Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Mary Cay Sengstock






May 2010

Advisor: Mary Cay Sengstock

Major: Sociology

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Administrators and educators have been given the responsibility of working towards improving racial and social interactions in their school settings. It is important to note that most of the literature on diversity programming suggests that the perception held by a school's administration of what constitutes an all encompassing racially and culturally diverse program plays an important role in its implementation and success.

With the continual growth of minority populations in the United States, studies argue that schools should strive to be as diverse as the communities they serve. Some communities have altered their school curricula and introduced diversity training to their staff and students to make their programs more reflective of the school's population. However, data suggests critical reforms are still needed nationwide to increase awareness and tolerance of racial and cultural differences in educational institutions (Fereshten, 1995, Pyszkowski, 1993, Wang et al., 1995). This study explores the link between how school administrators and educators construct their definition of diversity and whether their perceptions are an important factor in the success of the program. According to the educators and administrators who participated in the study, many believed existing problems in the classroom stemmed from students' lack of interest and peer distraction. In order to gain a better understanding of why certain behaviors and lack of motivation exist in their classrooms, student narratives were incorporated to further enhance the study. Student narratives (text told in the students own words) have been incorporated and may allow insight into the evaluation of the diversity program from their perspectives. Mcgill (2003) believed understanding and addressing students' perceptions is one of the most positive ways to inform educators of what their students are thinking. Students' experiences have been captured and analyzed. The narratives may offer alternative reasons for negative classroom behaviors and interactions, as well as disclose positive social interactions.

In addition to the interpretation factor, an examination of prior literature reveals that the methodological approach before the early 1990s tends to be more quantitative than qualitative. The first phase (1999-2000 school terms) consisted of participant observations in nine of the educators' classrooms and face-to-face interviews with those teachers and the school's administrator. The second phase (2000-2001) consisted of interviews from thirty-four students and utilized the jointly told tales approach. This approach allowed students to give their perceptions of the Edison diversity program implemented in their own words, which was incorporated into the body of the report without modifications. Phase three, the last phase, occurred during the 2003-2004 school terms and involved revisiting the diversity program carried out at the Mount Clemens High School after the Edison Program was phased out. The Edison students and educators were merged into the traditional public school setting. Several of the educators who participated in phase one of the study were also respondents of the looking back segment (phase three) of the study, and addressed the likenesses and differences they observed between the diversity programming of the 1999-2000 school terms versus the 2003-2004 school terms. In addition, seven new educators and one administrator participated in the third phase of the study, which revisited face-to-face interviews and classroom observations.

The field study follows the qualitative approach that allows for rich, thick descriptions and interpretations. "Rich descriptions convey the experiences of someone who was there by developing concepts and tentative hypotheses in order to make sense of the data" (Singleton and Straits, 1999: 354). My role in the field, engaging in participant observations and conducting interviews with administrators and educators, impacts the reflexive analysis of the data collection, and the content analysis. With this new information, educational programs can be designed that will promote positive racial and cultural interactions and acceptance. All schools should make efforts to teach these social skills to help individuals develop a greater understanding and respect of others' differences.