K-12 African American Educators
Dr. Melanie M. Acosta
Title: Assistant Professor of Elementary Education & Literacy, Department of Curriculum & Instruction College of Education University of Alabama
Research Topic: A Culture-Focused Study with Accomplished Black Educators on Pedagogical Excellence for African American Children
Institution: University of Florida
Committee Chair: Dorene Ross
Abstract: To address the pedagogical needs of African American learners, some educational researchers have rejected the seductive tendency to document damage, but rather intentionally showcase excellence in Black education. They have studied highly successful teachers of African American students, their teaching practices, beliefs, and self-efficacy. What emerged were rich descriptions, characterizations and interpretive frameworks of effective pedagogy, which constantly remind us that there are exceptional educators doing great things in African American education (Delpit, 2012; Hilliard, 2003). However, the strength of this work, which lies in its theoretical and philosophical core, is often underemphasized in many preparation programs (Gordon, 1997; Murrell, 2002) and even less well represented in the majority of classrooms across the country.
This dissertation presents a conception of pedagogical excellence for African American learners as a way to help teachers and teacher educators understand the comprehensive nature of good teaching for Black children in America. It builds on the effective pedagogy literature as well as research on effective Black educators, and is grounded in the cultural knowledge and perspectives of a group of community-nominated, accomplished African American educators.
Results show that pedagogical excellence for African American students is more expansively understood when African American cultural knowledge is employed as a basis for analysis and interpretation of teacher perspectives and practice. Specifically, an expansive vision of pedagogical excellence emerged in which the successful educator’s abiding sense of urgency was understood in political and cultural contexts and was situated as an active tool to promote student success. Explicitly connecting African American community perspectives and cultural knowledge enhances our understanding and articulation of effective pedagogy in many ways. The kind of pedagogical excellence described in this dissertation can be used to guide teacher educators who are working with prospective African American teachers, pre- and in-service teachers who are working to enact a pedagogy of excellence, and administrators and policy-makers who promote equity.