Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Schmidt, Renita

First Committee Member

Thein, Amanda

Second Committee Member

Sunstein, Bonnie

Third Committee Member

Wesely, Pamela

Fourth Committee Member

Graham, Laura


Public schools teachers in the U.S. strive to reach the needs of all students in the elementary classroom. However, teachers are increasingly expected to follow standardized curriculum. Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (Paris, 2012) pushes toward individualized educational practices and against the assimilationism embedded in standardization. This study considers the ways in which nine women-identified teachers, one Black, two Latina, six white, who teach elementary school in a Midwestern university town, experience, discuss, and implement Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy in a professional development course, specifically through the lens of the following question: In a course on culturally sustaining pedagogy, how do teachers experience race, culture, families, and family literacies?

Grounded in empirical research that considers teaching and learning through a sociocultural lens, and in the theoretical scholarship of Critical Discourse Analysis and Critical Pedagogy, the purpose of this qualitative, narrative inquiry is to describe teachers’ learning and responses to culturally sustaining pedagogical practices in order to understand this process and its implementation.

Data for this qualitative inquiry were gathered over five months in a professional development course setting using the qualitative methods of observations, interviews, audio recordings, photographs, detailed field notes, and participant self-reflections. The data collected was analyzed through descriptive coding (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014), narrative analysis (Schaafsma & Vinz, 2011), and Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 2015; Gee, 2014).

Results from the study suggest that engagement in culturally sustaining practices is constrained by the standardizations of school, in addition to the discomfort and lack of knowledge of some teachers when talking about race and power in the elementary classroom. Findings also suggest that teachers’ explicit engagement with research and discussions regarding these constraints led to new culturally sustaining practices.


Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, Family, Home Visits, Literacy, Professional Development, Race


xiii, 253 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 229-243).


Copyright © 2019 Laura Szech