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How African American Teachers' Beliefs About African American Vernacular English Influence Their Teaching

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Gregory Jones
Abstract:
Schools are failing to meet the educational needs of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) speakers. Consequently, the academic achievement of AAVE speakers, and African American students in general, trails that of grade-level peers. Teachers are key components to students' school success. However, many educators lack knowledge of students' cultural and linguistic backgrounds, which can positively or adversely influence student achievement. Nevertheless, some African American teachers working with AAVE speakers find ways to value the rich cultural and linguistic patterns this group brings to school, thus positively impacting student achievement (Foster, 2002). Using cultural ecological theory and social reproduction as theoretical frameworks, this study examines African American teachers' perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs toward AAVE and AAVE speakers, as well as the classroom practices teachers employ to support the learning of students who come to school with AAVE as their first language. Numerous studies have investigated teacher attitudes toward AAVE, but to date, no research has been conducted to illustrate how, if at all, African American teachers' beliefs/perceptions of AAVE shape their classroom practices. In doing so, this study moves beyond existing research literature focused primarily on reporting teachers' attitudes toward AAVE on various language attitude surveys (Blake & Cutler, 2003; Hoover, et al.,1996a; Pietras & Lamb, 1978; Taylor, 1973). As evidenced in this study, there are inconsistencies in the expressed beliefs of teachers toward AAVE and their actions. Research participants' language attitudes toward AAVE are not consistently aligned with the classrooms behaviors they employ with AAVE speakers, that is, what teachers say about AAVE and what they actually do in the classroom, with respect to their perceptions, is not always in sync. As educators continue to ignore or discount the rich cultural capital AAVE speakers bring with them to schools, a fundamental implication of this research is that teachers need training to address their lack of knowledge of students' cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

List of Tables

................................ ................................ ................................ .....................

ix

List of Figures

................................ ................................ ................................ .....................

x

Abstract

................................ ................................ ................................ ..............................

xi

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

................................ ................................ .......................

1

Purposes for Research Study

................................ ................................ ...........................

2

Personal Purposes

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

2

Practical Purposes

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

4

Research Purpo ses

................................ ................................ ................................ .......

4

Significance of the Problem

................................ ................................ ............................

5

Stereotypes and Expectations

................................ ................................ ......................

6

Self − fulfilling Prophecies

................................ ................................ ............................

6

Teachers‟ Attitudes, Beliefs, and Perceptions

................................ .............................

7

Re search Questions

................................ ................................ ................................ .........

9

CHAPTER 2. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

................................ ..............................

12

Cultural Ecological Theory

................................ ................................ ...........................

12

Social

Reproduction

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

14

Cultural Capital as an Asset

................................ ................................ .......................

15

African American Teachers: Helping AAVE Speakers Navigate Schools

...................

16

Potential of Linguistic Knowledge

................................ ................................ ............

21

What Teachers Do to Support the Educational Needs of AAVE Speakers

..................

22

CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY

................................ ................................ ....................

28

Research Context ................................ ................................ ................................ ...........

30

Selection of Participants

................................ ................................ ................................

31

Data C ollection

................................ ................................ ................................ ..............

35

Data Analysis

................................ ................................ ................................ .............

40

Validity

................................ ................................ ................................ ......................

41

vii

Generalizability.

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

44

CHAPTER 4. DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS

................................ ......................

45

Demographic Questionnaire Results

................................ ................................ .............

46

Teachers‟ Attitudes and Perceptions of AAVE: LAS Results

................................ ......

52

Background and Beliefs of Primary Participants Toward AAVE ................................ .

57

Participant Pr ofiles

................................ ................................ ................................ ....

59

Margaret.

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

59

Sheila. ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................

63

Matthew.

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

67

Tina.

................................ ................................ ................................ ........................

71

Sarah.

................................ ................................ ................................ ......................

75

The Influence of AAVE on Academic Achievement

................................ ................

