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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Kysa Nygreen

Subject Categories

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Curriculum and Instruction | International and Comparative Education | Junior High, Intermediate, Middle School Education and Teaching | Language and Literacy Education | Other Teacher Education and Professional Development | Secondary Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development


This dissertation examines the experiences of African high school students in U.S. public schools. Specifically, the study explores how African students negotiate their identities in a new education environment. Drawing on Asante’s (1980) Afrocentric theoretical framework, Erikson’s (1968) theory of identity and Tajfel and Turner’s (1979) social identity theories, this interview-based qualitative study seeks to describe and interpret how African high school students make sense of their new schooling experiences. One of my major goals of the study is to honor, recognize and bring to life the voices of African high school students. Their experiences are often minimized, their voices drowned and their perspectives and viewpoints marginalized. Six African students were interviewed for this study. The interpretative phenomenological data analysis (IPA) approach was used to analyze the data. Two major themes were identified: Navigating the U.S. Education System and Navigating Identity. Navigating the U.S. Education System included Navigating Placement – U.S. Placement Policies, Navigating Teachers - the Role of Teachers in Student Adjustment, Navigating Peers - Peer Socialization and Navigating the Curriculum “Whose Knowledge Counts?” The second theme Navigating Identity included Construction of Ethnic Pride, Sustenance of Native Language and Return Migration. The study demonstrates the need for an in-depth understanding of African students’ historical, socio-cultural and educational backgrounds. Recommendations on pedagogical practices that will empower teachers working with students of African descent are also provided.