Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lindsay Fallon

Second Advisor

Melissa Pearrow

Third Advisor

Angela Stone-McDonald


African American youth often go unheard in research conducted on them. This dissertation is a qualitative study examining African American students’ experiences in public schools and how their experiences with culturally responsive teaching (CRT) practices influence their sense of belongingness in the classroom. These students were knowledgeable about their lived experiences and shared their experiences relative to in-person schooling and virtual learning with the researcher. Students were provided with a list of definitions, surveys, and questionnaires prior to participating in focus groups consisting of three to five students per group. To gain insight into the lived experiences of these students, the following questions guided this project: What kind of CRT practices (instructional, non-instructional) lead to students’ academic success in the classroom? To what extent does a students’ sense of belongingness impact the relationship between CRT practices and students’ academic success? Focus group questions were derived from existing questionnaires seeking to analyze classroom belongingness, CRT practices, and students’ perceptions of critical variables contributing to classroom success. Consistent with CRT instructional practices literature (Bryd, 2016; Sampson 2010), participants indicated that subjects such as Math, Science, and History were culturally inclusive. Also, according to participants, when instructors presented content that was relevant to them, they felt a stronger sense of belonging in school. Other evidence indicated that participants’ racial identity development and peer relationships also fostered a positive sense of belonging within their schools (Booker, 2004). Results of this study are relevant for instructors, school staff, school-based mental health professionals, and policymakers. Furthermore, this study provides future research directions for CRT practices and the examination of students’ feelings of belonging at school.


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