81

The Influence of AAVE use on Students‟ Futures

................................ ....................

83

Influence of Teachers‟ Beliefs about AAVE on Teaching

................................ ........

86

Core Beliefs about Student Learning ................................ ................................ .........

86

All students can learn.

................................ ................................ .............................

86

Exploring Teachers‟ Cultural and Linguistic Backgrounds

................................ ..........

90

The Awakening: Standard and Nonstandard Communication

................................ ..

91

An awareness of what we say and how we say it matt ers.

................................ .....

93

Interaction with AAVE speakers in the community.

................................ ..............

9 6

An Appropriate Time and Place: AAVE Speakers Must be Bilingual

.........................

98

Teachers‟ Reaction to AAVE Use During Class Time

................................ ...............

100

Theory in Action: Observation of Teachers‟ Reaction to AAVE Use in Class

..........

104

Observations: Margaret in the Classroom Setting

................................ ...................

105

Observations: Sheila in the Classroom Setting ................................ ........................

110

Obse rvations: Matthew in the Classroom Setting

................................ ...................

116

Observations: Sarah in the Classroom Setting

................................ ........................

121

Observations: Tina in the Classroom Setting

................................ ..........................

125

Supporting the Achievement of AAVE Speakers: Teaching Styles and Classroom Practices

................................ ................................ ................................ ......................

129

Distinct Teaching Style

................................ ................................ ...........................

130

Passion for teaching

................................ ................................ ..............................

130

Ethic of caring.

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

134

Warm demander.

................................ ................................ ................................ ...

138

Surrogate parent/other mother.

................................ ................................ .............

147

Cultural and linguistic mediator. ................................ ................................ ...........

152

viii

Acting White: Addressing a Barrier to Academic Success

................................ .........

155

CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION, SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

................................ ................................ ................................

166

Purposes Revisited

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

167

Discussion of Personal Purpose s

................................ ................................ .............

167

Discussion of Practical Purposes

................................ ................................ .............

168

Discussion of Research Purposes

................................ ................................ ............

168

Discussion of Significance

................................ ................................ ......................

169

Reex amining the Conceptual Framework

................................ ...............................

170

Summary of Findings

................................ ................................ ................................ ..

171

Summary of Survey Results

................................ ................................ ....................

172

Summary of Interview and Observation Data

................................ .........................

176

Distinct Teaching Style

................................ ................................ ...........................

179

Passion for teaching

................................ ................................ ..............................

180

Ethic of caring

................................ ................................ ................................ .......

180

Warm demander

................................ ................................ ................................ ....

181

Surrogate parent/other mother

................................ ................................ ..............

182

Cultural and linguistic mediator ................................ ................................ ............

183

Acting White ................................ ................................ ................................ ............

184

Implications

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

185

Recommendations

................................ ................................ ................................ .......

188

APPENDIX A

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

191

APPENDIX B

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

195

APPENDIX C

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

199

APPENDIX D

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

201

APPENDIX E

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

203

APPENDIX F ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................

204

APPENDIX G

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

205

APPENDIX H

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

207

APPENDIX I

................................ ................................ ................................ ..................

210

APPENDIX J

................................ ................................ ................................ ..................

214

APPENDIX K

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

218

ix

LIST OF T ABLES

Table

Page

Table 3.1 Participant Selection Process: Identifying Successful/Exemplary Teachers

...

34

Table 3.2 Data C ollection Techniques ................................ ................................ ..............

