Successful White teachers of Black students: Teaching across racial lines in urban middle school science classrooms
The majority of urban minority students, particularly Black students, continue to perform below proficiency on standardized state and national testing in all areas that seriously impact economically advanced career options, especially in areas involving science. If education is viewed as a way out of poverty, there is a need to identify pedagogical methodologies that assist Black students in achieving higher levels of success in science, and in school in general. The purpose of this study was to explore White teachers' and Black students' perceptions about the teaching strategies used in their low socioeconomic status (LSES) urban science classrooms, that led to academic success for Black students. Participants included three urban middle school White teachers thought to be the best science teachers in the school, and five randomly selected Black students from each of their classrooms.
Methods of inquiry involving tenets of grounded theory were used to examine strategies teachers used to inspire Black students into academic success. Data collection included teacher and student interviews, field notes from classroom observations, group discussions, and questionaires. Data were analyzed using open, axial, and selective coding.
The teachers' perceptions indicated that their prior belief systems, effective academic and personal communication, caring and nurturing strategies, using relevant and meaningful hands-on activities in small learner-centered groups, enhanced the learning capabilities of all students in their classrooms, especially the Black students. Black students' perceptions indicated that their academic success was attributable to what teachers personally thought about them, demonstrated that they cared, communicated with them on a personal and academic level, gave affirmative feedback, simplified, and explained content matter. Black students labeled teachers who had these attributes as "nice" teachers. The nurturing and caring behaviors of "nice" teachers caused Black students to feel a sense of community and a sense of belonging in their classrooms. Black students demonstrated that they respected and always "had the back" of these "nice" teachers.
Results from this study could play a significant role in teacher retention and in informing best practices for preservice and other teachers who are struggling to meet the needs of LSES urban students.
0714: Science education