Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Colette Daiute

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Social Psychology | Teacher Education and Professional Development


Child Development, Ethnotheories, Learning, Novice Teachers, Social Justice, Teacher Education


Many urban public schools use teaching methods that isolate and silence children to compel compliance (Schwebel, 2004; Saltman & Gabbard, 2003; Baumrind, 1991). In these contexts, black and brown children are disciplined more often and harshly than white, sent through the court system 70% of the time (Alexander, 2012). Novice teachers, appearing expert without expertise, use unconscious personal theories or ethnotheories to compel compliance, projecting an illusion of expertise without understanding the consequences for children's development and achievement (Elliott, Stemler, Sternberg, Grigorenko & Hoffman, 2010; Skovholt, 2004). An advance in the field would be to learn how ethnotheories interact with formal theories, like child development theory (CDT), to mediate pedagogical choices in the classroom.

In this qualitative study, I interviewed 12 participants to learn about CDT as a mediator of classroom practice to increase learning and justice in diverse educational contexts (Daiute, 2014). I found that the unconscious use of ethnotheories reproduced injustice by subordinating children's needs to teacher's experiences and constrained learning through silencing, isolation and exclusion (Kahn & Kammerman, 2001; Harvey, 1999). I further found that the conscious use of ethnotheories mediated by CDT interrupts injustice by placing children's needs at the center and teachers adjusting their teaching approaches to create opportunities for children to tell their story, connect with each other in an inclusive, rigorous, respectful learning environment (Young, 2011; Harvey, 1999; Kenyon & Randall, 1997).

Given this, teacher educators can use frequent guided reflections to support novice teachers' restorying their ethnotheories mediated through the lens of CDT situated within a global context (Kenyon & Randall, 1997). Researchers need to examine the effectiveness of this practice in relation to increasing academic achievement by investigating how novice teachers consciously use their ethnotheories mediated by CDT to adjust their teaching approaches to support increased academic success. In conclusion, CDT becomes a mediator of novice teachers' ethnotheories and a tool to adjust their classroom practice toward increased learning and justice by encouraging children to narrate their experiences to create multiple points of entry for meaningful academic lessons (Daiute, 2014; King & Cardwell, 2009; Cardwell, 2002; Kenyon & Randall, 1997).