39

Table 4. 1 E thnicity

of Participants

................................ ................................ .................... 47

Ta ble 4.2 Gender of Participants ................................ ................................ ....................... 47

T able 4.3 Participant’ Home Community

................................ ................................ .......... 47

T able

4.4 Age Range of Participants

................................ ................................ ................. 48

T able

4.5 Highest Degree Earned

................................ ................................ ..................... 48

T able

4.6 Type of University of College Attended

................................ ............................. 48

T able

4.7 Number of Years of Teaching Experience

................................ ......................... 49

T able

4.8 Number of Years Serving at Martha Washington School

................................ .. 50

T able

4.9 Variety of English Spok en in Home Community

................................ ................ 50

T able

4.10 AAVE Addressed in Teacher Training Program

................................ ............. 51

T able

4.11 Courses in Which AAVE was a Topic of Discussion

................................ ....... 51

T able

4.12 Degree of Participation in Professional Development Related to AAVE

....... 52

T able

4.13 Teacher Attitudes toward AAVE, as Determined by the LAS

.......................... 56

T able

4.14 Snapshot of Primary Participant Profiles

................................ ....................... 78

T able

4.15 Margaret, Observation 1: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

.................... 106

T able

4.16 Margaret, Observation 2: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

.................... 107

T able

4.17 M argaret, Observation 3: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

.................... 109

T able

4.18 Sheila, Observation 1: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

......................... 112

T able

4.19 Sheila, Observation 2: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

......................... 114

T able

4.20 Sheila, Observation 3: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

......................... 115

T able

4.21 Matthew, Observation 1: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

..................... 117

Table

4.22 Matthew, Observation 2: AAVE Use

in the

Classroom Setting

..................... 118

T able

4.23 Matthew, Observation 3: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

..................... 120

T able

4.24 Sarah, Observation 1: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

......................... 122

T able

4.25 Sarah, Observation 2: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting

......................... 123

T able

4.26 Sarah, Observation 3: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting .

........................ 124

T able

4.27 Tina, Observation 1: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting ............................ 126

T able

4.28 Tina, Observation 2: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting ............................ 127

T able

4.29 Tina, Observation 3: AAVE Use in the Classroom Setting ............................ 128

x

LIST OF F IGURES

Figure

Page

Figure 2.1

A conceptual framework of factors African − American teachers consider to support learning of AAVE speakers.

................................ ................................ ................

18

Figure 2.2

How valui ng cultural capital supports conditions for academic achievement.

24

Figure 3.1

Research design map (Maxwell, 1996, p.5)

................................ ....................

29

xi

ABSTRACT

HOW AFRICAN AMERICAN

TEACHERS‟ BELIEFS AB OUT AFRICAN AMERICAN VERNACULAR ENGLISH INFLUENCE TH EIR TEACHING

Gregory Jones

George Mason University, 2011

Dissertation

Director: Dr. S. David Brazer

Schools are failing to meet the educational needs of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) speakers. Conseque ntly, the academic achievement of AAVE speakers, and African American students in general, trails that of grade − level peers. Teachers are key components to students‟ school success. However, many educators lack knowledge of students‟ cultural and linguisti c backgrounds, which can positively or adversely influence student achievement. Nevertheless, some African American teachers working with AAVE speakers find ways to value the rich cultural and linguistic patterns this group brings to school, thus positivel y impacting student achievement (Foster, 2002).

Using cultural ecological theory and social reproduction as theoretical frameworks, this study examines African American teachers‟ perceptions ,

attitudes, and beliefs toward AAVE and AAVE speakers, as well as the classroom practices teachers employ to support the learning of students who come to school with AAVE as their first language. Numerous studies have investigated teacher attitudes toward AAVE, but to

xii

date, no research has been conducted to illustrate

how, if at all, African American teachers‟ beliefs/perceptions of AAVE shape their classroom practices. In doing so, this study moves beyond existing research literature focused primarily on reporting teachers‟ attitudes toward AAVE on various language at titude surveys ( Blake & Cutler, 2003 ;

Hoover, et al.,1996a; Pietras & Lamb, 1978 ;

Taylor, 1973 ). As evidenced in this study, there are inconsistencies in the expressed beliefs of teachers toward AAVE and their actions. Research participants‟ language attitudes toward AAVE are not consistently aligned with the classrooms behaviors they employ with AAVE speakers, that is, what teachers say about AAVE and what they actually do in the classroom, with respect to their perceptions, is not always in sync. As educators continue to ignore or discount the rich cultural capital AAVE speakers bring with them to schools, a fundamental implication of this research is that teachers need training to address their lack of knowledge of students‟ cultural and linguistic b ackgrounds.

