College of Education Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Ronald Chennault

Second Advisor

Dr. James Duignan

Third Advisor

Dr. Leila Villaverde

Abstract

The population of the United States continues to become more and more culturally diverse. Yet, white middle-class women dominate the teaching force. Because there are such great numbers of white middle-class women teaching students of color, it is important to re-examine how they perceive and use multicultural education in their classrooms. There have been numerous studies that have examined how white, pre-service teachers’ perceptions impact their pre-service experiences, but it is important to look at how practicing teachers’ perceptions of multicultural education affect their teaching. This study explores how teachers’ perceptions of multicultural education influence the way they teach.

A focus group of five white middle-class female teachers was used to obtain information about how the teachers felt about issues of multiculturalism. The data consisted of five focus group interviews with the same group of teachers. In the analysis of the data, the following themes were identified: Teaching as a Service- Oriented Career, Assumptions about Race and Class, Us Versus Them, and Multicultural Education at Pine. Teaching as a Service-Oriented Career examined the teachers’ choice to teach poor children of color rather than children from privileged backgrounds. Assumptions about Race and Class focused on the how teachers’ perceptions went back and forth between issues of race and class during their discussions of multicultural education. Us Versus Them included information about how the students were often forced to follow two sets of rules; the rules of the street and the rules of the school. Multicultural Education at Pine included the teachers’ personal perceptions of multicultural education. It also conveyed examples of the realities of multicultural education at the school as well as hope for the future.

This study indicated that the focus group format provided a safe place for the teachers to discuss their feelings about sensitive topics related to race and class. In my findings, it was evident that discussing sensitive topics about multicultural education in a small group format was helpful and could be a helpful tool for making positive changes with multicultural education in the future. My study reiterated that more multicultural-based training is necessary for practicing teachers.