Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred Galloway, Ed.D., Chairperson; Leslie Boozer, Ed.D.; Laura Deitrick, Ph.D.


Bias, Early Childhood, Education, Contact Theory, In-Group and Outgroup


The contact approach theory was introduced in the 1950s, by Allport, as a method to mitigate biases. Since then, many DEI practitioners in the United States have formed alliances to create a social justice movement to combat racism, prejudice, and biases in our society. Nevertheless, little research has been conducted in the contact approach theory as these biases, initially observed as in-group and outgroup biases, originate in the early years of life. To begin to fill this gap in the literature, the purpose of this study was to better understand and identify to what extent, if any, prekindergarten through third grade teachers had training and knowledge on the contact approach theory, how often the contact approach theory was being used, teachers’ perceptions of their overall success, and the extent to which teacher demographics were able to explain variation in these three constructs.The 77 participants in this study were prekindergarten through third grade teachers in San Diego, California. Teachers completed a 63 question, 5-point Likert scale survey, that in addition to collecting demographic information, was used to form the three constructs central to the study of the contact approach: training and knowledge, application, and perceptions of success. Results revealed teachers had significantly less training and knowledge than their reported execution and perceptions of success. In fact, teachers reported being less successful in the contact approach theory than their frequency of application. Multiple regression analyses were also conducted on the constructs and revealed some interesting findings; for instance, teachers who worked in the nonprofit sector had greater training and knowledge than teachers in other sectors, and first grade teachers had less training and knowledge than other teachers. Taken together, these findings underscore the need to build more knowledge and create trainings in the contact approach theory to mitigate biases for young children. Hopefully, the deeper empirical understanding of the contact approach theory provided by this research will provide important context in future applications of the technique to education, and will provide teachers and society at large with another important tool in the struggle to solve the complex issue of racism.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies