a privilege to work
with African American students. This study was conceptualized and
conducted in keeping with that great responsibility. Stake (1995) reminds

researchers that with this privilege comes the obligation to make conclusions
drawn from those choices meaningful to colleagues and clients (p.49). I fully
honored this privilege in conducting and analyzing this research, and will
continue to act out these ethics and principles in my current work as a school
social worker.
The conceptualization of this study developed from my interest in
culturally responsive practice, and my observation of the energy, motivation,
and vibrancy when African American students are exposed to culturally
responsive curriculum. African American students do not consistently see
themselves in the curriculum, and often view curricular content as
uninteresting or irrelevant. However, in my experience as a social worker
teaching affective education lessons that were infused with cultural references,
language, movement, and history, I found an interest and thirst for knowledge
that is admirable and applicable to other instructional areas for African
American children. We must explore curricular options for African American
children that increase their knowledge, implant hope, and increase academic
Ultimately, I understand the socio-cultural context of African
American children, and live in the community of the students I serve. I view
the students as my children, and make no distinctions based on ability, class,

or other characteristics or classifications. I also view my role as described by
Irvine-Jordan and Fraser (1998) as a Warm Demander. Warm Demanders
are teachers of color who teach with authority and discipline, and challenge
students of color to respond, think critically, and to enjoy academics. They
also include referents to their culture throughout curriculum and classroom
interactions. Often the Warm Demander is seen as too directive and structured
from a Eurocentric perspective; however, structure and direction is the
hallmark of many African American homes; thus, familiar and culturally
relevant to African American students.
This structure that occurs in many African American homes is
grounded in the belief that African American children will experience many
obstacles and tough times in society; therefore, they must be disciplined in
order to learn and succeed given the racial, social, and political climate. It is
not unusual to hear an African American parent tell their child they must
obtain their education, and that they must be ten times better in order to secure
the same success as a white person of lesser qualifications. This strong
message has been internalized by many African American children, only to
realize that education may not provide them the measure of success they had

While I desire African American children to think critically, challenge
existing beliefs, and to identify and reach for their highest potential, I equally
desire that they feel good about themselves, their potential, and their racial
identity. I demonstrate this belief in their abilities on a daily basis by
connecting with them in and outside of the school and community, by sharing
openly with them, and by demonstrating interest in the totality of their lives;
not just their academic lives.
I have viewed my assistance in the educational setting in regard to
curriculum as a deterrent to what Haberman (1991) refers to as the Pedagogy
of Poverty. The Pedagogy of Poverty refers to the dumming down of
curriculum and teaching down to students of color because of unconscious or
conscious perceptions of their worth, value, and the abilities of African
American children. My ongoing goal is to emerge as a researcher of color who
gives voice to the educational, social, and emotional needs of African
American children through my research and practice. Lastly, I resist
hegemony in schools and within school structures, fashioning myself as a
climate watcher for children of color. Consequently, my research focus and
commitment is being demonstrated through this research in support and in
recognition of the unique capabilities, and resilience of African American

The lack of cultural acceptance and understanding of the unique ethnic
characteristics of African American children within educational systems has
resulted in cultural discontinuity and disconnect. Culturally relevant
curriculum has been used to re-connect African American children to their
unique and vibrant cultural traditions. This study intends to utilize culturally
relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons to understand the preferences of
African American children. The information gained from this study will not
address the significant issues of lack of academic achievement for African
American children due to the time constraints, and inability to measure all of
the variables inherent within such a complex issue

The review of the literature provided the foundation for this study, and
also provided the theoretical and conceptual framework that will inform this
research. Critical Race Theory dissects the issues of power and privilege in
educational systems. Racial Identity Development assists in understanding the
behaviors, skills, and learning styles that African American children bring to
the educational table. Culturally relevant and African-centered pedagogy will
be defined, and studies relating to culturally relevant pedagogy will be
outlined. Pedagogical studies in the literature demonstrate the process of
incorporating the theoretical aspects of culturally relevant pedagogy in various
curricular studies. The final section of the literature review provides an
overview of social skills and affective education lessons, as well as the
working definition of culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons
were used in this study.
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy
Diversity issues are prevalent in majority African American school
environments, and can present difficult and challenging pedagogical
dilemmas. The inclusion of culturally relevant curriculum allows teachers and
students to examine and dissect racial attitudes and behaviors while

addressing diverse student needs. Curriculum that is relevant aligns
collaboratively with racial identity components which define the behavior of
the African American child (Tatum, 1997). Culturally relevant pedagogy has
the ability to bridge cultural, ethnic, and linguistic gaps for African American
students. Pedagogy that is relevant provides home to school connections by
bringing the culture of the student into the school.
Culturally relevant pedagogy is described broadly by Giddings (2001)
as having the following components: 1) must assist students in developing the
necessary intellectual, moral, and emotional skills for accomplishing a
productive, affirming life; 2) must provide educational instruction to
deconstruct established hegemonic pillars, and; 3) must assist students of
African descent in maintaining a positive self-concept, with the goal of
achieving a sense of collective accountability (pp. 463-465).
Although non-Black teachers may not share the same cultural values
as African American students, they must value and embrace the cultural
differences of their students, and adapt their pedagogy to the student. This
adaptation is the hallmark of a culturally aware and emerging culturally
relevant teacher. Often, the African American child must adapt to the
pedagogy and style of the teacher, as opposed to an integrated and mutual
sharing of ideas and cultural values.

While there is no standardized culturally relevant pedagogy in
reviewing the literature, the fundamentals of culturally relevant pedagogy is
most captured by nine pedagogical components through the research of
Callins (2006). Cabins nine components of culturally relevant pedagogy
support the foundation of this study. Teachers who demonstrate a high regard
for African American students employ the following culturally relevant
behaviors and skills in their pedagogy as outlined by Callins: 1) Communicate
high expectations for the African American child; 2) use active teaching
methods; 3) facilitate learning; 4) have positive perspectives on parents and
families of culturally and linguistically diverse students; 5) demonstrate
cultural sensitivity; 6) reshape the curriculum; 7) provide culturally mediated
instruction; 8) promote student controlled classroom discourse, and ; 9)
include small group instruction and cooperative learning experiences for the
African American child (p. 63).
All of the components above provide for student experiences that
affirm cultural identity, and provide diverse and positive academic
experiences for African American children. This study thoroughly
incorporated the foundations of culturally relevant pedagogy within the
culturally relevant lessons that were administered within this study.

Literature Search of Culturally Relevant Pedagogical Studies
There are strong correlations between improved academic
achievement, culturally relevant teaching, and African American student
engagement documented in the literature (Au & Kawakami, 1985; Baratz,
1986; Beauboeuf, 1992; Dilg, 1999; Gay, 2000; Garcia & Dominguez, 1997;
Hale-Benson, 1982, 2001; Haynes, 1993; Irvine-Jordan, 1991; Ladson-
Billings, 1994, 2000; Lipman, 1995; Murrell, 2001, 2002; Pasteur & Toldson,
1982; Peters, 1981; Redd, 1993; Thompson, 2004; Tatum, 2005; Webster,
2002 ). When conducting a Google search of the literature regarding culturally
relevant teaching, culturally responsive teaching, culturally relevant
pedagogy, and academic achievement of African American children, 454,000
citations were listed. However, when attempting to narrow that search to
specific peer-reviewed studies on EBSCO that were conducted using
culturally responsive curriculum, few experimental studies have been
conducted. It appears that there is a great deal of information about the
foundations of culturally relevant pedagogy and how to implement culturally
relevant curriculum; however, there is limited research on the outcomes of
culturally relevant curriculum. This researcher also found few studies that

used comparative analysis to determine African American student preference
for culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant curriculum.
In searching the University of Michigans dissertation registration
site, a limited number of studies were found on the use of culturally relevant
lessons to address issues of African American student engagement,
improvement of academic achievement, or teacher-administered culturally
relevant lessons. Although the use of culturally relevant curriculum and
pedagogy is utilized in many classrooms today, there were limited written
history and peer-reviewed research of this in the literature (Klump, 2005).
The majority of journal articles appear to be conceptual or theoretical,
as opposed to practically administered and tested using culturally relevant
curriculum and accepted methodology. This was true of both the Google
search and peer-reviewed journal entries. The process of developing culturally
competent pedagogical practices, thinking, and behavior, is a dissertation
study in itself; therefore, the review of the literature will be addressed from
two perspectives: 1) Culturally relevant pedagogical studies, and the
foundations of culturally relevant pedagogy and; 2) An overview of the
research studies using culturally relevant curriculum to engage students of

