Culture Shift: A Phenomenological Look at Culturally Responsive Teaching

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Leadership for Organizations


Department of Educational Administration


Advisor: Jolie


Now follows the executive summary of the dissertation in practice. Western City Schools is a small and regionally ranked public school district. Despite its many successes, students report feeling a disconnect with teachers and a lack of sense of belonging (YouthTruth, 2022). In order to respond to this concern, this study seeks to better understand the overall organizational culture and uncover ways in which teachers and the district are responding to the increasingly diverse needs of their student population. This study employed a qualitative, phenomenological approach to better understand the lived experience of district staff. Purposeful sampling was used to generate high-quality data within a short period of time. Semi structured interviews were held on site and participants were asked to discuss their experiences related to the organizational culture, culturally responsive teaching practices, and their access to professional development supports. The data yielded rich descriptions of the lived experiences of teachers. First, it is evident that the culture of the district, known as “The Western Way”, has an impact on students and staff. Second, participants described varying levels of knowledge and expertise related to culturally responsive teaching practices. Finally, participants discussed the professional development (PD) and learning opportunities that they have had prior to and during their tenure at Western City Schools, which includes the PD offered by the school district. Collectively, these themes led to two recommendations and the creation of an action plan, which employs critical participatory action research in an effort to involve all stakeholders in the response. The first recommendation is to include teacher voice in district professional development planning and provide teacher choice, which both encourages autonomy but increases accountability. The second recommendation centers around building cultural support systems, which foster a sense of belonging for newcomers. This plan employs a detailed conceptual framework grounded in theories that orient the district toward equitable and change-centered praxis. Two recommendations are built into the action plan to address student and staff sense of belonging and to support professional development programming that aligns with culturally responsive practices. In order to achieve successful and sustainable practices, the action plan’s program design and development has embedded evaluation cycles (Giancola, 2021).


Belonging, Organizational Culture, Diversity, Equity, Qualitative, Phenomenological, Lived Experience, Student Voice, Teacher Choice: Autonomy, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Professional Development, Critical Participatory Action Research

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