College of Education Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Karen Monkman

Second Advisor

Dr. Ronald Chennault

Third Advisor

Dr. Darrick Tovar-Murray

Abstract

Research on African American males in high school often looks at their experiences from a deficit perspective, and is often conducted in low resourced, high-risk settings, thus perpetuating the image of failure in school. We know less about how African American males experience education in well-resourced schools. In an attempt to fill this research gap, this qualitative inquiry study explores the schooling experiences of African American males at a predominantly White, affluent, and suburban high school of a major metropolitan city. The focus of this study was to understand how the participants made sense of their schooling experiences, paying special attention to the sorts of obstacles and challenges they face, as well as the sorts of supports they encounter. Furthermore, it sought to understand how the participants coped in positive and negative ways with the challenges they faced, as well as how they transcend adversity and demonstrate resilience. The stories of the 15 participants illustrated how they made sense of high school during the tumultuous time of adolescence. This study included participants who had moved to the Sunnyside community as well as those who had lived in the community their entire lives. The data from three focus groups and five in-depth interviews revealed three main themes: stereotyping and racism, influential people, and the process of identity development, with stereotyping and racism as the most salient iv theme. The results from their stories suggest that although they may face similar challenges, and although they are exposed to similar supports as in less well off schools, they navigate and experience school in very different ways, based on the length of time in this particular high school and community. The study concludes by using Spencer's (1997) Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (PVEST) as a lens to influence future practice. In short, PVEST is used to explore the relationships between risks and unproductive coping outcomes, protective factors and productive coping outcomes, and perhaps most importantly, productive coping outcomes in the face of significant risks (resilience). The findings suggest that future practice should include building stronger relationships between African American male students and school staff. Strong, authentic relationships can help to bridge the gap between unfair teacher presumptions that emerged in the findings, and student reality. With a better understanding of one another, more appropriate and authentic support can be given, thus hopefully leading to more positive coping outcomes.