A Painting of Cultural Mismatch: A Case Study Exploring thee Relationship Between Teacher Perceptions of Black English and Their Instructional Choices
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Tift College of Education
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TitleA Painting of Cultural Mismatch: A Case Study Exploring thee Relationship Between Teacher Perceptions of Black English and Their Instructional Choices
AbstractMost U.S. Black students experience a cultural mismatch when they attend U.S. public schools, which usually subscribe to Eurocentric Anglo-Saxon cultural norms, as seen throughout the curriculum, literature selection, and rules and norms. One consequence of this mismatch is lower mastery level performance of Black students on standardized national reading and mathematics assessments than their White peers. Thus, the current education system is oppressive toward Black students, for it denies access to a culturally and linguistically affirming education that reflects and sustains their cultural ways of being. This research aimed to better understand current teacher perceptions of Black English use in the classroom and how those perceptions influence instructional decisions made by teachers of Black English-speaking students. Applying the principles of a case study with elicitation and traditional interviews and document analysis, the researcher studied six elementary teachers of Black English speakers. The major conceptions identified across participants’ responses were that teachers held positive perceptions of Black English use outside of school but struggled to transfer those same perceptions to their instructional decisions. More often teachers viewed their role as responsible for equipping students for the future and obligated to teach prescribed standards and curricula to promote students’ academic success. As a result, their instructional choices more often privileged linguistic varieties aligned with White Anglo-Saxon norms—the curriculum. Consequently, rather than employing asset-based teaching, they asked Black English speakers to “erase” their Black English use to better meet the expectations of school. This often looked like writing and speaking Mainstream American English rather than Black English. Therefore, teachers’ instructional choices often resulted in deficit thinking results, which notices a cultural mismatch but upholds dominant culture while viewing cultural differences as unsuitable for the setting. Study findings suggest implications for curriculum designers and teachers to create spaces for Black students in the curriculum and classroom to fully see, hear, and represent themselves to take advantage of opportunities to fully be present in their education experience. Future research recommendations include exploration of the role and influence of professional development, curriculum redesign, and teachers’ choices on Black English speakers’ self-development and identity.