1

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCT ION

Nationally, African American students‟ school performance lags behind majority and other minority

students (Fryer & Torelli, 2005 ; Ladson − Billings, 1994; Lee, 2002). For decades numerous obstacles have been identified as culprits in the mis − education of African American school children, including political, social, cultural, and linguistic barriers (Baugh, 2000; Lee, 2002; Ogbu, 1999). Schol ars identify African American Vernacular English (AAVE) as a specific linguistic barrier for many African American students in urban school districts across the country where AAVE is used as a means of communication with others in schools and in the broade r community (Ogbu, 1998; Rickford, 2002; Smitherman, 1997). Because AAVE is often rejected as a legitimate or appropriate means of communication, many educators possess a deficit view of students who use this dialect of English in schools. Consequently, ed ucators‟ negative perceptions of AAVE influence their classroom practices and ultimately hinder AAVE speakers‟ academic growth and school success

(LeMoine, 2001) .

When AAVE speakers enter schools, they often experience educational obstacles due to lingui stic and cultural differences (Heath, 2000). In spite of the continued rate of underachievement among African American students, however, some in this group are realizing academic success. African American educators who are adept at assessing, understandin g, and addressing the educational needs of AAVE speakers are experiencing

2

greater success in terms of student achievement (Delpit, 1995; Irvine & Fraser, 1998). Many African American teachers working with AAVE speakers find ways to value the rich cultural and linguistic patterns this group brings to school, thus positively impacting student achievement (Foster, 2002).

Understanding why some African American teachers are successful in educating AAVE speakers is essential so that all educators can make bett er progress in bringing the achievement of these students in line with their majority grade level peers. Examining African American teachers‟ perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors −−

their classroom practices −−

as they relate to the academic achiev ement of AAVE speakers, is an important step to understanding how they impact the academic progress of this group.

Purposes for Research Study

Prior to conducting a study, and as it progresses, it is important to distinguish between personal, practical, a nd research purposes (Maxwell, 1996). Personal purposes center on what motivates a researcher to conduct a study, while practical purposes are aimed at meeting a specific need, changing a situation, or achieving a goal. Research purposes focus on understan ding something, that is, gaining insight into what is happening and why this is taking place (Maxwell, 1996). Together, these three types of purposes help to justify, focus, and guide research studies.

Personal

Purposes

As an African American educator in

an urban district, I have a keen interest in exploring how fellow African American teachers help AAVE speakers negotiate their

3

way through schools. African American teachers are untapped resources when it comes to feasible solutions for preparing AAVE spe akers to be successful in schools. They, as do I, resemble and share similar cultural and linguistic links with AAVE speakers that other teachers do not possess. I believe that these connections can lend themselves to establishing a level of trust between students and teachers that other educators working with them often do not enjoy. That is not to say that other educators are incapable of helping AAVE speakers succeed in school. Delpit (2002) and Ladson − Billings (1994) are clear that this is not the case;

however, it should be noted that skilled African American teachers have and continue to work effectively at bringing AAVE speakers‟ academic progress in line with their grade − level peers (Irvine, 2002). With this in mind, I believe that, taken together, these teachers‟ views of AAVE and what they do in the classroom to support the academic growth of AAVE speakers will help educators respond more effectively to AAVE speakers‟ educational needs, and subsequently bring about more positive academic outcomes f or this group.

