Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction (EdD)


Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum

First Advisor

Dr. Christian Winterbottom

Second Advisor

Dr. Dilek Kayaalp

Third Advisor

Dr. Adrien D. Malek-Lasater

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Derrick Robinson

Department Chair

Dr. Kim A. Cheek

College Dean

Dr. Jennifer Kane


The purpose of this study was to explore voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) teachers’ perspectives regarding the theory of culturally responsive pedagogy. This study also sought to understand how teachers implement culturally responsive teaching practices in VPK classrooms and their perceptions of how culturally responsive teaching impacts the academic and social-emotional success of Black and Brown male students. The study was conducted using a qualitative, phenomenological methodology. Gay’s (2018) pillars of culturally responsive teaching were used as the conceptual framework to explore the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) teachers. Data collection tools included (1) two recorded semi-structured interviews, each lasting approximately 35-45 minutes; (2) two non-evaluative classroom teacher observations, each lasting approximately 3 hours, the duration of the VPK instructional day; and (3) document analysis of artifacts such as teacher lesson plans, teaching materials, posters, handouts, and student work samples. An analysis of observation data revealed how participants enacted practices that promoted a culture of care and respect and leveraged students’ cultural backgrounds to promote authentic engagement and active learning. Participants demonstrated how they created and reinforced classroom conflict expectations that aligned with students' values and cultures. They also demonstrated how engaging in academic discourse enhances student participation and understanding in VPK classrooms. Further analysis of the findings suggests that establishing a learning partnership can positively shift students’ mindsets. In addition, students who regulate their emotions and possess social-emotional competence when entering kindergarten are more likely to develop positive relationships with peers and teachers. Finally, the data suggests that using song and dance as an instructional practice allows students to process new content, as the connection to the brain strengthens students' memories (Hammond, 2015). Implications for school and center leaders as well as VPK teachers are offered, in addition to recommendations for practice and future research.