Date of Award

August 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Robert P. Moreno

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation examines the extent to which 35 early childhood educators’ training and experiences influence their perception of and subsequent teaching strategies racial incidents that occur in a preschool classroom. The study used focus groups to explore the implications of a teacher’s ability to a) perceive the racial situation; and b) act or intervene through curriculum or other choices to turn the situation into a “teachable moment”. Using the theories of social learning, intergroup contact, perspectives on ethnic/race identity formation and foundations of multicultural education, the study addresses what role early educators and their strategies could play in reducing the formation of prejudices and negative stereotypes in preschool-aged children. The findings suggest early educators are not only reluctant to “label” children as being racist or discriminatory, but also largely believe children are incapable of these types of thoughts; young children are blameless in their actions. Furthermore, participants routinely asserted that external influences, namely parents, are to blame for children’s thoughts and actions around race and gender. Participants also felt their teacher training around multicultural education was inadequate, making it difficult to know how to intervene in racial incidents in their classroom. Following teaching strategies were limited to books and songs or parent focused conversations. Implications for future study include assessing teacher perceptions of racial events when children are of the same race or gender and using videos of real-life examples or using ethnographic methods. Limitations are discussed including small sample size, and subject selection.


Open Access