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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

Year Degree Awarded

Fall 2014

First Advisor

Claire E. Hamilton

Second Advisor

Grace Craig

Third Advisor

Leda Cooks

Subject Categories

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education

Abstract

One of the persistent challenges confronting our society is how to reduce inequities in educational and life chances of students from different socioeconomic, ethnic, language, and racial backgrounds. One of the most important factors in a child’s success in school is the degree to which their families are actively involved in their education. These two facts framed this research work. The current large-scale immigration occurring in the U.S.A. is an important social development because children of immigrants currently make up 20% of all youth in the U.S.A.; first and second generation immigrant children are the most rapidly growing segment of our child population. Public schools are where immigrant children and families come into consistent contact with their new culture. The context for obstacles facing immigrant families are often clustered on language and culture, with particular impact on communication. Classroom teachers’ roles and perspectives are key to understanding how communication works in cross-cultural learning environments.

Using a phenomenological in-depth interviewing methodology, I interviewed five experienced teachers working in large urban public elementary schools where classrooms contained more than 50% immigrants. Elementary level was selected for three reasons: (1) K-3 teachers engage most with families; (2) family life-cycle with young children finds parents more involved with their children’s school; and (3) children under ten-years express more home-culture than school-culture. Each participant was interviewed three times for approximately 90-120 minutes. I open-coded salient themes from transcriptions that cut across my teacher-participants’ contexts: self, classroom, and community.

A descriptive case study, the research was guided by two broad questions: (1) How do teachers think about culture, in their own lives and in the life of their classrooms, and how does their theoretical conceptualization of culture relate to their understanding of immigrant families? (2) What intercultural communication skills or tools do teachers have in their repertoire, and how do they use these to inform their inclusion of immigrant families? I discuss how the constitutive elements of my participants’ experience in their cross cultural work can be incorporated into the development and implementation of skills in culturally responsive teaching and in educating the whole child.

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