This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Teaching Physical Education to African-American Children: Understanding Responsibility, Privileges, and Positions of Power




Mowling, Claire

Type of Degree



Health and Human Performance


The purpose of this investigation was to examine the “disconnect” between white middle class teachers and their African-American students. The overall focus is the conflicting cultural upbringing of teachers and their students and how this socialization and heritage leads them to incompatible ideas about responsibility, privilege, and positions of power. Study I examines twelve, fifth grade elementary students and their representations of personal and social responsibility through a series of drawings and accompanying narrations. Results showed that their cultural upbringing at home conflicted with the schools rules about what it means to be responsible. This conflict aided in the children verbally and physically developing a disregard for white hegemony enforced in their current school rules. Study II examines 16 white middle class teacher candidates journey towards cultural awareness during a university course placing them in an environment culturally different from their own for the first time. Results showed that teacher candidates were able to develop a sense of caring for their students and identified knowing their children as individuals as an important part of teaching. However, during this time they were unable to recognize their privileges. Overall, results accentuate the “disconnect” between white teachers and children of color regarding cultural issues. Such a gap may lead to a constant battle for the position of power within the classroom as students feel the teacher does not listen or understand their needs and the teacher struggles to maintain control of their classroom. Therefore, in order to close this widening divide Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) programs must focus more heavily on equipping teacher candidates with the necessary practical experience and curriculum content to successfully interact and teach children from a variety of cultural backgrounds.