Culturally Relevant Pedagogical Studies
Research provides evidence that culturally responsive teaching or
pedagogy can improve academic achievement and student engagement (Au &
Kawakami, 1985; Gay, 2000; Gay & Howard, 2001; Foster, 1995; Hollins,
1996; Kleinfeld, 1974; Ladson-Billings 1994, 1995; Murrell, 2002). The well-
known African American scholar, Geneva Gay (2002), provides the definition
of culturally responsive teaching:
Using cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of
ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching more
effectively...culturally relevant pedagogy is based on the assumption
that when academic knowledge and skills are situated within the lived
experiences and frames of reference of students, they are more
personally meaningful, have higher interest appeal, and are learned
more easily and thoroughly (p. 106).
The foundations of culturally responsive pedagogy are based on the
belief that teachers must possess a toolbox of skills and behaviors in order to
meet the needs of the increasingly diverse school population. According to
Howard (2003) by the year 2050, African American, Asian, and Latinos will
comprise 57% of all United States students. This diversity will challenge the
mostly Caucasian teacher work force.

Underlying development of culturally responsive pedagogy is critical
reflection in the discussion about the foundations of racism, and how it
impacts schooling. Teachers must be able to look in the critical mirror, and
attempt to understand their culture, and the culture and ethnicity of their
students. How can teachers go beyond existing structures and thinking to
change behavior tow ard students of color? Gay (2000) provides the five
essential components of beginning the process of culturally responsive
teaching: 1) Development of a knowledge base about cultural diversity; 2)
development of knowledge of culturally relevant curriculum; 3) demonstrated
caring toward students of color; 4) development of successful strategies to
communicate and work with students of color and; 5) cultural congruity in the
classroom incorporating all of the components. All of the components
outlined by Gay build upon the other, and cannot be separated or fragmented
on the continuum toward culturally relevant pedagogy.
Gay (2002) also points out that many white teachers have very little
knowledge about culturally relevant pedagogy, and what they do know has
been gathered from popular culture. Some teachers also harbor distorted
perceptions of children of color. Unfortunately, many teachers are so bogged
down with accountability, testing, lesson plans, and general teacher demands,
that they view culturally relevant pedagogy as too demanding and time

consuming (Murrell, 2002; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006). Many schools
equivocate about the inclusion of culturally relevant pedagogical strategies,
despite the persistence of the minority achievement gap, and despite evidence
that demonstrates increased academic performance when culturally relevant
teaching strategies are utilized. Gay (2002) suggests a progressive but
consistent move toward gathering the components of culturally relevant
pedagogy, as opposed to fragmented pieces that never represent the whole.
Some of the ways in which teachers and administrators can start this
process is outlined by Ukpokodu (2003), who has developed a four-course
curriculum for pre-service teachers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Ukpokodu begins the process by challenging notions and perceptions of
teachers of students of color. This is followed by assisting teachers with
understanding their own cultural history, and how that may influence their
pedagogy. She found that particularly pre-service teachers have been
socialized believing that minorities are intellectually inferior, and because of
that premise, knowingly undervalue and underestimate the potential of
students of color
Many teachers are resistive to this concept, as it is intrusive, and often
forces the individual to look at themselves and their behavior toward people of
color. Ukpokodu follows this critical discourse with a selection of texts and

consciousness-raising readings, which Banks (1995) defines as concepts,
themes, and paradigms that challenge mainstream knowledge, and that expand
the historical and literary canon (p. 20). Ukpokodu (2003) has based her
teacher training on the work of Banks (1995), and refers to this process as
transformative knowledge, which is the building block upon which teachers
catapult toward developing more knowledge and consciousness, as well as the
ability to generalize other concepts to include in their pedagogical toolbox.
In an extensive semester long course which includes critical discourse,
integrated experiences in communities of color, and diverse speakers and
shadowing days in homes and schools, Ukpokodu (2003) attempts to provide
a systemic approach for pre-service teachers to develop culturally responsive
pedagogy. The development of such a process was quite difficult; however,
Ukpokodu describes the experience for pre-service teachers as extremely
valuable and contributing to reductions in negative perceptions and fear of
urban school, communities, and students. Unfortunately, few colleges offer
such rich and necessary curricular experiences in university programs, even
though the student populations teachers will face are increasingly diverse.
Ukpokodu (2003) acknowledges that teaching from a critical
perspective is not the norm, and is not safe; but is effective. Teachers who
have taught against the educational grain have often met with great resistance

and are often judged negatively by even their professional peers (Alquist,
1991; Dittmar, 1999; Hartung, 1990; Tatum, 1994; Ukpokodu, 2003;
Zeichner, Melnick & Gomez, 1996). Raising culturally relevant thinking and
teaching culturally relevant pedagogy is quite draining particularly for a
professor of color (Ukpododu, 2003). Students often challenge the professor
and attempt to discredit their thinking, knowledge, or experiences; which is
very similar to the experiences of children of color in the school setting.
Many students, according to Ukpokodu (2003) carry these feelings to
extremes, completing low course evaluations, demonstrating unprofessional
and challenging behaviors in class, and going to deans or other administrators
to complain about classroom content. Ukpokodu concedes that she could have
taken the easy way out to counteract the negative evaluations, and not have to
answer questions about her teaching effectiveness which could impact tenure.
However, she continues to struggle along with those students who are
complimentary and engaging in her efforts, because she must, as a researcher
of color, prepare others for the educational needs of African American
In developing other approaches for teachers to incorporate culturally
relevant pedagogy, Parsons (2005) suggests approaching teachers learning
culturally relevant pedagogy from the ethic of caring within the classroom, as

a means to further discussions about inequality in classrooms. This approach
would be designed to combat some of the resistance to address what Shujaa
(1995) refers to as dysconscious influences. Dyconsciousness reportedly
maintains classroom inequities, as teachers are unaware of the influences of
cultural identity and ideological responsibilities; thus, the term
dyconsciousness or unawareness.
Dyconsciousness is a process whereby the individual maintains a
stance of superficiality, preferring to bypass looking inward at issues of
privilege because of the difficult psychological work that may ensue. This
concept is not without consequences, and is not as benign as it appears.
Dyconsciousness contributes significantly to the issues of power and
privilege, and to maintenance of educational inequalities. Gillborn (2006)
points out that the removal from critically examining structures and systems is
not color-blind or value-neutral, as this behavior acts as a weapon toward
maintaining white agendas, while marginalizing African American people.
In another effort to insert a multicultural curriculum, Barnes (2006)
conducted a curricular study in a large elementary school utilizing pre-service
teachers. The majority of students were African American, many of whom
came from economically struggling families. Pre-service teachers consisted of
twenty-one females and three males; five of whom were racial minorities.

