African-centered education: Reflections and perspectives from one institution

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Assata Zerai


Black schools, Elementary education, African-centered

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Education


This dissertation focuses on an African-centered elementary educational environment. Although independent Black schools, the all-Black male classrooms, and African-centered schools are considered controversial by some, few have explored what these settings mean to the people who actually participate in them. This study attempts to do just that in one self-defined "African-centered" institution.

In contrast to most educational studies that have focused on the academic outcomes, I am concerned in this study with the process of education in this setting. I have attempted to explore the cultural importance to education that seems to be prevalent within this institution: focusing on the teacher pedagogical style and the perspectives of parents and children. I am particularly hoping to shed light on the perspectives of those in the environment--how and why they do what they do. I will examine the various ways that these groups view the institution and shed light on how they come to work together in this educational process.

Qualitative data, inclusive of teacher, parent, and children interviews, in conjunction with classroom observations was collected in this particular African-centered educational setting over a one-year period. The study focuses on the everyday interactions, experiences and understandings of those who have chosen this alternative educational setting. The study is void of academic scores and material, in that I am not attempting to explore academic outcomes, but to describe the meaning that participating in this setting has for those who choose to do so. An interpretive-interactionist approach in conjunction with an African-centered research approach is the theoretical and methodological base used for constructing meaning and analyzing data in this project.

This is the first African-centered school study in the United States that incorporates both the perspectives of parents and children. Most importantly, as we look to creating educational equity for all students, this study offers insight into the connection of culture and education. The research reveals alternative educational approaches to the mainstream and suggests that in looking toward social and educational change, a pedagogy centered around counterhegemonic perspectives is an essential one to employ.


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