Register, Christine Marie
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The purpose of this study was to describe teachers perceptions of how their beliefs and actions in their classrooms affect the learning environments they create for culturally diverse students. Understanding the complex interactions between students, teachers, and learning may best be accomplished through the participants actual stories. Therefore, the value of this research lies in its personal and in-depth dimensions and understanding how teachers create environments that provide opportunities for success for all students, stressing the discovery of relationships, concepts, and understandings among the different cases. The study was conducted within a suburban elementary school with a changing population. The population of the school in 1999 was approximately 60% Black, 32% White and 8% other ethnic backgrounds including Asian and Hispanic. Sixty percent of the students were on free or reduced lunch. However, the majority of the teachers were White females. Approximately 10% of the faculty was White male and another 10% was Black female. There were no Black male teachers. Data collection consisted of open-ended and focused interviews, observations, and participant narratives. Findings from this research suggested that it is possible and desirable for teachers to learn the skills necessary to create culturally responsive environments. Through personal experiences, interactions with culturally diverse persons, and discussions with others, teachers can reflect, examine, and even change their own beliefs and attitudes leading to more culturally responsive actions in the classroom. Teachers, through their actions and interactions in the classroom, with students' families, and in the community, can have positive or negative effects on students. However, through their actions of establishing caring environments that build competence and confidence in their students, teachers can create culturally responsive classrooms that increase the opportunities for success for all students. Furthermore, when teachers believe that all children can achieve academically, socially, emotionally, culturally, and politically they will work to transform their classrooms into environments that create opportunities for empowerment for all their students. Moreover, teachers will endeavor to look for student and family strengths and engage in collaborative dialogue with others in order to learn with and about their students, their lives, and their unique cultures.