From the inception of this research project I believed some African American teachers, including myself, impress upon their AAVE speaking students the importance of being able to use both Standard English and AAVE in the appropriate venues , thus encouraging them to become bidialectal . By bidialectal, I mean that students are able to employ the linguistic patterns and symbols acceptable for a given setting by shifting dialects or style within a given language (Baugh, 1999). Although I acquir ed AAVE as a young child from family and community members in a small rural town in the South, my working class mother was acutely aware of the importance of being able to use “proper

4

English” in school and in the workplace; she insisted that I learn to do

so. Understanding the value of my home language, as well as the language employed in various social settings and institutions, is one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a child, without which I would never have been able to negotiate school and the

world of work successfully. I implemented this study in hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of how and when, if at all, African American educators employ the philosophical stance of an “appropriate time

and place for the use of AAVE”

to help AAVE spea kers navigate and succeed in school.

Practical Purposes

Schools are failing to meet the educational needs of AAVE speakers. Consequently, the academic achievement of AAVE speakers, and African American students in general, trails that of grade − level peer s. Teachers are a key component to students‟ school success. However many educators lack knowledge of students‟ cultural and linguistic backgrounds, which can positively or adversely influence student achievement. Enhancing teacher knowledge and awareness in these areas, cultural and linguistic diversity, is a goal of this study, coupled with the desire to help teachers use this knowledge to support and improve the academic performance of AAVE speakers.

Research Purposes

Ultimately, this study is intended to move beyond existing research related to teachers‟ attitudes toward AAVE speakers by investigating African American teachers‟ perceptions of AAVE, analyzing what they say, and observing what they do in the

5

classroom to enhance the achievement of AAVE sp eakers. To deepen the understanding of how some teachers perceive AAVE and AAVE speakers, and to fill an existing gap in the literature with respect to how some teachers address the educational needs of AAVE speakers, this study investigates African Americ an teachers‟ perceptions of the implications of AAVE use on student achievement, combined with the classroom practices they employ to support AAVE speakers academically. The ultimate goal of this study is to link African American teachers‟ behaviors to the ir perceptions of AAVE, and thus illustrate how their beliefs and perceptions of this dialect shape their classroom practices.

Significance of the Problem

Many members of the dominant culture view AAVE as sub − standard English. They insist that AAVE is no t a language unto itself and has no place in the classroom setting (Baugh, 2000; Smitherman, 1998). Nevertheless, whether one views AAVE as a bona fide language or slang, the fact remains that teachers are confronted daily with the challenges of educating African American students who use AAVE as a means of communicating at home and at school. Whether students enter schools with Spanish or AAVE as their home language, teachers who cannot communicate effectively with students have little hope of providing th ese students the education to which they are entitled: the same quality education enjoyed by their grade level peers.

6

Stereotypes and Expectations

Educators across the country and members of the larger society still maintain misguided linguistic stereotyp es about AAVE and AAVE speakers (Baugh, 1999; Baugh 2001; Rickford, 1999 a ; Wolfram, 2001 ). In the educational arena, such negative stereotypes may have unfavorable consequences for students who fall prey to them (Baugh, 2001). Researchers reveal that uninf ormed negative stereotypes of AAVE may lead educators to assign AAVE speakers to learning disabled or special education classes, and otherwise hinder their academic performance (Harris − Wright, 1999; LeMoine, 2003; Rickford, 1999b; Wolfram, 1999).

Self − ful filling Prophecies

Educational research indicates that self − fulfilling prophecies tend to prevail when teachers hold low expectations for their students, particularly when those low expectations are based on the language/dialect students bring to school f rom their home communities (Baugh, 2001; Mohamed, 2002). Scholars believe the potential impact of teachers‟ negative stereotypes and attitudes toward AAVE speakers‟ education can be severe (Baugh, 2001).