Although the class was a literacy class in which the pre-service teachers were
enrolled, all teachers had taken courses in multicultural education. Barnes
goal was to assist teachers in thinking and teaching from a critical perspective
while teaching reading skills.
As with previous studies, Barnes created foundational components to
assist teachers in reflecting on white privilege, educational, and societal
inequities, and their own experiences prior to any work with students. The
teachers spent a great deal of time designing multicultural lesson plans that
incorporated literacy strategies. The fifteen-visit structured field experiences
and debriefing sessions included contacts with parents.
Barnes found that while this experience was at times frustrating,
teachers learned to modify and dissect their existing beliefs, mastered many
culturally relevant strategies, and developed knowledge about the
complexities that influence students of color. Although some pre-service
teachers lagged behind in conceptualizing and incorporating culturally
relevant pedagogy, Barnes insists that these experiences must be a part of
required courses for pre-service teachers education.
In teaching culturally relevant pedagogy, other universities have
chosen to study white teachers beliefs about teaching in culturally diverse
classrooms prior to any structured field experiences or classroom content. In a

study conducted by Dalhouse & Dalhouse (2006), ninety-two White pre-
service teachers from middle to upper socio-economic backgrounds were
asked to respond to questions on a five point Likert-type scale, to determine
their beliefs about awareness of culture, diversity, cultural interactions, and
teaching in diverse settings. Most teachers brought their own perceptions or
mis-perceptions to the process, and indicated several mostly negative
perceptions about diverse children and families. Sixty-four percent of
participants indicated that they preferred to work in White suburban schools.
Many expressed feeling uncomfortable with African American children and
parents. Some had anxiety about working with students who had limited
English skills. Teachers automatically expected more disciplinary problems
and limited parental involvement in diverse schools.
Surprisingly, pre-service teachers, despite their mis-perceptions, felt
that they could work with children of color. Some positives that occurred at
the end of study were pre-service teachers communicating more positive
feelings about their ability to teach and interact with African American
children more so than in-service teachers, teachers made less referrals for
special education services, and teachers accepted less negative thinking and
jokes about African American children.

Teaching culturally responsively is a complex phenomenon that is
time and process driven; therefore, teachers need consistent practice and
exposure to master and muster the basic components of culturally responsive
pedagogy. Dalhouse & Dalhouse (2006) indicate that one course in
multicultural education is insufficient in providing teachers with the tools they
require. Only after at least two or more multicultural classes were pre-service
teachers able to address critical discussion about culturally relevant pedagogy.
Thus, researchers suggest universities stipulate that students complete four or
more classes, and participate in several cross-cultural community-based
experiences prior to teaching culturally relevant content (Brown, 2004;
Dalhouse & Dalhouse, 2006; Grant, 1981; Milner, 2005; Pohan, 1996;
Ukpokodu, 2003).
In other unique avenues to support culturally relevant pedagogy, some
scholars suggest specific types of culturally relevant immersion experiences
prior to development of culturally relevant pedagogy. Many scholars advocate
for story-telling through personal narratives to assist teachers and students in
personal and historical reflection, to help with broader understanding from an
interpersonal perspective (Curtis, 1998). Critical reflection for teachers prior
to exposing them to culturally relevant pedagogy has also been suggested by
Howard (2003), while Lynn (2006), proposes specifically recruiting African

American males to provide a voice for African American male students to
build upon their cultural experiences to retain African American males in
schools. In a study of six African American teachers engaged in successful
culturally relevant pedagogy, Beauboef (1992) suggests that teachers must
take their cue from African American teachers who have mastered a form of
mothering while understanding the political connotations of African American
life. Beauboef refers to this process as politicized mothering, and suggest
that this perspective simultaneously challenges and supports African
American students to know their worth, and to excel academically.
Many other African American scholars add to the framework of
culturally relevant pedagogy by describing the characteristics of culturally
responsive practitioners. Ware (2006) suggest building upon the Warm
Demander Pedagogy, which is a term coined by Siddle-Walker (1996, 2001)
that describes the unique cultural style specifically used by African American
and culturally competent white teachers to simultaneously demand
achievement and denote caring. Wares study observing Warm Demander
Pedagogy in action, recommends merging its components with that of
culturally responsive pedagogy as described by Gay (2000). Although each
construct is autonomous, Ware (2006) found that the combination led to a
culture of achievement. Finally, Milner (2006) suggests preparing researchers

and teachers to work with and research African American children by
examining their cultural self, racial self, and spiritual self. He states it is
critical in developing and interpreting theory, research, and practice.
From a different perspective, culturally relevant pedagogy has also
been studied from the Caucasian teachers perspective. In a study by Parsons
(2005), a Caucasian teachers pedagogy using literature that outlines how
African American teachers communicate and relate to African American
children was examined. The goal was to operationalize culturally relevant
pedagogy, and demonstrate how caring African American teachers teach
African American students, using a non-Black teacher. Parsons studied the
fourth grade classroom of a teacher named, Angel, who taught in a large urban
school in the Southeast for a period of seven months. Parsons observed
Angels teaching style using the foundations of culturally relevant pedagogy
as described by Gay (2000), and through applying the fundamentals of caring,
including: 1) engrossment; 2) receptivity and; 3) reciprocity, as described by
Noddings (1984, 1992). Parsons (2005) sought to understand if a Caucasian
teacher could engage, provide positive regard, and positive interactions
consistently and genuinely with African American students.
Parsons (2005) found that Angel taught and advocated
simultaneously, affirmed African American children in verbal and non-verbal

behaviors, demonstrated acceptance for speech and language differences, and
treated African American students with kindness; yet, structured the
classroom. While this is a beginning foundation toward culturally responsive
teaching demonstrated by non-Black teachers, Parsons (2005) points out that
this is just a start, as the most important aspect of this process occurs when
students of color respond. Caucasian teachers have the potential to
demonstrate culturally relevant pedagogy when educated and supported in the
process, as demonstrated by the teacher, Angel.
In examining other specific ways in which non-Black teachers can
move toward culturally responsive teaching, Heath (1983) describes the ways
in which African American children interact in their homes, and how that
home behavior is incongruent with school-related expectations. For example,
Heath provides an example of a teacher asking African American students
questions such as how many fingers do I have? African American children
perceived this question as strange, and often responded, you know how many
fingers you have. Heath found that African American children in the study
community did not answer obvious or factual questions, as they assumed the
teacher knew the answer, and the questions appeared to be silly to them.
However, when the questioning was not obvious, and was interactive and
lively, the children readily answered the questions.

An additional study by Lee (1993) found that African American
childrens achievement increased when they engaged in literary lessons
utilizing the familiar African American verbal speech interaction called
signifying. Signifying is a form of call and response, in which a question is
asked or a statement made, and a like response is provided. Signifying is
interactive; it is common to African American speech patterns, and
particularly utilized in the sermons of many African American preachers. Lee
describes signifying as a ritual in the African American community that is
similar to playing the dozens, and is a figurative use of language. However, in
most classrooms, call and response, or the use of signifying is most likely not
the common practice. In culturally responsive pedagogy in practice, a teacher
would utilize the same or similar styles of relating to teach African American
children in familiar and validating ways, to bridge cultural differences, and to
increase academic performance. Unfortunately, a consistent mis-match in
interactions occurs frequently. Teachers often believe that African American
children are less capable learners when this type of mis-interaction occurs.
To further expand upon some of the negative impacts of the lack of
culturally responsive teaching that impacts student behavior, Downey and
Pribesh (2004) argue that African American students have greater dilemmas
that extend beyond the classroom as a result of the cultural mis-match in the

classroom. In expanding on the oppositional syndrome first described by
Ogbu (1986), Downey and Pribesh (2004) argue that the oppositional
syndrome is broader and stems from internalized oppression that is
promulgated from experiences with white rather than African American
teachers. The authors commissioned a study in which they found that when
African American students are matched with same race teachers, their
behavior is rated as favorable. However, when matched with non-Black
teachers, the same behaviors observed were related as negative. Despite this
incongruence, African American children looked to African American and
white role models for this alternative nurturing. However, African American
children are often not nurtured in educational settings; therefore, the
consequences of a non-nurtured child can be quite damaging for the self-
esteem and racial identity of the African American child.
In a qualitative study conducted by Mitchell (1998) examining the
relationship of eight African American teachers and students, he found an
important connection was found between the affective domain and student
behavior. Furthermore, Mitchell found that in order for teachers to establish
and maintain student motivation and connectedness, the affective domain had
to be included. This has also been corroborated by several African American
scholars, who define the high affective needs of the African American child

(Collins, 1991; Hale-Benson, 1982; Irvine-Jordan & Fraser, 1998; Siddle-
Walker, 2000; Thompson, 2004). Due to the strong correlations between
affective needs and cultural relevance, all lessons in this study evolved from
the affective education paradigm.
African-Centered Pedagogy
Previously multicultural curriculum and pedagogical efforts have been
discussed. However, several African American scholars advocate specifically
infusing Afrocentric curriculum focusing on African American children in the
school setting, due to the achievement gap and programming dilemmas, and
overrepresentation in special education and discipline reports (Asante, 1991,
1992; Giddings, 2001; Harris, 1983; Hilliard, Payton-Stewart & Williams,
1990; Jeffries, 1991; Murrell, 2002; Nobles, 1990).
Asante (1992) advocated for African-centered pedagogy in many
Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Maryland schools, while Hilliard (1995) acted
as a consultant for many of Oregons school who desired to focus on the
academic achievement of African American children. Other scholars called
for schools specifically for African American children where their racial
identity and self-esteem would be enhanced by same race, or same sex peers
(Asante, 1992; Murrell, 2002).

