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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


"Because I Can":African American Women Teachers and Multicultural Education

Dr. Adrienne D. Dixson.

A growing body of research examines the link between teachers' racial and cultural identities and their beliefs about teaching. Much of this work has sought to advance a notion of culturally relevant pedagogy, an outgrowth of multicultural education (Gay, 2001; Irvine, 2002; Ladson-Billings, 1994). The evidence suggests that teachers who have more than a cursory knowledge of a student's cultural background, and specifically, a substantive appreciation for and understanding of African American students' cultural backgrounds can be described as culturally relevant. These culturally relevant teachers tend to be more successful with African American students in large part because their curriculum and pedagogy moves beyond token and superficial discussions of people of color. What has yet to be explored in the culturally relevant literature, is the extent to which the notion of cultural relevance is influenced by the nexus of a teacher's racial, gender and class identities. Additionally, to what extent is the teacher's perceptions of multicultural education and curriculum, informed by her intersection of her racial, cultural and gender identities? This paper discusses the findings of a tenth month study that explored the extent to which the intersection of race, class and gender identities informed two African American women teachers' pedagogical philosophies and practices. The finding suggest that African American women teachers make decisions with respect to their pedagogy and curriculum, based on their cultural and gender identities. That is, what the teachers believed to be important for students to know by way of the curriculum was directly influenced by their racial and gender backgrounds. Similarly, what the teachers believe was appropriate behavior from both students and teachers, was very much influenced by their cultural beliefs. The author hopes to broaden our understanding of appropriate or "best practices" with respect to multicultural curriculum by including the perspectives of African American women teachers.


Dr. Adrienne D. Dixson  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Curriculum and Instruction
North Carolina State University

Adrienne D. Dixson, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Middle Grades and Social Studies Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at North Carolina State University. She received her doctoral degree in Multicultural Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in August 2002. Her research interests include, culturally relevant pedagogy, Black feminist theory , Curriculum Studies, qualitative research methods and the socio-cultural context of teaching and learning. Currently, Adrienne is teaching a graduate level course on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and is developing a course on the School Curriculum.

Adrienne has presented her research at a number of national conferences, including the American Educational Researchers Association Annual Meeting, the Hawaii International Conference on Education, the Research on Women in Education Conference, and the Qualitative Research Conference. From 1998-2002, she was a Spencer Foundation Research Training Fellow and a Holmes Scholar. She served as President of the National Black Graduate Student Association and was a Student Representative for Division K of American Educational Researcher Association. Adrienne began her career in education as a classroom teacher in a public school in New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • Multicultural Education
  • Black feminist theory
  • Teacher education
Person as Subject
  • Gloria Ladson-Billings Patricia Hill Collins

(30 min Conference Paper, English)