Just as studies related to self − fulfilling prophec y reveal that teachers‟ beliefs about students‟ academic potential can impact their school performance, it is equally important to understand perceptions teachers have of students‟ language/dialect, and how these perceptions shape teachers‟ classroom pract ices and influence students‟ academic performance (Blake & Cutler, 2003; Cecil, 1988; Di Giulio, 1973; Foster, 1992; Hoover,

McNair − Knox, Lewis, & Politzer, 1996b; Irvine, 1990; T a uber, 1997). Although it seems

7

logical that negative stereotypes can, and do , affect teachers‟ attitudes about AAVE speakers, and may subsequently impact student academic progress, research shows that what teachers do in their classrooms can have a more profound effect on student performance than the expectations teachers hold for

their students (Goldenberg, 1992). This is not to say that teachers‟ expectations should be ignored in the quest to support the academic achievement of AAVE speakers. Perhaps by taking a more balanced approach of considering both teacher expectations and the classroom practices they employ to support the learning of all students, AAVE speakers included, researchers will be able to provide deeper insight into how to improve the educational process for students who arrive at schools with AAVE as their home l anguage.

Teachers’ Attitudes, Beliefs, and Perceptions

Teachers‟ attitudes with respect to AAVE are discussed extensively in the literature; however, little empirical documentation is available (Rickford, Sweetland & Rickford, 2004), excluding studies con ducted by Johnson (1971), Taylor (1973), Hoover, M., Lewis, S., Politzer, J., Ford, J., McNair − Knox, F., Hicks, S., et al. (1996a) and Pietras and Lamb (1978), and more recently by Blake and Cutler (2003). Although valuable to the field, these seminal work s are limited because they primarily report the results of language attitude surveys.

To date, numerous studies have focused on African American teachers‟ perceptions of the influences of AAVE on the achievement of AAVE speakers. However, few studies hav e attempted to connect African American teachers‟ beliefs about AAVE and the classroom practices they employ to support the learning and academic

8

achievement of AAVE speakers. Because of the lack of research, both qualitative and quantitative, on African A merican teachers‟ beliefs, attitudes, and classroom practices related to AAVE use, there is a need for further study in this area. Such an investigation can provide a deeper understanding of how some African American teachers‟ views of AAVE influence how t hey interact with AAVE speakers to promote their academic success.

Additionally, because educators in general have limited linguistic knowledge, this study aims to help increase teachers‟ awareness of language variation and language use. It also aims to broaden the scope of teachers‟ understanding of how their own langua ge backgrounds and ethnicity impact their perceptions of AAVE an d AAVE speakers (Adger, Christian, & Taylor, 1999). Such insights can provide educators, students, and parents with increased knowledge about linguistic diversity, and further the understandin g that differences in languages do not equate to deficits (Baugh, 2001; Wolfram, 1999).

In an effort to address a remaining gap in the literature, this study will investigate teachers‟ perceptions of the oppositional stance often taken by AAVE speakers to ward the use of Standard English in the classroom setting. The literature is replete with cases suggesting that AAVE speakers‟ rejection of the dominant discourse used in school can negatively impact their academic progress. However, little is said regardi ng how some African American teachers aid AAVE speakers in working through this stance of resistance to achieve school success. With this in mind, this study will contribute to existing knowledge on how, if at all, African American teachers promote academi c

9

achievement among AAVE speakers who may embrace the “acting white” ideology (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986).

Although studies investigating teachers‟ attitudes are becoming more abundant, I have been unable to find studies that blend teachers‟ perceptions of th e influences of AAVE on students‟ achievement with the classroom practices they employ to promote AAVE speakers‟ academic achievement. Taken together, teachers‟ perceptions/attitudes toward AAVE and what they do in the classroom to support the school succe ss of AAVE speakers will contribute to existing literature and inform the practice of educators working with linguistically diverse learners.

