Interpretation of meanings in classroom interactions: Three teachers and their African-American male students.
AuthorSmith, Ernestine Helena.
Committee ChairGriffin, Gary A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe primary purpose of this study was to investigate the theories that classroom interactions are organized and shaped by the subtle intersecting and overlapping phenomena of race, culture, and gender, and that teachers and their inner-city middle-grade African American male students may make sense, i.e., interpret meaning, very differently in routine, day-to-day classroom interactions. The investigation was informed by Frederick Erickson's (1986) claim that the risk of school failure for students of color may be increased by incongruities between mainstream classroom interaction patterns and the predominant patterns/ways of interacting in the students' home culture. The study was conducted in three fourth-grade classrooms in inner-city schools. Data collected from classroom observations and semi-structured interviews were used to develop sensitizing and definitive typologies, construct individual teacher profiles, and categorize transcribed "talk" into primary and connective themes. Predominant characteristics of teacher-Black male student verbal interactions were identified inductively and presented as assertions (Erickson, 1986) in the findings. Based on the content, structure, and function of each, the selected interactions were characterized as completed continuous, discontinuous, or diminutive. As posited theoretically, the findings revealed differential participation, i.e., interaction peculiarities, specific to many verbal exchanges between each teacher and her/his African American male students. Discontinuities emerged from the different ways language was used by teachers and students. Negative vectors produced in sustained discontinuous interactions resulted in maladaptive meanings for both the teacher and the African American students. A second purpose of the study was to develop a staff development component specifically designed to address teacher-student classroom interactions from cultural perspective and to engender reflective critical inquiry by teachers into their own classroom practices (theories-in-use) and pedagogical principles (espoused theories) as they relate to interactions with their African American male students. Selected segments of analyzed interaction events were used to construct authentic teaching cases which contained embedded dimensions of the theoretical issues examined and the empirical assertions derived from the research. The cases were used as the major instructional tool in the professional development model. This study points toward the need for teachers to be aware of the relationships between language-use, culture, and gender, and the importance of understanding how these factors may play a role in facilitating or constraining equitable educational opportunities for some academically marginalized student groups, particularly pre-adolescent inner-city African American male children.
Degree ProgramTeaching and Teacher Education