Virtual High School Educators’ Perceptions Regarding Integrating Culturally Responsive Teaching into a Virtual Learning Space: A Qualitative Case Study with Autoethnography



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Background: The National Education Policy Center found that during the 2015-2016 school year, 528 full-time virtual schools enrolled 278,511 students, and 140 blended schools enrolled 36,605 students; enrollment continued to rise. White students enrolled in Texas virtual schools scored on average from 7% to 18% higher on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) examinations than African American and Hispanic students. Numerous educators are ill-equipped for the challenges of teaching students of diverse sociocultural experiences. One of the most substantial roles an educator can have is linking students’ worlds of home and school in profound and productive methods. Purpose: This qualitative case study explored virtual high school educators’ perceptions of the use of culturally responsive instructional strategies. Virtual educators had distinct perceptions of culturally responsive teaching methods because they do not share physical spaces with their students. Using the lenses of multiculturalism and critical race theory, the researcher examined the impact of race on educational praxis, focusing on culturally responsive instructional strategies by virtual high school educators. Research Question: What are virtual high school educators’ perceptions regarding integrating culturally responsive teaching into a virtual learning space? Methodology: This study investigated themes from the researcher’s reflective journal, in-service virtual high school educators’ culturally responsive reflections, and focus group session results to understand the educators’ perceptions of culturally responsive instructional strategies. Using inductive coding to focus on process, understanding, and meaning, the researcher, a virtual high school principal, was the primary data collection instrument and analyzer. Team fieldwork strategies involved exploring participants’ perceptions through a researcher-participant reflective journal, participants’ culturally responsive reflections, and open-ended recorded focus group sessions. The participants included twenty virtual educators: thirteen teachers, six administrators, and the high school principal. Thirteen teachers chosen based on purposeful sampling and content-area teaching assignments participated in focus group sessions after completing the virtual culturally responsive professional learning plan. Six administrators served as a research study team responsible for hosting and facilitating focus group sessions, recruiting and obtaining informed consent from participants, and member-checking before, during, and after data analysis. The researcher-participant engaged in ongoing analysis and interpretation of participants’ coded semi-structured focus group session results, culturally responsive reflections, and the researcher-participant’s reflective journal. The semi-structured focus group session questions were peer-reviewed and revised based on peer feedback. The researcher employed continuing member-checks by sharing the focus group session results with the participants and the findings and conclusion with the research study team. Findings: The exploration added to the literature regarding virtual high school educators’ perceptions of culturally responsive teaching in virtual spaces. Three core overlapping themes developed: building teacher-student relationships, incorporating student voice into curriculum and instruction, and sustaining student engagement. The study revealed paradoxical phenomena regarding virtual implicit bias that must be addressed for virtual schools to become culturally sustaining school communities. Conclusion: The findings suggested that virtual high school educators’ perceptions mirrored traditional insights that personalized instructional strategies used to build relationships and sustain student engagement through student voice yielded positive social and academic outcomes.



culturally responsive teaching, educational leadership, multicultural education, virtual instruction