Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Karen Vocke

Second Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Bush

Third Advisor

Dr. Mustafa Mirzeler

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Lisa Schade Eckert


Culturally relevant pedagogy, English language arts, secondary education, rural, rural education, pedagogy


In this dissertation, I investigate the ways in which culturally relevant pedagogy is conceptualized and implemented by two secondary English Language Arts educators in one school district with a strong sense of rural identity. Culturally relevant pedagogy is considered by many professionals in the field of education to be an effective philosophy to inform instructional practices for narrowing the achievement gap of historically marginalized groups (Cummins, 1990; Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1994, 2000). A careful review of the literature on culturally relevant pedagogy reveals the discourse surrounding culturally relevant pedagogy has largely been dominated by urban voices (Cochran-Smith, 2003; Esposito & Swain, 2009; Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Sleeter, 1996). This study aims to fill the void in the current literature on culturally relevant pedagogy by lending a voice to rural secondary English educators dedicated to a culturally relevant pedagogy.

Utilizing Ladson-Billings’ culturally relevant pedagogy as the basis to inform their instruction, the rural secondary English educators in this study highlight “the ways” they conceive and illustrate culturally relevant practices within their specific rural teaching contexts. This study extends previous research on culturally relevant pedagogy by offering detailed professional teaching profiles, including important influences on the development of the educators’ critical pedagogy. In addition, this research examines the educators’ critical conceptions of three major components of culturally relevant pedagogy as originally identified by Ladson-Billings (1994): 1) how they conceive themselves and their students; 2) how they conceive their social interactions with others; 3) how they conceive knowledge construction. This study triangulates the participants’ reflections with field observations and course document analysis in order to better understand how two rural ELA educators adopt and adapt Ladson-Billings’ original conceptions of culturally relevant pedagogy to address the needs of their students.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access