Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl A. Getz, EdD; Noriyuki Inoue, PhD; Lea A. Hubbard, PhD;


cultural competence, culturally and linguistically diverse students, Meaning-making, minority & ethnic groups, professional development, public schools, San Diego (California), teachers


The tapestry of classrooms today is transforming into a mosaic of colors, languages, and backgrounds. As the population of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students continues to rise, a deeper understanding of how teachers construct meaning and understand their internal and relational experiences when working with these students has become an important area to examine. The purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of teachers' meaning-making systems and their cultural competence as it relates to their work with CLD students. Kegan (1982, 1994) provides a constructive developmental lens, which was used in this study, to understand how teachers construct meaning of their experiences. Another multidimensional construct of cultural competence based on the concept of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) developed by Earley & Ang (2008) was also used as an additional lens to guide this research, particularly in understanding what types of cultural knowledge teachers utilize in their daily interactions with their students. This study included two in-depth interviews with ten public school teachers in the San Diego area. The first interview assessed teachers' meaning-making systems using the Subject-Object interview protocol (Lahey et al. , 1988) based on Kegan's framework, and the second, used the 'Cultural Competence' interview, based on the Cultural Intelligence Scale, to understand teachers' cultural knowledge systems and manifestations of this as it relates to their work with CLD students. While teachers' meaning-making systems provided some insight into how teachers utilizing different systems approach their work with students from different backgrounds; the results from the cultural competence interview revealed its myopic nature in the attempt to understand teachers' relational experiences with diverse students. For the teachers in this study, culture was a complex, fluid, and ever-evolving notion unique to every student. In this sense, for both teachers and students to attain mutual understanding, their ability to engage in bidirectional negotiation of meaning and their foresight into the contextual interpretation of their day-to-day, moment-to-moment interactions with their students were important.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access