Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Whitmore, Kathryn F

First Committee Member

Colvin, Carolyn

Second Committee Member

Fielding, Linda

Third Committee Member

McNabb, Scott

Fourth Committee Member

Sunstein, Bonnie


How do elementary educators approach cultural diversity within international school settings? How do North American teachers negotiate the tensions and experiences they have as cultural agents living abroad while valuing the cultural identities of the students they serve? This study describes how international teachers' unique positions, experiences and perspectives affect their attention to cultural diversity within their classrooms. Sociocultural theory frames this study with emphasis on personal and professional identities, narrative inquiry and culturally responsive teaching. I interweave narrative inquiry and ethnographic research methods as theoretical and methodological frameworks.

I interviewed and observed the 3 North American educators in their elementary classrooms in an American school in China over several weeks. Data collected in this study included interview transcripts, artifacts from the school and classrooms, photographs and field notes. I also weave my own stories from my experiences as an international teacher throughout the study.

The Atlas TI qualitative computer program assisted the constant-comparative analysis process. Grounded and axial coding revealed a pattern across participants' stories and approaches to cultural diversity. All three teachers authored stories from their cross cultural experiences that informed their identities as educators. The teachers questioned their cultural agent role, reflected on their responses and took action in their teaching to be culturally responsive. The approaches each teacher implemented to be responsive to the cultural worlds in their classroom related to their cultural agent identities in their personal stories of cross-cultural experiences. Findings indicated that teachers were more likely to be culturally responsive in their teaching when they implemented a constructivist educational philosophy in their classrooms. This study reconceptualized cultural responsiveness to include the diverse cultural worlds of the student, teacher and international school setting.


Culturally Responsive, International Teacher, Narrative Inquiry


xi, 150 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 144-150).


Copyright 2011 Leslie Maureen Cavendish