African-centered pedagogy is different from multicultural curriculum
as developed by Banks (1995). African-centered pedagogy defined by Nobles
(1990) affirms African and African American culture, its contributions, and its
differences, and infuses them in curricular reform; specifically on behalf of
African American children. Some components are similar to multiculturalism;
but, the singular difference is resistance of Eurocentric hegemony when
educating African American children. The movement to include African-
centered pedagogy has been a difficult one. Multiculturalism seems to have
been embraced readily due to its focus on diversity, and perhaps it is less
intimidating to some, as opposed to African-centered pedagogy's exclusivity.
African-centered pedagogues base their contentions of exclusivity on studies
that suggest self-concept and racial identity have a positive impact on
academic achievement when African American students are taught and
physically maintained in schools (Cazenave, 1993; Murrell, 2002; Tatum,
African-centered scholars are not simply concerned with teaching style
and outcomes, they also desire that African American parents and
communities mobilize and transform schools on behalf of African American
children, much like the Civil Rights Movement. (Asante, 1991; Murrell,
2002). African-centered scholars would follow-up with research and voices to

direct the African-centered reform for curriculum in schools serving African
American children.
Lastly, a re-occurring theme presented by many African-centered
scholars, is the concept of Sankofa to help in understanding the African
American psyche. Sankofa is a Pan African concept which means to return to
what was ( Willis, 1998). The concept of Sankofa is depicted by the Sankofa
bird, which flies forward with feet facing backward. This concept denotes re-
capturing the spirit of African people, while looking and building on the
future. The concept of Sankofa is taught in many African-centered educational
settings to help students navigate and reconcile the past and the future.
Culturally Relevant Curriculum
Culturally relevant curriculum is one of the tools inherent in culturally
relevant teaching. Yet teachers must undergo a transformation prior to
attempting to teach culturally relevant curriculum, and to interact in ways that
are culturally competent. As discussed previously, culturally relevant studies
that were based on the foundations of culturally relevant pedagogy will be
discussed highlighting the study results, and contributions to the literature.
Currently, existing curriculum serves to promulgate existing cultural
paradigms. Although there has been increased awareness and interest in the
benefits of culturally relevant curriculum, the majority of curriculum

continues to validate the Eurocentric culture (King, 1995). King found that
African American students often feel invalidated when they find that
curriculum does not appear to be relevant or interesting. Not finding
connection or relevancy to curriculum has been cited as a major reason for the
continued achievement gap.
Research indicates that when teachers use knowledge about the social
and cultural context of their students when planning and implementing
instruction, the academic achievement of students can increase, and the
educational environment also restructures (Au, 1980; Lee, 1995). Given that
the lack of academic achievement for African American children has been a
highly debated issue, and the failure of the current educational system does
not meet their needs, the infusion of culturally responsive curriculum and
experiences is one of the ways in which teachers can connect successfully
with African American students.
Culturally responsive curriculum would be based on the following
African-centered norms according to Boykin (1986): spirituality, harmony,
movement, verve (the need for high levels of stimulation), affect,
communalism, expressive individualism, oral traditions, and social time
perspective. (p.61). A typical culturally-rich lesson would allow students to
infuse their everyday world into the curriculum.

For example, in discussing history, students would research African
American historians included or excluded from history, and how this impacts
history from a political and social framework. Because oral traditions are very
important in the African American community, students could be asked to
interview family members who have crossed generations, as a means to
continue the connectiveness and sense of communalism that is also an
important African and African American tradition. Discussions would be
centered in the Diaspora, described by Larson (1999), as the forced migration
of people of African descent. Lessons would also touch on the realities of
every day life for African American children.
In culturally relevant classrooms, discussions focus on self-esteem
issues, changing cultures, and media images. The use of media, technological
advances, poetry, rap, and music are important components of culturally rich
lessons. Students bring their world into the classroom, and competent teachers
use the students world to develop and include culturally relevant
opportunities within existing curriculum. Culturally rich lessons are for all
children, but are especially imperative for African American children given
the achievement gap, and the disconnection that has occurred attributable to
integration, migration, economic disparities, and extended family change
(Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006).

Other important arguments for culturally relevant curriculum have
been advanced by the research of Ogbu (1974, 1988, & 2003), who argues
that African American children often use poor performance (acting white
syndrome) as an adaptive defense mechanism to fend off discriminatory
practices, or negative peer interactions. This occurs when African American
students see few possibilities for reaching their goals, or view school as
insignificant and irrelevant. Research suggests that African American children
often develop oppositional frames of reference due to powerlessness and
reactions to their relegation to subordinate roles in life and particularly in
educational settings (Ogbu, 1988; & Gollnick & Chinn, 1998; & Tatum,
1997). This phenomenon is especially significant in the adolescent stage of
racial identity formation, when African American teens realize the systematic
exclusion from participation in society is prevalent (Tatum, 1997).
African American adolescents use oppositional behaviors to protect
their psychological identity from the bombardment of unending racism.
Redefining oneself and maintaining a positive identity is in response to this
dilemma. Despite the struggles African American children experience, they
have shown marked improvement in educational and peer settings in which
curriculum, behaviors, and teacher expectations are culturally responsive

(Gay, 2000; Hale-Benson, 1982; Hale, 2001; Haynes, 1993; Irvine-Jordan,
1991; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006; Murrell, 2001, 2002).
While it is imperative to honor cultural traditions in the community
and the world as a whole, African American children need to read about, talk
about, and experience African and African American traditions within the
school setting. Infusing culturally responsive experiences and curriculum
should not be a popularized cultural event, (i.e., food-based, a specific
holiday, or Black History month), but should be an integrated educational
event that is beneficial on a consistent basis. Murrell (2002) promotes
consistent inclusion as a way to empower African American children, as it
teaches students to live together, and promotes the rights and characteristics of
Giddings (2001) cites an ameliorative potential when including
Afrocentric concepts over the Eurocentric hegemonic school curricula,
because of its transformative impact on the motivation for academic
achievement for the African American child. More importantly, several
studies suggests that if African American children have a more positive view
of themselves, they are better equipped, demonstrate more motivation, have
strong parental influences, have teachers who believe in their value and worth,

and, in turn, value their education (Mandara, 2006; Manley, 1994; Redd,
Culturally Relevant Curriculum Studies
In reviewing the literature, some studies were found that used
culturally relevant curriculum and student response or measured academic
achievement when utilizing culturally relevant curriculum. Most studies were
theoretical as opposed to experimental. The first most well-known and often
cited study is the Kamehameha Early Education Project (KEEP), a literacy
program to improve home to school connections, by using familiar and
comfortable ways of relating for Hawaiian children (Au, 1980). This program
was necessary due to continual conflicts between Hawaiian children and non-
Hawaiian teachers, and because of the lack of academic achievement and
cultural synchronization that Irvine-Jordan (1991) report occurs when there
are conflicts between teacher and student style. The KEEP program yielded
impressive results in 1984 in improving language arts and reading skills of
students who have previously struggled academically. The students came from
low socioeconomic backgrounds. Teacher use of culturally relevant pedagogy
and increased understanding of their students cultural style also improved
significantly as a result of this study.

