Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Sherry Powers (Director), Dr. Pamela Petty, Dr. Tony Norman

Degree Program

School of Teacher Education


Raising scholastic achievement of diverse and struggling students as well as narrowing the academic achievement gap between students from mainstream and diverse backgrounds seems to be essentially dependent on educators’ personal knowledge, perspectives, and definitions regarding the terms multicultural education and equity pedagogy. Research studies confirm that addressing student’s culture, language, and social status with appreciation, inclusion, and sensitivity increases their academic successes. In classrooms, negative perceptions often maintained by educators about students perpetuate the false belief that diverse learners are unable to or struggle to grasp new learning. This ten-week qualitative study examined teachers’ perceptions as well as implementations of multicultural education and culturally responsive instructional practices as a means of addressing the literacy learning needs of diverse and struggling students in two primary classrooms in an urban Southeastern elementary school. Reading instruction observations provided insight into teachers’ self-descriptive beliefs and attitudes of multicultural education, how their perceptions of multicultural education differ from observed culturally responsive instructional practices, and how observed culturally responsive pedagogy align with multicultural education theories outlined by prominent researchers.

All teachers and students come to school with personal backgrounds, languages, and attitudes concerning cultures and ethnicities. Their perceptions are formed by family members, prior experiences, and mainstream society. Frequently, teachers do not realize that personal and institutionalized perceptions, expectations, pedagogies, learning environments, curriculum and materials, grouping strategies, and assessment methods are at odds with learning needs of many students from diverse backgrounds. Findings of this study suggest that educators’ academic goals are often at odds with instructional policies and practices, as demonstrated by the persistent academic achievement gap. Tragically, many students perceive that learning struggles and failures are their fault. They may experience marginalization and develop feelings of inadequacy. Consequently, many students from diverse backgrounds express feelings of anger and frustration that may be exhibited by undesirable behavior. They may give up, drop out, abandon opportunities for citizenship participation and responsibility, or surrender to jobs in adulthood that are less than those they dreamt of.

Finally, study findings suggest that teachers’ lack of cultural awareness, understanding of multicultural education, and knowledge of equity pedagogy prevent them from recognizing several negative personal perceptions and biases. As a result, they implement self-selected, school, and district policies and practices completely unaware that they are unintentionally posing learning obstructions and academic success limitations as well as fostering students’ frustrations. Demographics indicate that the predominantly Caucasian middle-class teaching population requires high levels of cultural awareness and extensive knowledge concerning multicultural education, equity pedagogy, and cultural awareness in order to address the literacy-learning needs of the increasingly diverse student population effectively.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Education