Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ed. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, EDD

Committee Chair

Brydon-Miller, Mary

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Lingo, Amy

Committee Member

Lingo, Amy

Committee Member

Craddock, Douglas

Committee Member

Cummings-Smith, Felicia

Author's Keywords

sense of belonging; Black families; family engagement structures; World Café; representation


The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate how the perceptions about family engagement structures influence the sense of belonging for Black families at their child’s school. Qualitative participatory action research (PAR) design was used for this study and purposeful homogenous sampling (Creswell, 2012) was used to select participants. The participants for this study were Black parents/guardians of students in grades K-12 in Jefferson County, Kentucky. This qualitative study used the World Café method to collect multiple data points that were triangulated to contribute to the trustworthiness of the study (Glesne, 2006). Epstein’s Model of Overlapping Spheres and Bourdieu’s Theory of Structural Constraints were the theoretical frameworks utilized for this study. To examine the potential for oppression in the systems and structures of this case study and analyze the marginalization of the lived experiences of the participants, a Critical Race Theory lens was used. Examining the counter-narratives of the Black parents/guardians in this study provided insight into the ways in which race, and cultural capital may influence a marginalized sense of belonging for Black families at their child’s school. Data were analyzed through three cycles of coding to determine themes and values. Themes that emerged included teacher/school actions that promote, inhibit, and oppress trust and sense of belonging and representation. Values, attitudes, and beliefs that emerged as important to the participants based on their responses include authentic relationships grounded in connection and mutual respect, representation in staffing and curricular resources and cultural understanding and appreciation. When discussing factors that promote a sense of belonging at their child’s school, participants mentioned trusting relationships as a foundational element. Findings indicated that Black families want to be engaged with their child’s school, but traditional, school-centric family engagement structures often inhibit and oppress their sense of belonging, which impacts their opportunity to engage in a partnership with the school. Parent recommendations included a need for increased professional development for employees to better understand Black culture. Parents also advocated for schools to stop blaming Black parents and start creating intentional opportunities for Black families to have a presence at the school with the goal of garnering feedback that administrators will consider when creating systems and structures. The implications of this study suggest that schools must stop expecting families to conform and must begin to disrupt the inequities that exist for not only students but families as well. Representation matters and White educators must increase their awareness about the roles of race and culture in educational and societal structures and be willing to confront and dismantle racialized systems.