In two studies, doctoral candidates initiated two innovative curricular
modules to understand African American student responses and connection to
the curriculum (Gibson, 2006; Weldon, 1996). In 2005, Gibson (2006) created
an innovative culturally relevant curriculum utilizing the African American
tradition of stepping, a form of dancing, clapping and keeping time to a
specific beat, in an existing physical education class. Two groups of students
participated, one in a regular physical education class, and one in a physical
education program using a stepping curriculum. Gibson utilized Caucasian
teachers to teach the stepping curriculum to understand a non-Black teachers
abilities to teach a culturally relevant and familiar physical education unit for
African American children. Gibson desired to understand if African American
children would respond to a non-Black teachers use of culturally relevant
curriculum and pedagogy.
A foundation wras initially set for the teachers to help them incorporate
and understand culturally relevant pedagogy and curriculum. Teachers were
given evaluations assessing their feelings about administering the stepping
curriculum. Many teachers were totally unfamiliar with the concept of
stepping, and many had anxiety about attempting to teach the module. Gibson
pondered the use of white teachers in a uniquely African American activity.
However, he concluded that given the diversity of todays school population,

Caucasian teachers must know and exhibit culturally relevant pedagogy, and
must infuse culturally relevant curriculum in all instructional areas.
Gibsons qualitative study yielded impressive results, in that student
participation increased in the stepping curriculum, while student boredom and
resistance to physical education decreased. Students desired to begin a step
team at the end of the study. Teachers who were initially skeptical and
worried about their abilities to keep time with the music demonstrated dance
steps, and incorporated the stepping routine with reduced anxiety. Teachers
also found that when African American students are engaged in something
that is interesting and normative, and when they witness teacher support and
interest in their lives, they, in turn, teach the teacher about their culture and
their differences.
Weldon (1996) completed a doctoral study addressing culturally
relevant curriculum and the responses of African American children when
using culturally responsive literacy lessons conducted by pre-service teachers.
Weldon evaluated student motivation, energy, and excitement for culturally
relevant lessons via a qualitative tool indicating satisfaction and connection to
the literacy content. Students reported more satisfaction and self-efficacy in
their writing skills, and indicated that the content of the culturally relevant
lessons were validating and interesting, and instilled pride in their race.

Students within this study preferred to relate and communicate in oral terms;
but, when confronted supportively, were able to write in ways that they had
never attempted before. Most students desired to relate in oral terms, but were
aware of their ability to challenge their writing skill level by the end of the
study experience. Weldon did not found significant increases in writing skills
measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)
assessment, despite students reporting positive regard for culturally relevant
curriculum. Weldon noted high writing apprehension on the part of many of
the African American students participating in the study, which may account
for the lack of significant writing improvement.
In attempting to locate studies that were research-based and focused on
culturally responsive practices in classrooms, Jennifer Klump (2005) reviewed
several studies for the Regional Sampler: Culturally Responsive Practices for
Student Success, for the North West Regional Educational Laboratory. Klump
retrieved studies in the literature that focused on culturally responsive,
culturally congruent, culturally proficient, culturally relevant, or culturally
competent classroom behavior and teacher strategies. Klump found that few
studies in the literature were experimental. The majority of the studies found
were case studies and research reviews. There were also numerous ways in
which culturally relevant practices are defined, identified, and named,

suggesting a great deal of variance in designing and implementing studies
based on accepted culturally relevant pedagogy.
In reviewing over fifty research articles and reports, Klump (2005)
narrowed down the most salient studies to seventeen. She found consistent
elements of culturally relevant practice. Klumps summary of the most
important characteristics of culturally responsive pedagogy in the studies
reviewed are: a) an inclusive educational climate based in interpersonal
relationships and respect for culture; b) classrooms that bridge academic
learning while using the students prior knowledge and values; c) maintenance
of high standards for students of color, including activities and curriculum to
maintain high-ordered processing; d) a hands on classroom that is cooperative
and is a less lecture-oriented model that digs knowledge out of students,
rather than fills them up with it; (Ladson-Billings, 1994); e) teachers who
are interested in learning about the culture of their students, their learning
styles and ethnic frames of reference, while modifying curriculum and
instruction to compliment and integrate knowledge and; f) teachers who
understand that African American children are not all the same, and have
incorporated cultures at different levels.
All studies and reviews have features of culturally relevant instruction
and pedagogy, as well as some components that were consistent with the

literature on culturally relevant pedagogy and curriculum. A variety of racial
groups were included in Klumps review of the research. Most focused on
effective teaching strategies and curriculum for African American, Native
American, and English language learners. Klump evaluated research reviews
and studies in her work.
Five of the fifty studies reviewed by Klump were conducted with
majority African American or all African American children, and involved
qualitative research on effective culturally relevant curriculum. None of the
studies were experimental, two were quasi-experimental, and ten were
research reviews. All five studies have corresponding culturally relevant
pedagogical characteristics of respect for African American children, high
expectations, curricular augmentation, and integration of home life into the
school culture. Table 2.1 presents three culturally relevant studies included in
Klumps regional sampler that are relevant to this research:
Table 2.1 Culturally relevant studies
Study Synopsis
In a comparison of effective black and white teachers, Cooper (2002) reviewed the effective
teaching styles of both through personal narratives. This was not an empirical study; however, using
culturally relevant pedagogy as described by Gay (2000), Ladson-Billings (1996), and Jordan-Irvine
(1991) teacher behavior that epitomized culturally relevant foundations were evaluated. Effective
black and white teachers demonstrated high expectations of their students, involved the family and
community, and modified curriculum to appeal to African American children. White teachers
specifically developed a hyper-consciousness about race in the classroom, which provided the
permission to discuss and understand difficult racial and ethnic issues. White teachers also__

Study Synopsis (cont)__________________________________________________________________________
demonstrated acceptance of African American learning styles, and learned to appreciate these
Klump (2005) reviewed two qualitative studies conducted by Ladson-Billings (1994, 1995) in which
teacher behavior and pedagogical practice were reviewed. Ladson-Billings (1994) documented the
practices of African American teachers in a well-known work through an ethnographic study. This
work has provided the foundation for culturally relevant pedagogy in many studies. Within this
study, Ladson-Billings followed eight exemplary teachers of African American students. These
African American teachers simultaneously empowered and challenged African American students,
acted as coaches, and maintained high expectations, while extending teaching beyond the classroom.
African American students were held in high regard, and cooperativeness instead of competitiveness
was encouraged in the classroom.
In the second study, Ladson-Billings (1995) conducted a three-year observational study of African
American teachers using culturally relevant pedagogy in diverse schools. Teachers within the study
were chosen based on parent and principal recommendations. Selection was also based on the
teacher's low number of disciplinary referrals, high class attendance, and adequate test scores. The
major findings of this study corroborate Ladson-Billings previous study of 1994, in which high
expectations, relationship building, curricular change, and teachers with a passion for teaching
African American students were the hallmarks of culturally relevant teaching and high academic
Overall, Klump's (2005) review of the literature was largely based on
other scholarly reviews of the literature than actual studies. This appears to be
a gap in the literature given the absence of qualitative or quantitative research
studies that implement culturally relevant pedagogy, or the use of culturally
relevant curriculum to increase African American achievement or motivation.
In other creative uses of culturally relevant curriculum, Duncan-
Andrade and Morrell (2000) used the hip hop culture to increase literary skills
in an urban high school English class. The researchers tout the value of the hip
hop culture, and its widespread appeal to particularly students of color. The

module was well-received by all students because of hip hops exciting and
sometimes anti-establishment messages and behavior. The use of hip hop
poetry, language, and music was used to connect African American students
to their roots, to assist students in critical discourse, and to introduce other
forms of similar genre such as poetry and ballads.
Duncan-Andrade and Morrell (2000) begin the process by providing
students with a historical perspective on the hip hop culture. This was
followed by modules in poetry and poets in society. Students received a
historical perspective on the Puritan Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement,
the Harlem Renaissance, and the Post Industrial Revolution. Rap music was
then placed in its rightful place and period to help students understand how
rap and the hip hop culture evolved to its enormous appeal today.
Additionally, students were required to develop their own rap song or poem,
and connect this to the specific historical period to help connect the past to the
current, and the current to the future. Duncan-Andrade and Morrell (2000)
found that broad skills were enhanced when students completed literary pieces
that focused on social, political, or economic issues; such as poverty or
homelessness. Much of their work was presented in small groups, which is
another hallmark of culturally relevant instruction for African American youth
(Gay, 2000; Tatum, 1997).

