Theses Doctoral

On the Journey to Becoming Culturally Responsive in a High School Choir Classroom: A White Woman’s Autoethnography

Dissinger, Meagan Elizabeth

Application of the culturally responsive teaching (CRT) initiative to practice may be challenging because each school community is unique. The individualized nature of CRT renders that research on successful CRT practices is only mildly, if at all, applicable to practicing teachers. As a result of these barriers, little is known about the process of becoming culturally responsive. The purpose of this study was to document my process in seeking to become a culturally responsive music educator.
Critical Race Theory shaped this study. The emphasis on white culture in public high school choir curricula does not reflect the diverse populations in music classrooms today. Many of these classrooms are led by white teachers like myself, requiring that we interrogate our race and how often it affects the learning environment in our classrooms.
Autoethnographic methods were used in this study. Three sources of data were gathered: my journal, lesson plans, and other teaching artifacts including student work. The data were then condensed into three stories: a) the story of me; b) the story of my teaching; c) the story of my students. Self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-analysis took place through questioning which included: a) “How does my whiteness affect my teaching?” b) “How often were suggestions from scholarship used?” c) “How did my attempts at culturally responsive teaching affect my students?”
Through this work, I found that developing awareness of my whiteness, my biases, and assumptions, and how they influence my instructional choices was the most important step towards CRT. I often observed myself in a self-imposed binary: either I was ‘successful’ or ‘a failure’ at being culturally responsive. My disposition about CRT has changed because now I understand that teaching responsively is not a binary but a continuum. Each day I may exist in a different place on the continuum. Therefore, I will always be becoming culturally responsive.
An individual’s process of becoming culturally responsive can only be learned through autoethnographic techniques. Additional autoethnographies conducted by teachers who are attempting to become culturally responsive may assist in finding trends.


  • thumnail for Dissinger_tc.columbia_0055E_10944.pdf Dissinger_tc.columbia_0055E_10944.pdf application/pdf 798 KB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Parkes, Kelly A.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 6, 2019