Date of Award

May 2022

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Leanne M Evans

Keywords

children, culturally relevant pedagogy, early childhood education, race, social justice, sociopolitical consciousness

Abstract

This qualitative study examines early childhood teachers’ perceptions and practices with regard to talking to young children about race. Through an online survey and an individual interview with two early childhood teachers, I uncovered three findings: a) teachers’ understandings of their students’ racial awareness, b) teachers’ current classroom practices regarding race, culture, ethnicity, and c) challenges teachers faced in talking about race with their students along with possible sources of support. Based on these findings, I concluded that teachers made the decision not to directly confront the issue of race with their students due to feelings of fear and discomfort. As white women, the participants were able to choose when to engage with race, in contrast to people of color who confront racism daily. Secondly, the teachers demonstrated efforts to respond to the racial and cultural diversity in their classrooms and affirm their students’ identities, although they did not support their students’ development of sociopolitical consciousness. The work of anti-racist and culturally responsive pedagogy exists along a spectrum, with much more work needed in taking up the most difficult aspects of the approach which require constant self-reflection and the willingness to step outside one’s comfort zone.

Available for download on Wednesday, February 01, 2023

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