Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Michael D. Davis


This integrated methods study used a sequential explanatory design to explore the culturally relevant teaching beliefs of successful emergent literacy Head Start teachers of urban African American boys living in poverty. The study utilized emergent literacy gain scores as a measure of success, a survey of culturally relevant teaching beliefs to describe variation in beliefs within the sample, and two rounds of interviews to explore the context of teacher agency with urban African American boys living in poverty. The four teachers interviewed expressed culturally relevant beliefs integral to their teaching practices. These beliefs were conveyed through descriptions of relationships with parents in and out of the classroom, through of the conditions and challenges of poverty in students' and parents' lives, and through close relationships with parents. The effect of conducting home visits on teachers' identities and the influence of the setting of Head Start on teachers' beliefs and agency were emergent themes in the interviews. The participants used language that seemed to indicate culturally relevant and warm demander approaches to understanding the relationship between student behavior and student engagement and in descriptions of the relationships with parents. The value of teachers' relationships with their students' parents was the most pronounced aspect of successful teaching in Head Start as expressed by the participants. The process of communication among parents, students, and teachers was described as important to student learning. The participants' expressed a variety of approaches to how they understood student behavior, boys' social emotional development, and classroom practices. These Head Start teachers described boys as more active than girls, as more aggressive than girls, and sometimes more challenged to express strong emotions with language than girls. This study provides some insight into the role that culturally relevant teaching beliefs play in Head Start teachers' successful


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Date of Submission

June 2013