Fischler College of Education: Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Abraham S. Fischler College of Education

Advisor

Mary Clisbee

Committee Member

Mel Riddile

Abstract

The problem is that little is known about the life experiences and womanist characteristics of African-American female school leaders and how these experiences and characteristics have collectively influenced their leadership skills and practices within American schools. The phenomenological study sought to understand and describe the lived experiences of African-American female educational leaders who embody womanist characteristics and to identify how the following five factors have influenced their practices in educational leadership: (a) activism, (b) the knowledge and acceptance of multiple identities, (c) the usage of motherwit and othermothering (d) the care-ethic, and (e) the breaking of barriers. A purposive sample of African-American women who are educational leaders in urban school districts with predominately racial and ethnic minority student populations in the southwestern and southern parts of the country were used in this study. Data was analyzed to answer the following three research questions: (a) What do the characteristics of womanism mean to African-American female educational leaders?, (b) What perceived role do womanist characteristics have in the professional practices and leadership-styles of African-American female educational leaders?, and (c) What elements of womanism influence the African-American female educational leader’s efforts in helping to close the achievement gap experienced by many students of color? The study was conducted using an explanatory, qualitative style based on a phenomenological methodology. Participants completed telephone and face-to-face interviews. The four female participants (a) have held educational leadership positions, (b) are between the ages of 30 and 80, and (c) are African-American. This research can be a source of information and motivation to all women who aspire to become educational leaders, specifically African-American women who serve or desire to serve minority students in urban schools. The analysis revealed the nine themes: A mentor is a must, teacher leadership, activism, overcoming stereotypes, a strong sense of self, a vocation, breaking barriers, care, and high expectations.

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