Date of Award

5-2011

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Sarah V. Mackenzie

Second Committee Member

Gordon A. Donaldson, Jr.

Third Committee Member

Richard E. Barnes

Additional Committee Members

George F. Marnik

Paul D. Knowles

Abstract

Despite increasing cultural diversity in American schools, the nation‟s teaching force is predominantly Caucasian. Native American students, like other subordinate cultural groups in the United States, typically do not attain the level of academic achievement of Caucasian students. Given the lack of cultural diversity in Maine, Caucasian teachers working with students who are Native American may experience disequilibrium when their experiences with students who are Native American do not align with their expectations for students of the dominant culture. When this occurs, Native American students may not receive the culturally relevant instruction that they need in order to benefit from education.

This qualitative study explores the teaching practices and professional ideologies of Caucasian secondary school teachers who teach Native American students in predominantly Caucasian classrooms in Maine. In this study, teaching practices include getting to know students and students‟ needs; developing expectations for students; motivating students; communicating with families; and classroom management. Professional ideology is defined as a socially constructed system of beliefs and assumptions about teaching and education. The study employed a three-stage interview method to collect data from nine high school teachers. Interview sessions were cumulative: each protocol was designed to draw upon previous responses, culminating with an opportunity to review selected transcript excerpts in order to reflect, interpret, or clarify participants‟ own words.

The findings suggest that interactions with individuals from diverse cultures outside of professional teaching practice are important in order for Caucasian teachers to understand how the culture influences students‟ learning profiles. In turn, the teacher is more likely to plan instruction accordingly in order to meet the needs of diverse learners. Conversely, when teachers view diverse learners as products of the environment rather than as members of a particular culture, they are less likely to tailor instruction in order to meet the needs of the learners. When this occurs, teachers tend to lower expectations for the learners, or expect the learners to adjust their learning profile in order to align with the classroom teaching practices. The overarching findings of this study have implications for practitioners, teacher educators, and policymakers, as well as researchers.

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