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Making Science Homework Work: The Perspectives of Exemplary African American Science Teachers


by Jianzhong Xu, Linda T. Coats & Mary L. Davidson — 2012

Background/Context: Despite the best intentions to close the achievement gap, the underachievement of African American students in science is a persistent problem. It is surprising to note, however, that research on science education has often failed to consider students’ cultural diversity as it relates to science education. On the few occasions when efforts were made to link science disciplines and students’ cultural backgrounds, these studies were largely limited to classroom learning environments.

Purpose/Research Question: This study examines the perspectives of exemplary African American teachers toward science homework. Specifically, we address two research questions: What does science homework mean to exemplary African American science teachers? How do they approach science homework?

Research Design: A qualitative study was conducted, with data obtained from the following sources: (a) three open-ended, in-depth interviews with each exemplary teacher during the first year of the study, and (b) two focus group interviews with these teachers during the second year of the study. The participants were 8 exemplary African American science teachers in Grades 3–6 in the southeastern United States.

Findings/Results: Data revealed that these teachers shared a strong sense of urgency to use homework as an important vehicle in science learning. To help their students be successful with their homework, these teachers often provided additional provisions and used a variety of strategies to promote students’ interest in their homework. In addition, the teachers adapted an approach comparable to both Boykin’s Afrocultural ethos (e.g., concerned with affect, expressive individualism, and verve) and “being a warm demander” (i.e., setting high expectations and insisting firmly yet respectfully that students meet those expectations).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that there is merit in integrating these two frameworks to better understand the perspectives of exemplary African American teachers toward science homework. These findings highlight the need to examine the perspectives of exemplary African American teachers toward secondary school science homework given that the poor achievement of African American students becomes more pronounced as they progress through school, and homework is found to be more strongly associated with secondary school students than elementary school students.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 7, 2012, p. 1-32
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16468, Date Accessed: 12/22/2014 12:37:16 AM

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About the Author
  • Jianzhong Xu
    Mississippi State University
    E-mail Author
    JIANZHONG XU is a professor in the Department of Leadership and Foundations at Mississippi State University. His research interests focus on teaching and learning in the school and home setting, in home–school relationships, and in partnerships with culturally diverse families. Recent publications include “Models of Secondary School Students’ Interest in Homework: A Multilevel Analysis” in American Educational Research Journal and “Validation of Scores on the Homework Management Scale for Middle School Students” in Elementary School Journal.
  • Linda Coats
    Mississippi State University
    LINDA T. COATS is an associate professor in the Department of Leadership and Foundations at Mississippi State University. Her research focuses on effective teaching—learning styles, experiences of African American students, and Jeanes teachers (African American teachers in the South during the middle 1950s and 1960s). A recent publication is “The Way We Learned: African American Students’ Memories of Schooling in the Segregated South” in Journal of Negro Education.
  • Mary Davidson
    Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science
    MARY L. DAVIDSON is a biology and genetics instructor for the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science located in Columbus, Mississippi. She is the recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’s highest honor for teachers of mathematics and science. In addition, she is the recipient of the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship grant for excellence in teaching.
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