Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Pathways to Teaching: An Examination of Black Females' Pursuits of Careers as K-12 Teachers

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Pathways to Teaching: An Examination of Black Females' Pursuits of Careers as K-12 Teachers

Article excerpt

Abstract

White, female, middle-class teachers dominate the education field. As a result, Black female teachers are underrepresented in the teaching field. Statistically, Black female teachers represent 7.7% of the United States teaching force, while White female teachers make up over 60% of the American teaching workforce. With the aim of diversifying the teaching pool, this phenomenological study explored the lived K-12 and collegiate educational experiences of Black female in-service teachers in order to gain insight about their vocational choices to become educators. Constant comparative data analysis revealed four major themes. The results of this study have implications for teacher education programs and educational policy.

Introduction

Black teachers are disproportionally underrepresented within the American K-12 public school system. In fact, over the past years, the number of Black teachers has drastically declined (Ingersoll; 2011; Milner & Howard, 2004). This alarming decrease is portrayed by the current number of African American teachers within American public schools. Although African Americans comprise 12% of the general U.S. population, African American teachers make up only approximately 8% of the teaching force (NCES, 2010). Considering that there are over 3 million public school teachers, 8% is a particularly alarming percentage. In contrast to the minimal presence of Black teachers, presently, the education field is dominated by White, middle-class teachers (NCES, 2010), particularly White female teachers (Landsman & Lewis, 2011). Although teaching is a female-dominated profession, the Black female population is not proportional to that of the White female population. In fact, Black female teachers represent 7.7% of the United States teaching force, while White female teachers make up over 60% of the American teacher workforce (Lewis & Toldson, 2013). This disproportionality, which engenders the existence of a largely homogenous teaching force, is problematic considering an increasingly diverse student population (Madkins, 2011; Vilegas, Strom, & Lucas, 2012).

In order to advocate for a more diverse teaching force, the purpose of this study is to examine the K-12 and collegiate educational experiences of Black female in-service teachers in order to gain insight about their vocational choice to become classroom teachers. Providing a vehicle for the dissemination of their authentic, lived educational experiences, this study adds to the body of literature on Black female educators and informs research on teacher education programs and educational policy in hopes of increasing the overall number of teachers of color.

Literature Review

Presendy, a large number of Black students are taught by a predominately White, female, monolinguistic, middle-class teaching force, a teaching force in which many teachers indicate they do not see color and advocate for a colorblind classroom (Landsman & Lewis, 2011). While this view of the classroom is often held with the best of intentions, not seeing color suggests one does not acknowledge students, their individual cultures, dialects, environments, backgrounds, heritage, and different learning styles. Though race is not the determining factor of whether a White or a Black teacher can properly educate a Black student, acknowledging or denying a student's cultural background may impact how well that student performs in the classroom (Villegas & Irvine, 2010). In short, diversifying the teaching force permits the recognition and inclusion of diverse cultures and learning styles within the classroom.

Substantiating this claim, Hale-Benson (1986) asserts, "one's culture affects one's cognitive processes" (p. 21). Her theory of knowledge is based on the importance of culture and its major role in how one acquires knowledge. Villegas and Irvine (2010) also posit the shared cultural experiences of teachers and students of color have the potential to improve academic outcomes and school experiences of these learners. …

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