Purdue University Graduate School
KevinRyan Formatted Thesis Final.pdf (841.4 kB)

White Teachers, Racial Topics: Practical Applications of Second Wave Whiteness

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posted on 2019-10-17, 18:46 authored by Kevin L RyanKevin L Ryan

The field of education in the United States is dominated by white educators, many of whom discuss race with their students. Often, white teachers do not know how to discuss race and may shy away from such discussions due to their insecurity with the topic of race. I realized my own ineptitude with racial discussion, and I wanted to find a way to scaffold racial discussions in classrooms, especially classrooms that were mostly white where teachers and students alike may tend to evade the whole discussion of race. I believe that Second Wave Whiteness (SWW) offers a robust theoretical framework to help white teachers discuss race with their white students. Other studies have investigated how white teachers talk about race, but there are few studies that investigate this in the context of a classroom with mostly white students and even fewer that have investigated the efficacy of SWW in practice in this context by directly measuring students’ progress. I conducted a study in which I observed a mostly white class of high school seniors taking an African American literature course that was taught by a white teacher. The teacher and some elements of the study design were influenced by SWW. Throughout the study, I collected and measured students’ responses to journal prompts, discussions, and surveys. Through a quantitative and qualitative analysis, I found that students’ comfort when talking about race increased, students’ change was associated with their beliefs at the beginning of the study, and that students’ politics predicted their engagement. My findings add to a broader body of work that suggests that SWW has a place in practical classroom application and that it may help students and teachers to develop down the path of anti-racism. This study further implies that SWW may have a place in de-radicalization techniques for white students who are resistant to ideas of anti-racism.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Education


  • Curriculum and Instruction

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tara Star Johnson

Additional Committee Member 2

Christian Knoeller

Additional Committee Member 3

Christy Wessel-Powell

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