Purdue University Graduate School
BuildingWholeBlackYouth_TMDandridge_FinalSubmission.pdf (2.19 MB)

Building Whole Black Youth: A Case of a Culturally Relevant STEM Educator at the Hit Makers Summer Camp

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posted on 2023-08-11, 20:20 authored by Tikyna Monique DandridgeTikyna Monique Dandridge

This dissertation research used an embedded qualitative case study research design to investigate a single educator’s actions in teaching Black youth engineering and computing in a culturally appropriate and accessible manner. Historically, the engineering discipline has preserved and upheld Eurocentric standards for how learners should think and practice, perpetuating the marginalization of racially and ethnically diverse learners, such as Black American children. Such standards have excluded and pushed out diverse learners, and it is not uncommon for Black youth seeking entry into precollege engineering pathways to make trade-offs that require them to compromise their culture, linguistic practices, literacy practices, histories, and authentic selves in order to succeed. Given the educational debt that persists in K-12 education for Black American learners, approaches that are meaningful, engaging, and culturally oriented should align with teaching engineering and computing alongside Black Americans' historical and current racial inequities, injustices, and disenfranchisement. The research problem addressed in this dissertation study is the significance and influence of the culturally centered and community servant facilitator who teaches with relevance to the development of the whole Black child's mind, body, and soul while developing their knowledge in engineering and computing.

This project was founded on an asset-focused culturally relevant pedagogy to reveal how a Black STEM educator’s teaching supported the STEM learning of Black youth at an intentionally designed informal summer camp— Hit Maker Summer Camp (Hit Makers). Hit Makers was purposefully designed by a collaborative group of educators, directors, researchers, and artists at the intersection of engineering, computing, hip-hop culture, dance, and Makerspace culture for 28 Black youth learners who resided in a mid-sized Midwestern city. This study investigated the teaching practices enacted by the STEM educator that led the Black youth learners to become more academically, socio-politically, and culturally engaged in STEM. The facilitator’s beliefs, role, ethos, and influence were investigated using a data corpus that included a single narrative interview, in-field observations by the researcher, facts gathered from ongoing conversations (2019 - 2022), and video and audio recordings of the facilitator while teaching.

A qualitative embedded case study design was employed for this research. Data collection occurred continuously from July 2019 to February 2022, utilizing a range of methods including in-situ field observations, video and audio recordings, and a formal online interview. The findings of this study underscore the influence of Black STEM educators' beliefs and previous instructional approaches on their teaching practices within the context of Hit Makers Summer Camp. Notably, the enacted teaching practices demonstrated a significant alignment with the tenets of culturally relevant pedagogy, particularly in the domains of academic success and cultural competence. Although the alignment with sociopolitical consciousness within the pedagogical framework was less pronounced, it is evident that the educator’s teaching philosophies were deeply entrenched in their own sociopolitical awareness. The study's findings empower educators in precollege engineering education to transcend traditional teaching paradigms by unraveling the interplay between pedagogical philosophies and culturally resonant practices, offering a tangible blueprint for fostering deeper connections with students, promoting diversity, and dismantling barriers to empower historically underrepresented Black students to excel in STEM.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Engineering Education

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Monica E. Cardella

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Tahira Reid Smith

Additional Committee Member 2

Ruth Streveler

Additional Committee Member 3

Eli Tucker-Raymond

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