Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Dr. Peter Thacker

LC Subjects

Educational sociology; Social sciences;


This qualitative research study explored student and teacher perceptions of the impact ethnic studies courses have on students of color. This study utilized conscientização or critical consciousness, authentic caring, and Critical Race Theory to understand teacher methods and strategies and the nature of instruction of ethnic studies curriculum in two urban public high schools in the Pacific Northwest. This research also examined how students perceived the curriculum and teaching strategies impacted their learning and engagement in the courses.

Data collection included classroom observations, open-ended student survey, teacher and student interviews, and student work products. Data analysis included both inductive and deductive analysis. Inductive analysis revealed several themes about how teachers and students perceived ethnic studies curriculum and instruction including caring and creating classroom community, academic rigor, Critical Race Theory as a foundation for the course, discussion-based instruction, and de-centering Whiteness. Deductive analysis utilized pre-defined ethnic studies codes inspired from Sleeter’s (2014) work, including origin of knowledge, historical U.S. colonialism and contemporary colonialism, historical construction of race, and institutional racism. Results revealed that, overall, the ethnic studies courses had made a meaningful impact on student understanding of historical and contemporary issues affecting ethnic groups in their community.

This research sought to learn from the experiences and perceptions of students of color in the ethnic studies courses. With the support of their ethnic studies teachers, students were able to engage in meaningful learning experiences that also impacted their educational aspirations. Students of color in the courses noted they have gained more confidence in how to navigate racism at their school and have a newfound courage to speak up against microaggressions and racial slurs. They felt that they had learned more in their ethnic studies class than they have before in other courses.

The results and implications from this study are discussed and provide insight to educational practice and teacher preparation programs that better prepare teachers to meet the needs of all students.


Copyright for this work is retained by the author.

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