To further investigate the effectiveness of using hip hop to improve
literary skills and to increase student motivation, Duncan-Andrade and
Morrell (2000) collected observations, field notes, videotapes of student
presentations, conducted interviews and reviewed all work submitted. The
researchers found that the students readily engaged in the module as it was
culturally relevant and current, and it also mirrored their interests. The issues
inherent in much of the hip hop language and culture; such as poverty, racism,
socio-economic challenges, and African American youth alienation resonated
with the youth, and assisted in providing some significant discussions during
the eight-week culturally relevant module. Students commented on connecting
the past to their current world, and students indicated new or improved
interest in poetry. Students drew conclusions between rap and poetry, and
understood historical scaffolding; where previous history builds upon current
history. Some students became so connected and validated by the curriculum
that they desired to choose the content of the modules. Students positively
rated the course, indicated that the modules were fun, and demonstrated
energy and enthusiasm for the lessons.
Duncan-Andrade and Morrells (2000) study is the epitome of
culturally relevant curriculum coupled with key support for the components of
racial identity development. African American students have popularized the

hip hop culture, although most foundational aspects of hip hop have been
around for decades (Kunjufu, 2005). Connecting youth to the old and new
supports racial identity, and promotes African American pride in history.
Although there were several studies assessing the effectiveness of
culturally relevant curriculum, most did not pair culturally relevant and non-
culturally relevant curriculum as proposed in this study, or draw comparisons
between 'traditional and culturally relevant curriculum. Many other teachers
and researchers used culturally relevant curriculum as the foundation of their
work; however, this was an informal use of culturally relevant pedagogy. The
studies most complimentary to this research are delineated below in Table 2.2,
indicating relevance to this particular study design:
Table 2.2 Culturally relevant research
Title/Author Brief Summary Key Theories
2004-2005 Pilot test of two new culturally responsive curriculum units: Appalachia Educational Laboratory at Edvantia Gilchrist, C., Hughes, G., & Holloway, J. (2003) During the 2003-2004 School year, researchers from Advantia used the Knowledge Looms 9-principles of culturally responsive instruction as the curricular intervention for twice monthly meetings with a pilot study in four schools, to determine the viability of the curriculum. Teachers designed and taught lessons that incorporated culturally relevant principles. Culturally responsive pedagogy, Sociocultural theory

Title/Author Brief Summary Key Theories
Improving upper grade math achievement via the integration of a culturally responsive curriculum Pajkos, D., & Klein- Collins, J. (2001) Action research study to increase the mathematical achievement of sixth, seventh, and eight grade African American students using culturally responsive math curriculum Culturally responsive pedagogy, multiple intelligence, & Critical Race Theory
Learning to develop culturally relevant pedagogy: A lesson about comrowed lives Hefflin, B. (2002) African American culturally responsive childrens literature was used by two teachers along with call & response mannerisms, to broaden and heighten existing cultural knowledge Culturally responsive, Cultural consciousness, & Socio-cultural theory
Cultural relevance and computer-ass i sted instruction Leonard, J., Davis, J., & Sidler, J. (2005) Exploratory study using culturally relevant computer- assisted instruction to assist African American students on-task behavior and ability to solve math and science problems Culturally responsive, learner-centered instruction, Learning for use model (Edelson, 2001), & scaffolding
Student experiences of a culturally-sensitive curriculum: Ethnic identity development amid conflicting stories to live by Chan, E. (2007) This study examined the ways in which students experiences of a culturally relevant curriculum supported their development of further ethnic identity Racial identity development, Culturally relevant pedagogy, & Socio-cultural learning theory
Warm demander pedagogy: Culturally responsive teaching that supports a culture of achievement for African American students Ware, F. (2006) Practicing the values and behaviors of a warm demander was the focus of this study. The warm demander philosophy of an authoritative, yet caring approach with high expectations was operationalized by two Culturally responsive, Racial identity development, Socio- culturally learning, African- centered pedagogy

Title/Author Brief Summary Key Theories
African American teachers in a study in an urban high school. Through interviews and observations the practices and beliefs of warm demander culturally responsive practice was documented. Qualitative differences were noted in motivation and engagement, performance in reading abilities improved significantly
Although there is no universally accepted culturally relevant
curriculum, there are foundational aspects that have been identified through
the research of many African American scholars (Asante, 1991; Au &
Kawakami, 1985; Beauboef 1992; Boykin 1994; Callins 2006; Curtis,1998;
Diamond & Moore, 1995; Garcia & Dominguez, 1997; Gay, 2000, 2002;
Giddings,2001; Hale-Benson, 1982; Irvine-Jordan et al, 2000; King,1995;
Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1995, 2000; Lee, 1995; Milner, 2005; Murrell, 2002;
Nobles,1990; Pohan, 1996; Redd,1993; Shade,1994; Weldon,1996). The sum
components of culturally relevant curriculum have been described previously,
and most components will be utilized in this study.

Social Skills and Affective Education Literature
Academic lessons have historically focused on academics rather than
cognitive domains; however, whole child teaching that focuses on the life and
experiences beyond the classroom, have proven to be necessary components
of teaching as well. Building relationships with students beyond the classroom
is an imperative component of the whole child concept; as well as teaching
students to respect others and to think critically. Affective education
acknowledges the differences of others, while teaching the integral
components of maintaining appropriate relationships. The Delors Report,
(UNESCO, 1996), focused on helping students to learn how to get along with
others through education, and viewed education as a social experience, not
simply focusing on academics; but, education that helps children learn about
themselves via interpersonal communications.
Although limited studies were found in the literature of the benefits of
combining cognitive and affective domains, there were extensive literature
and rationale for both areas separately. In a study combining cognitive and
affective education, scholars from Harvard University collaborated with a
small school in Philadelphia to provide an affective education curriculum
designed to teach cognitive and social skills (Fluellen, 2003). The Harvard
study desired to develop proficiency for a classroom of twenty-nine African

American students using the instructional areas of literacy, science, and
history, and character education classes designed to teach critical thinking and
social skills. The study administered Harvard University's Project Zero
teaching for understanding framework, and state mandated assessments to
determine the programs viability and development of higher order thinking.
The goal was to provide a multidisciplinary approach to learning that included
affective education. The Harvard study is a fairly new cognitive and affective
pairing with positive outcomes for student behavior in affective and cognitive
Several scholars have correlated social outcomes of individuals
(attribution, motivation, and academic interest) with positive relationships
with others (working groups, family systems and interdependence), suggesting
academic motivation is connected with meaningful social interactions in
educational settings (Ainley, 2006; Boekaerts & Minnaert, 2006;
Marjoribanks, 2006). Affective domains are congruent with culturally relevant
teaching, as they provide for student interactions, group activities, shared
thinking, and communal influences common to the African perspective.
The philosophy and behaviors of affective education lessons were also
utilized in this study, as the researcher/teacher is a social worker who has
utilized affective education as a part of the repertoire of social work skills

taught and maintained in over twenty-five years of practice. As a Clinical
Social Worker concerned with how people perceive, think, and process
information, the affective education paradigm provided a forum in which
students of color discussed everyday cultural and ethnically-relevant issues in
ways that is culturally congruent. Affective educations broad thinking and
concepts were included in the culturally relevant lessons as African American
students discussed everyday issues they faced. Feelings, emotions, social
skills, and perceptions were also included in the use of affective education in
the study classroom. Students also had the opportunity to share sensitive
political, social, and cultural dilemmas in a supportive environment that
encouraged honest and open exchange.
Additionally, affective education lessons often denote caring and
committed relationships, as they discuss feelings, needs, and perceptions,
which are aligned with culturally relevant curriculum and relationships. Care
of the students affective needs is critical, and provides a reassuring and
supportive forum for learning to occur. Collins (1991) found that particularly
African American children responded to other mothering and fathering in
academic settings, which mirrored their extended family and community
relationships. Affective education also supports the foundation of Racial

