The gap between the demographic of white teachers and administrators working in ethnically and socioeconomically diverse schools and their students continues to widen. While federal 2003-2004 statistics indicate that 84% of teachers and administrators are white, 2006-2007 statistics indicate that 43% of students represent minority populations and continues to increase. White educators bring different life experiences with them that are often middle-class, English-speaking-only backgrounds. These backgrounds, researchers argue, make it difficult for white teachers and administrators to act as role models for their ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students, or to look at curriculum and instruction through a lens of multicultural pedagogy.
The purpose of this study was to better understand perceptions of white privilege that educators hold and how those perceptions impacted their teaching and administrative roles. Data was gathered and analyzed from interviews of educators who worked in two different ethnically and socioeconomically diverse elementary schools. Minnesota Department of Education Report Card statistics were used to determine ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. Participants in this phenomenological study were identified through purposeful sampling. Field observations were done at both schools with information used to describe the context of the study.
Among the findings were perceptions of white privilege varied greatly between the novice teacher and other experienced educators, and educators were aware of the power they possessed as a result of their privilege. Findings also included indications that perceptions of white privilege led educators to have a particular awareness of the lived experiences of their ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students and families. Impact on professional roles was based on this awareness. Among the findings of how professional roles were impacted were educators' awareness family circumstances affected student learning and that high expectations were needed for all students. Further findings emerged from administrators that indicated they based many of their decisions on principles of multicultural education. Findings from experienced teachers revealed periodic work in opposition to the status quo.
University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. March 2009. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Frank Guldbrandsen, Ph.D. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 137 pages, appendices A-H.
Mitchell, Lorraine Marie.
Educators' understandings of white privilege and its impact on professional roles..
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