Document Type



Doctor of Education



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Thomasina Hassler PhD


JaNae' Alfred PhD

Robert Good PhD

Shenita Mayes PhD


In education, traditional methods have long relied upon static textbooks and blackboards to impart knowledge to students. Unfortunately, the lack of dynamism with this approach has failed to foster creativity, motivation, inquiry, individualization, and other practices crucial to serving diverse learners, especially Black children. We sought to uncover barriers and potential solutions to this problem by elevating the voices of educators, from classroom teachers to building and district administrators, at a predominantly African-American suburban secondary school in the Midwest.

We designed a qualitative research study to answer a single yet layered research question: What impedes Black students from experiencing and gaining access to relevant, student-centered learning (SCL) opportunities in public secondary education? The study seeks to fill gaps in implementing student-centered teaching methods in public schools.

We utilized three primary theoretical frameworks to analyze primary data collected from educators at our chosen site, including critical race theory, liberatory pedagogy, and culturally relevant pedagogy. The three classroom teachers and three administrators who participated in the study identified a myriad of issues, such as state-mandated testing and bias and stereotyping by teachers and other faculty.

Using thematic coding analysis, two themes emerged: systemic issues and cultural relevance. We trust our findings will contribute to addressing disparities that require increased funding for schools in underserved areas, help target support for disadvantaged students, and advance ongoing professional development for teachers to improve their ability to provide student-centered instruction to ensure that all students have equal access to resources and support needed to thrive.