Identity Development because it corresponds to the affective needs of African
American children.
The literature is extensive in defining and operationalizing culturally
relevant pedagogy and curriculum. The foundations of both are well-
documented by numerous majority African American scholars, who also
include numerous references to Critical Race Theory and Racial Identity
Development (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006; Tatum, 1994, 1997). The
theoretical frameworks are interlinked with the foundation of culturally
relevant pedagogy, as it is impossible to separate power, privilege, and issues
of hegemony from the educational system. Racial Identity Development
provides an additional important component by dissecting and communicating
racial identifiers, and by providing the fundamentals in understanding the
behavior, self-esteem, and abilities of African American children. These
essential components must be acknowledged in educational systems.
However, few experimental studies were found that have studied the
impact of culturally relevant curriculum. Most studies reviewed utilized the
foundations of culturally relevant pedagogy to discuss connecting with
students. The basis of this study centered on culturally relevant curriculum
and African American student responses to each culturally relevant lesson

using affective education as an additional foundation. The value of affective
education is noted in the literature, but was not frequently coupled with
culturally relevant pedagogy. Research indicates that African American
children have high affective needs (Collins, 1991; Gay, 2000; Hale-Benson,
1982). Therefore, this study is supported by the literature which identifies the
affective needs and the benefits of culturally relevant pedagogy.
Scholars maintain that African American children who connect with
frequent applications of culturally relevant curriculum in their academic world
may demonstrate greater motivation, and demonstrate positive regard for
those lessons that mirror their world and connect to their developmental
functioning (Baratz, 1986; Dilg, 1999; Gay, 2000; Hale-Benson, 1982; Hale,
2001; Haynes, 1993; Irvine-Jordan, 1991; Murrell 2001, 2002; Pasteur &
Toldson, 1982; Peters, 1981; Redd, 1993; Thompson, 2004; Webster, 2002).
Although this study is largely focused on African American children,
the literature suggests that culturally relevant curriculum is applicable to all
children, and has the potential to connect to their language, style,
developmental tasks, and school motivation; as well as racial and ethnic
characteristics. Culturally relevant curriculum also provides non-minority
teachers the opportunity to immerse themselves into the cultural lives of their
students, and to further understand their students culture and differences. It

also has the potential to address the apathy and disconnect of many African
American students.
Given that 40% of the nations students are ethnic minorities, while
86% of the nations teachers are white and speak only English, and the vast
majority, 80-93% of the students enrolled in college and university programs
that prepare teachers are white as well, teachers must be prepared to engage in
pedagogy that is relevant and culturally responsive (Cochran-Smith, Davis &
Fries, 2005).
In reviewing the literature for research that is complimentary to
evaluating culturally relevant pedagogy and practice, research paradigms
varied in methodology. Most studies utilized a single intervention using
qualitative methodology to explore cultural relevance or preference for a
curriculum for African American children. Comparative preferences for
culturally relevant curriculum was based on a single set of lessons in most
studies, as opposed to utilizing culturally relevant lessons compared to
Eurocentric lessons or other non-culturally relevant lessons. Other studies
utilized culturally relevant curriculum or pedagogy in a mixed methods
research design, non-comparatively (Chan, 2007; Duncan-Andrade & Morrell,
2000; Gilchrist, Hughes & Holloway, 2003; Hefflin, 2002; Pajkos & Klein-
Collins, 2001).

This study is significant, as few studies were found in the literature
comparing a culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant curriculum.
Culturally relevant pedagogy and curriculum is fully defined in the literature;
however, non-culturally relevant curriculum is potentially more difficult to
define and practice, given the inability to remove all referents to culture,
ethnicity, and race from experiences and individuals. To the extent possible,
being conscious of cultural references and experiences when delivering the
non-culturally relevant lessons in this study, was one way to control for this

This research study examined the preferences of African American
students for culturally relevant and non-culturally lessons. Preferences are
defined within this study, as lessons that African American students describe
as being their favorite, and which they like and enjoy. The guiding research
questions are: (1) Do African American students prefer culturally relevant or
non-culturally relevant lessons in school, and; (2) How do culturally relevant
lessons relate to the lives of African American students?
These important questions will be explored using a mixed methods
triangulated research design, with researcher as teacher. The foundation of this
study was derived from a multi-dimensional theoretical framework, focusing
on the foundations of culturally relevant pedagogy as described by Gay
(2000), and Ladson-Billings (1995), and supported by the tenets of Critical
Race Theorists (Asante, 1992; Bell, 1988; Delgado, 2002; Ladson-Billings,
1995; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006;) and Racial Identity Development
(Ogbu, 1991; Sheets & Hollins, 1999; Tatum, 1997).
A search of the literature indicates that similar studies using a single
set of culturally relevant lessons have been undertaken by researchers

interested in understanding students of color; particularly African American
student preferences for culturally relevant lessons. However, the study design
did not include comparing culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant
lessons (Au & Kawakami, 1985; Banks, 2004; Hale, 2001; Heath, 1983;
Jordan-Irvine, 1990; Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1995; Lee, 1993; Murrell, 2002;
Nichols, Rupley & Webb-Johnson, 2000). No studies were found solely
utilizing culturally relevant lessons comparatively as the curricular
intervention. Similarities do exist with the previous studies referenced, as this
study will use culturally relevant lessons to understand student preferences for
culturally relevant curriculum. However, the additional component in this
study addresses non-culturally relevant lessons and student preference as well;
unlike the previously mentioned studies. This study will assist in
understanding the preferences of African American children toward culturally
relevant or non-culturally relevant curriculum, and may assist in planning for
the curricular needs of African American children.
The process to investigate this unique curricular innovation was
guided by the research questions: (1) Do African American students prefer
culturally relevant or non-culturally relevant lessons in school and; (2) How
do culturally relevant lessons relate to the lives of African American students?
Because this study seeks to understand the preferences and experiences of

African American children engaged in a curriculum, the essence of this
experience is best captured from a mixed methods triangulated research
design. This research design provided the framework in which to examine
culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons, in that it provided a
qualitative methodology to understand student preferences in their own words
and from their own experiences, and a quantitative means to compare
preferences for culturally relevant or non-culturally relevant lessons. Both
methodologies can provide rich and valuable data, as both support and inform
the other. The researcher is also the teacher administering the lessons within
this study, which draws upon the classroom as the natural environment of the
student to inform curricular preferences. Quantitative and qualitative methods
will be discussed separately, along with the definition of culturally relevant
and non-culturally relevant lessons.
Culturally Relevant and Non-Culturally Relevant Lessons
Prior to the discussion of the methodology, it is imperative to clarify
the differences between culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons
for the purposes of this study. In Chapter One, culturally relevant pedagogy
was described as curriculum, behavior, and thinking that mirror the life of the
African American child. It also contains frequent references within curriculum
regarding the life experiences and ethnic realities of African American

