Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea A. Hubbard, Ph.D., Committee Chair; Zachary Gabriel Green, Ph.D.; Heather Lattimer, Ph.D.


Culturally Relevant Pedagogy


Growing public concern about the educational experiences of English language learners (ELL) has placed pressure on teachers and schools to provide equitable learning opportunities for this group of students. Currently, federal and state mandates promise to hold all students to the same high expectations, but ELLs consistently underperform academically. Such research suggests that culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP), specifically the inclusion of culture in the classroom, as well as the integration of students’ lived experiences can influence students’ learning opportunities.

This study was guided by existing theories of culturally relevant pedagogy, “funds of knowledge,” social maturity and cognitive development theories as well as ecological systems theory to examine the factors that foster or impede teachers’ implementation of CRP. Three research questions guided this investigation: (a) How do public school teachers define and implement CRP?; (b) How does CRP impact the educational experiences of ELL students?; (c) What factors influence public school teacher’s implementation of CRP?

A qualitative case study/cross-case analysis design was employed to study classroom teachers’ implementation of CRP at six elementary schools in San Diego County. Interviews, classroom observations, and documents were used to compare and contrast findings within and across cases. The findings suggest that although the teachers in this study did not specifically define their practice as CRP, their practice followed the principles of CRP in the following ways: (a) Teachers established relationships with students and students’ families to build a bridge between home and school; (b) Teachers cultivated critical consciousness in their students; (c) Teachers created inclusive learning environments and (d) Teachers supported English language learners’ long-term academic growth and social-emotional development.

This study examines the factors inside and outside of school that influence teachers’ implementation of CRP and reframes public debate about teaching diverse and traditionally underserved student populations. Culturally relevant teachers must continuously adapt their teaching practices and styles to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of students.

The findings from this study have the potential of impacting state and local district decision-making within K-12 public educational institutions regarding English language learners.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies