Howard, T. C. (2002). Hearing footsteps in the dark: African American students’ descriptions of effective teachers. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 7(4), 425-444.
There has been scant research examining African American students’ perceptions of their learning environments. Nonetheless, the persistent underachievement of African American students merits an investigation into their viewpoints as to what types of teaching and learning environments promote high achievement. In this article, I detail findings from a qualitative case study that examined African American elementary and secondary students’ descriptions of teaching practices and learning environments within urban contexts. The student interpretations identified 3 central teaching strategies that had a positive affect on student effort, engagement in class content, and overall achievement. The 3 key strategies were (a) teachers who establish family, community, and home-like characteristics; (b) teachers who establish culturally connected caring relationships with students; and (c) the use of certain types of verbal communication and affirmation.
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