Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Nate McCaughtry


The purpose of the study was to examine early career physical educators' perspectives on learning to teach in urban schools. Using occupational socialization theory (Lawson, 1983a, 1983b; Lortie, 1975) and cultural relevance theory (Flory & McCaughtry, 2011), I studied three early-career physical education teachers who taught in urban schools but did not grow up in urban communities. Data collection occurred for approximately six weeks with each teacher via lesson observation and in-depth interviews. Data were analyzed using constant comparison. The findings of this study outlined the particular elements from each teachers' experience during their pre-professional socialization, professional socialization, and induction that played a role in their success and struggle as a newer teacher in an urban school. During pre-professional socialization, the influence of middle-class upbringing, negative experiences in school PE, varying amounts of exposure to diversity, family views of culture, and appreciation of cooperative activities had an impact on the teachers' ability to make meaningful connections with their diverse students. Professional socialization experiences which affected teachers' success and struggle as an early career physical educator included lack of diversity within PETE programs, sport-based curriculum, lack of coursework in sociocultural issues, experiences in urban schools, and lack of interpersonal skill development. During the induction phase, school support mechanisms, levels of administrator support, insufficient facilities, levels of involvement within school, teaching in a culture of testing, and discovery of Whiteness were all elements that contributed to these teachers' successes and struggles. Based on these findings, I recommend further research focused on learning more about developing teachers to be prepared for more diverse school contexts. First, I suggest further research examining how PETE programs prepare White, middle-class teaching candidates for diverse school contexts. Second, I recommend inquiry related to what effective sociocultural coursework might entail specific to PETE majors. Third, I recommend questioning the effects of standardized testing on urban students' physical activity and health, and how PE teachers in these schools are affected by accountability practices. Fourth, I recommend research related to how successful urban teachers learn about the community dynamics in their particular schools. Finally, I suggest studying the process that teachers go through to become reflective and analytical of their own teaching practices. In addition to these recommendations for future research, I recommend that teacher education programs provide more meaningful experiences in urban school contexts during professional socialization, and include coursework in sociocultural issues to better prepare their teacher candidates. Finally, I suggest that school districts work to provide more mentoring programs for newer teachers, especially those who do not come from urban backgrounds or experiences, provide professional development opportunities specific to urban schools, and work to create more agreeable conditions for PE teachers.