Examining White Educators' Perceptions of Racial Identity in a Predominantly White Elementary School

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dini Metro-Roland, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Paul Farber, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

LaSonja Roberts, Ph.D.


Identity, predominantly, race, teacher, white

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Abstract Only

Restricted to Campus until



The United States is rapidly diversifying, especially our school-age population (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2020). Although students of color now make up the majority of our public-school students, teachers in the US remain disproportionately White (NCES, 2021a). White teachers feel largely unprepared to work with diverse learners, especially those in predominantly White school settings (Siegel-Hawley & Frankenberg, 2012). This discomfort is felt by students of color; as many report low expectations, unequal discipline practices, and a perceived lack of respect from their White teachers (Chapman, 2014). This qualitative, applied research study used a case study design to explore the ways that White educators at a predominantly White elementary school perceive their own racial identities and the effects of their identities on their instructional practices, as well as the ways they address the identities of their students. This study used a variety of data sources to explore teachers’ perceptions, including personal interviews, personal journals and a focus group interview. Collected data was coded and analyzed for relationships and patterns in order to identify common themes. The study found that participants’ racial identity development was influenced by their relationships and experiences with people of color outside their predominantly White community. Although these life experiences allowed the participants to develop an awareness of their White racial identities, that didn’t necessarily translate to an awareness of the ways those identities affect their instructional practices. As members of the dominant culture, the participants were unable to see the ways in which they operated from a Eurocentric perspective. While attempts were made to acknowledge the identities of non-White students through curricular materials, the identities of White students went largely unexplored.

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