Lessons learned from this study of African American teachers and their classroom actions in response to AAVE use can serve as resources for pre − service and practicing classroom teachers, as well as school leaders and those leading teacher training programs. Sharing the understanding that the language AAVE speakers bring to schools is an asset, rather than a deficit, and the importance of enhancing all educators‟ linguistic knowledge is of paramount importance to helping AAVE speakers succeed in school

(Bowie & Bond, 1994) . These lessons can broaden existing research and provide practical examples that inform classroom

practices designed to address the educational needs of AAVE speakers, and thereby provide increased opportunities for academic success for students who use AAVE.

Research Questions

The overarching questions for this study are:

10

What are African American t eachers‟ perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs about the influences of AAVE use on students' academic achievement?

What specific instructional strategies do teachers employ when students use AAVE in the classroom setting?

How do African American teachers‟ b eliefs about AAVE influence their teaching?

The first question is designed to explore how African American teachers view the impact of AAVE use on AAVE speakers‟ current educational status and their academic futures. The second question emerged as a resul t of the findings of this study. It highlights the pedagogical strategies African American teachers in this research project use to address AAVE use in their classrooms. The third question explores how teachers‟ beliefs about AAVE shape their classroom pra ctice. Through an examination of teachers‟ beliefs and what they do in the classroom, this question sheds light on how some African American teachers who value the cultural capital AAVE speakers bring to the classroom setting are able to influence the acad emic progress of AAVE speakers.

Additional questions related to the three larger questions above are:

How do African American teachers believe their cultural and linguistic backgrounds influence their teaching?

How do African American teacher‟s beliefs abo ut AAVE influence their response to AAVE use inside and outside the classroom?

How do African American teachers support the academic achievement of AAVE speakers?

11

In this chapter I present the rationale for investigating African American teachers‟ percept ions, attitudes, and beliefs about AAVE and AAVE speakers, as well as the classroom practices they employ to support the academic achievement of AAVE speakers. In my presentation of the significance of the problem, I highlight the critical need for researc h such as this study to address educators‟ negative language attitudes and their lack of linguistic knowledge. I emphasize the importance of equipping teachers with knowledge on language variety and language use, as educators across the nation continue to have negative perceptions of AAVE, which can impede the academic progress of AAVE speakers. In the following chapter I present the theoretical framework grounding this study, along with the conceptual framework used to illustrate potential barriers AAVE sp eakers encounter in schools, and the approaches some African American teachers employ to help them navigate the educational environment to attain academic success.

Full document contains 243 pages
Abstract: Schools are failing to meet the educational needs of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) speakers. Consequently, the academic achievement of AAVE speakers, and African American students in general, trails that of grade-level peers. Teachers are key components to students' school success. However, many educators lack knowledge of students' cultural and linguistic backgrounds, which can positively or adversely influence student achievement. Nevertheless, some African American teachers working with AAVE speakers find ways to value the rich cultural and linguistic patterns this group brings to school, thus positively impacting student achievement (Foster, 2002). Using cultural ecological theory and social reproduction as theoretical frameworks, this study examines African American teachers' perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs toward AAVE and AAVE speakers, as well as the classroom practices teachers employ to support the learning of students who come to school with AAVE as their first language. Numerous studies have investigated teacher attitudes toward AAVE, but to date, no research has been conducted to illustrate how, if at all, African American teachers' beliefs/perceptions of AAVE shape their classroom practices. In doing so, this study moves beyond existing research literature focused primarily on reporting teachers' attitudes toward AAVE on various language attitude surveys (Blake & Cutler, 2003; Hoover, et al.,1996a; Pietras & Lamb, 1978; Taylor, 1973). As evidenced in this study, there are inconsistencies in the expressed beliefs of teachers toward AAVE and their actions. Research participants' language attitudes toward AAVE are not consistently aligned with the classrooms behaviors they employ with AAVE speakers, that is, what teachers say about AAVE and what they actually do in the classroom, with respect to their perceptions, is not always in sync. As educators continue to ignore or discount the rich cultural capital AAVE speakers bring with them to schools, a fundamental implication of this research is that teachers need training to address their lack of knowledge of students' cultural and linguistic backgrounds.