Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Elementary, Middle & Secondary Teacher Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Chisholm, James S.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Foster, Michèle

Committee Member

Olinger, Andrea

Committee Member

Whitmore, Kathryn F.

Author's Keywords

Teacher education; teacher training; culturally relevant pedagogy; culturally responsive pedagogy; culturally sustaining pedagogy; alternative assessment


This qualitative study examines the experiences of three alternative certification teachers (teachers who begin teaching as they worked to complete teacher education courses for initial certification) whom I call “teacher learners” (Jacobs & Low, 2017) as they try to enact culturally responsive practices while navigating their first-year of teaching. The teacher learners worked to develop their understanding and capacities to enact a culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) even as they were faced with the obstacles inherent to shifting teaching practices in K-12 schools. Through these challenges, they still furthered their conceptualization of CRP, as evidenced by, and in some ways guided by, their work with a lesson planning template inspired by Foster et al.’s (2020) The Heuristic for Thinking About Culturally Responsive Teaching (HiTCRiT). This study is situated in Vygotskian sociocultural theory, Freire’s (1970) work on critical consciousness, and leans heavily on Ladson-Billings’s (1995) conceptualization of a “culturally relevant pedagogy” in my analysis of the teacher learners’ interviews and work. I employed qualitative data collection methods of interviewing and the collection and analysis of artifacts from the teacher learners’ coursework in an English teaching methods course. I listen to their depictions of attempts to enact CRP and develop their knowledge of it within the generally unaccommodating cultures of practice in their schools, and using discourse analysis, explore those attempts through their work on the HiTCRiT planning template. The data show that the teacher learners expanded their understanding of culturally responsive pedagogy as a concept (Smagorinsky et al., 2003), an informed theory of practice. Additionally, the data show that the teacher learners lacked the influence of experienced colleagues prepared to mentor them in CRP and that those colleagues often served as obstacles to this goal. While this situation sheds light on challenge teachers face enacting CRP in K-12 schools, the teacher learners showed, through their work teaching online and away from the wider cultures of their schools during the COVID-19 lockdown, that using the HiTCRiT planning tool allowed them to explore and expand their teaching in cultural responsive ways.