Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Childhood Education and Literacy Studies

Major Professor

Nancy Williams, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Linda S. Evans, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James R. King, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Audra Parker, Ph.D.


teaching cases, culturally responsvie pedagogy, multicultural education, empatetic idientiy, case-based instruction


The results of the U. S Census provide evidence that our population is becoming more varied and that diversity is most salient in our schools. This demographic shift will continue to have a significant impact on the curriculum, students, teachers, and other aspects of education as we have historically known it. One of the most challenging aspect is that while our students are becoming more diverse, our teacher population is not. Eighty to ninety percent of the teaching population is White, heterosexual, middle class females, with little experiences with people from diverse backgrounds. (Lowenstein, 2009; Sleeter, 2001).

The academic achievement gap continues to widen between culturally diverse students and their White peers. This disparity in achievement along demographic lines indicates a clear and present need to more fully prepare teachers on how to educate children of diverse backgrounds--a crucial component of developing a culturally responsive pedagogy. "As our society changes, so must our teacher education practices" (Lee, Summers, & Garza, 2009, p.1). This mixed method study was developed around the hypothesis that teaching cases and student-written postcard narratives using an empathetic identity (Wiseman, 1978) should be used in a literacy course to foster a culturally responsive literacy pedagogy.

This study took place over one semester at a four year college, in a preservice education literacy course. Five teaching cases were written or modified to be aligned with this particular course’s content. I examined 20 preservice teachers (n=20) and a professor as they engaged in case-based instruction. Immediately following the teaching

case discussion, the preservice teachers engaged in a writing exercise where they used an empathetic identity to imagine having the person in the teaching case’s experience (Wiseman, 1978).

This study employed a mixed method design. Interviews with the professor, a professor’s journal, a researcher reflective journal, a pre and post teaching case, nonparticipant observation notes, preservice teacher written narratives, and the statistically significant results from the CDAI (Henry, 1991) at the alpha .05 level demonstrated that teaching cases effectively influenced preservice teacher’s perceptions and insights leading to a culturally responsive literacy pedagogy.

Three major conclusions were drawn from this study. First, the implementation of teaching cases that feature diversity and literacy issues made an impact on the professor of this literacy course. The professor found that using teaching cases motivated her students, fostered a deeper discussion of the weekly topics, and created more transfer power of important topics to the classroom discussion than reading scholarly articles. Secondly, teaching cases that feature diversity and literacy issues influenced many of the preservice teachers’ insights and perceptions related to a culturally responsive pedagogy. The contextualization and alignment with the course content made them powerful tools to motivate and foster an entrance for preservice teachers to engage into a critical inquiry about culturally responsive teaching practices. Finally, the third conclusion drawn from this study is that utilizing activities which allow preservice teachers to use an empathetic lens can be a very powerful experience that may lead to developing a culturally responsive literacy pedagogy.

Three recommendations to teacher education are suggested based on the conclusions drawn from the data. First, teacher education curriculum should include experiences that can foster a culturally responsive pedagogy. The use of teaching cases featuring diversity and literacy issues is strongly suggested, as well as cultivating experiences that allow the preservice teachers to use an empathetic identity.

Secondly, these experiences should be viewed as valuable tools for professors in higher education, as the teaching population of higher education mirrors that of our teaching population (Lowenstien, 2009; Sleeter, 2001). During the case-based discussion the professor and preservice teachers can draw upon their shared knowledge of theoretical, cultural, cognitive, and experiential knowledge of teaching children from diverse backgrounds (Nordoff & Kleinfeld, 1992) as a conduit for a culturally responsive literacy pedagogy.

Finally, teacher education has a responsibility to the well-being of their preservice teachers when purposely creating cathartic experiences. Culminating discussions should be designed to balance these emotional experiences (Ellis, 1995; Shulman, 1992).

Several areas were identified for future research, encompassing the implementation of teaching cases and preservice teacher curriculum.