Theses Doctoral

Rethinking Traditional Grammars of Schooling: Experiences of White, Middle-class, Female, First-year Aspiring Multicultural Educators in Intercultural Urban Teaching Contexts

Cook, Eloise R.

Enactment of social justice education is an important step toward rectifying pervasive discrimination woven into public schools and other American institutions. A social justice educator must develop diverse cultural competencies and also recognize oneself as a racialized participant in a system of racial inequity. The demographics of an overwhelmingly White teaching force and increasingly diverse student body creates both need and opportunity to understand the development of White multicultural educators.
This is a case study of two White, female, middle-class first-year urban teachers who had completed a social justice-oriented preparation program. Written reflections, interviews, and focus groups captured teachers’ perspectives on their first-year intercultural, urban teaching experiences. Findings illuminated experiences with cultural disequilibrium, culturally relevant teaching, critical consciousness, learning to teach, relationships, and navigating institutional knowledge.
Teachers negotiated cultural disequilibrium by both seeking new cultural knowledge, and seeking or creating experiences more consistent with schooling they experienced as students. Culturally relevant teaching emerged through teachers’ critiques of academic policy and practices that disadvantaged their students, yet were coupled with constraints that inhibited cultural synchronization in classrooms. Student achievement was considered a primary responsibility, but teachers were frustrated by accountability to fill perceived large academic gaps. Teachers simultaneously participated in and critiqued the dominant structures, stereotypes, and narratives in place in their schools
Teachers viewed themselves as life-long learners and valued foundational preservice experiences and school-based relationships to build knowledge of teaching. Teachers understood the value of relationships with families and students yet felt constrained in developing those relationships to enhance culturally relevant teaching practices. Teaching in a culture of high stakes accountability and monitoring stifled innovative teaching.
Implications for teacher supports during induction include preparing teachers to enter the induction process with an experience bank and foundational critical consciousness from which they can build in new contexts, providing opportunities for teachers to build community- and school-based knowledge and relationships as early as possible, and providing supportive mentoring that guides teachers’ critical consciousness in their new school contexts.


  • thumnail for Cook_tc.columbia_0055E_10845.pdf Cook_tc.columbia_0055E_10845.pdf application/pdf 3 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Zumwalt, Karen K.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
November 9, 2018