children. Culturally relevant lessons, within this study, will incorporate the
affective education paradigm that involve specific references to ethnicity,
race, social and political constructs, and images specific to African American
children (See Appendix F).
To further outline how culturally relevant lessons were used in this
study, and how lessons were connected to culturally relevant pedagogy,
students were asked to read sections of the Declaration of Independence. After
thoroughly reading and researching the words, the students were paired up in
groups, and re-wrote passages of the Declaration of Independence from their
cultural and ethnic perspective. As an example, the Declaration states, we
hold these truths to be self-evident. A written passage in the inflection and
language of todays ethnically diverse youth might be, its obvious you know
where Im coming from, or, thats the real deal. This is a culturally
relevant use of existing structures to connect to the current worldview of the
diverse child. All lessons incorporate at least one instructional area such as
social studies, history, political science, or psychology.
A typical affective education lesson coupled with an instructional area
such as math, science, or social studies; however, was infused with emotional
concepts such as empathy, self-esteem, respect, and other affective domains,
to increase interpersonal relationships and social skills, and to address whole

child concepts. For the purposes of this study, culturally relevant lessons
included cultural infusions, such as language, and ethnic-related field trips,
and discussion of political and social constructs.
Non-culturally relevant lessons are the opposite of what is described
above, and although they are also based in the instructional areas of
psychology, history, and social studies, they did not include references to
issues impacting students of color; nor, did they provide the cultural lens,
images, and cultural mirror of African American life. Within this study, the
existing curriculum of the study classroom was used as the non-culturally
relevant lessons. The classroom teacher is a Caucasian male who has had
limited experience with culturally relevant pedagogy. Therefore, the
classroom had not been exposed to consistent applications of culturally
responsive pedagogy or curriculum that had been augmented to mirror African
American life and experiences.
In the course of teaching American History, references to culture, race,
ethnicity, or political or social constructs were not explored, and no in-depth
discussion occurred during the non-culturally relevant lessons. However,
lessons did focus on specific time periods in American History, largely from a
Eurocentric perspective. Non-culturally relevant lessons incorporated social
affective lessons just as culturally relevant lessons did, but were devoid of

cultural and ethnic relevancy, specifics to race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities,
age, or other culturally relevant characteristics. Students were not asked to
discuss issues specific to cultural or racial characteristics, nor did they discuss
the political and social constructs that impact African American children.
Students also focused on affective areas that are largely academic and
cognitive; rather than political, racial, ethnic, or socially focused.
No lesson is value-free or totally culturally-free; however, students
were not asked to focus on specific issues that included race, gender,
ethnicity, socio-economic, or other cultural characteristics. Non-culturally
relevant pedagogy is not unlike what occurs in many classrooms on a daily
basis for African American children, as they do not see themselves in their
school experience, neither do they connect with this experience.
Although this researcher is an African American woman who has
taught in a culturally responsive manner, the experience of teaching in a non-
culturally relevant manner was challenging. Staying conscious of cultural
nuances, language, images, body movements, verbal patterns, and references
to social and political issues that impact African American children were,
however, important in maintaining the integrity of the non-culturally relevant
lessons. Assistance in monitoring this dilemma was shared with the classroom
teacher, who received the specific components of culturally relevant

pedagogy, in an effort to help control for this variable when applying
culturally relevant and non-culturally lessons.
Research Design
This is a mixed methods triangulated research design to understand the
preferences of culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons for
African American students. Multiple qualitative and quantitative data
gathering and data analysis provided a rich and complimentary approach to
understanding African American childrens curricular preferences. This
approach also provided substantive perceptions and insight.
A variety of data triangulation and methodological triangulation was
utilized in this study. The study school as described in Table 3.1 received
culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons over a six-week period
including an additional four weeks of time for pre-research activities and two
weeks of post-research activities, for a total of ten weeks. The culturally
relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons and the delineation per week of
each lesson are depicted in Table 3.1.
Table 3.1 Culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant lessons introduction

Table 3.1 (cont.)
Pre-research Activities (October 2007)
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5-10
Met with teacher. Provided written information on study.
Answered questions, prepared for recruitment. Provided
student/parent consent and assent forms.
Met with students and parents, provided information on
the study, answered questions, and handed out consent
Met with students/teachers, completed consent and
assents, collected and document return of consent forms.
Final preparation for culturally relevant and non-
culturally relevant lessons.
Infusion of culturally relevant and non-culturally relevant
lessons, and culturally relevant field trip
(November, 2007-
December, 2007) Transition and Focus Groups
Teacher meeting and collection of teacher observation
Data Analyses

This was a mixed methods triangulated research design with a student
questionnaire administered after each culturally relevant lesson using both
quantitative and qualitative data (See Appendix B). The procedures for
conducting this study are delineated within this chapter, beginning with the
methods of quantitative inquiry, followed by qualitative methods that were
administered, to answer the research questions regarding what lessons African
American students prefer
Quantitative methodology relates to and helped to explore the research
question, do African American students prefer culturally relevant or non-
culturally relevant lessons in school, as it provides the avenue to quantify
student preferences for each lesson. It also supported this study, as descriptive
statistics were used to determine individual and collective preferences for
culturally relevant or non-culturally relevant curriculum. A Likert-type scale
(1932) was used as the measure to determine students (1) like or dislike for
the lesson; (2) students perceptions as to cultural relevance of each lesson and;
(3) student interest level during each lesson (See Appendix B).
The characteristics of qualitative research as described by Bogdan and
Bikley (1992) utilize the researcher in a natural setting. Qualitative data

collection was used to address the research questions concerning the
preferences of African American children for culturally relevant and non-
culturally relevant lessons, and how these lessons relate to their lives. The
qualitative data collection strategies included: (1) open-ended questions after
each lesson; (2) teacher observation and maintenance of a reflective teacher
journal; (3) maintenance of a researcher journal; (4) transition-termination
group responses and; (5) focus group responses and student reflection.
Qualitative inquiry was foundational within this study; and was informed by
the quantitative questions on the student feedback form, along with the teacher
journal, researcher journal, and focus group, toward an integrated and
complimentary approach to answering the research questions.
The setting for this research was a large urban high school in Northeast
Denver. This school was chosen due to its diverse demographics, culturally,
economically, and racially. The community in which the study high school
was located had shifted considerably from majority African American to
Latino in the past four years, contributing to cultural tension and transition
issues within the community and school. The school is reflective
demographically of the community, and has also undergone major changes
educationally, socially, and academically.

The study school is in the midst of revitalizing due to the change in
racial and ethnic diversity, and due to increased academic needs. The school
has been designated as a low performing school, and is in the midst of this
revitalization to address these complex issues. Revitalization includes
enhanced curriculum, development of strategies to involve parents and
students, increased use of technology, and measurable goals to monitor
progress in all areas. Due to the influx of Mexican immigrant families, there
has been a need to augment curriculum, revise English as Second Language
programs, and to assist the student body in co-existing peacefully. Student
groups have been devised to address ethnic differences, and student talk
sessions have occurred consistently to help open communication. Community
and student groups have been involved substantially in this process.
The study classroom is a mixed grade, American History classroom, of
ninth through twelfth grade students. The study classroom is large and well-
lit. This is a new classroom that was added on to the existing school building
approximately seven years ago. The classroom is technologically advanced,
equipped with a television and DVD, and has numerous computers easily
accessible for student use. Use of projectors and PowerPoint was also
commonly used in the study classroom. Student desks are rectangular, seating
up to six students, and are arranged horizontally in two rows. The class

provided seating for up to thirty-eight students comfortably. Forty-five
students were enrolled, however, thirty to thirty-two attended regularly. The
study school setting was large and vast, and the classrooms are organized in
pods according to academic content. The study classroom was physically
distant from most of the academic classrooms, providing privacy and space.
The study schools profile and demographics are delineated in Table 3.2.
Table 3.2 Study school profile and demographics
(Northeast High School)
Grades: 9-12
Total Students: 1680
Population/Ethnicity: 60% Latino
37% African American
1% Caucasian
2% Other (Asian, Samoan)
Number of Teachers: 62 (70% Caucasian, 20% African American,
Administrators 8% Latino. 2% Other) 4 (2 African American, 1 Latino. 1 Caucasian)
Years in Operation: 27
Number of Students receiving Free & reduced lunch: 62%
Study Participants
The principal and teacher from the study school selected the classroom
to participate in this study, given that the culturally relevant lessons were
aligned well with American and United States History lessons that often