Jane Feinberg smiling on a gray background

Dissertation Watch: Being and Becoming Across Difference

Dr. Jane Feinberg, PhD in Leadership and Change alum, published her dissertation titled, Being and Becoming Across Difference: A Grounded Theory Study of Exemplary White Teachers in Racially Diverse Classrooms.

The purpose of this Constructivist Grounded Theory study was to explore an understudied question: How do White teachers who have been deemed exemplary by educators and parents of Color perceive their relationships and experiences with BIPOC students in an educational system and a society that often marginalizes them?

Of the roughly 3.5 million public school teachers in the United States, approximately 80% are White. In contrast, about 51.7% of the nation’s students are African American, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian. This mismatch is expected to grow as the number of BIPOC students in our nation’s public schools continues to increase. Studies have shown that strong positive relationships are essential for learning, but often, the relationships between White teachers and BIPOC students are strained at best, leading to poorer learning outcomes.

Open-ended interviews were conducted with 19 middle and high school teachers in Massachusetts. Dimensional analysis revealed Being-and-Becoming Across Difference as the core dimension. Five primary dimensions were identified: Reflecting, Relating, Embodying Humility, Affirming Culture, and Holding Hope. Results of this study suggest that significant changes are needed in the recruitment and hiring of White teachers and that pre-service and in-service professional development must support White teachers in far more robust and sustaining ways than currently exist.

Dr. Feinberg is the Founder and Executive Director of Power of Place Learning Communities (PoP). For much of her career, she has supported mission-driven organizations in developing their communications, engagement, learning, and leadership capacities as a foundation for driving meaningful and sustained social change. Feinberg began her career as a journalist and documentary producer. She developed, wrote, and produced for award-winning public television programs and series, such as “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” “The American Experience,” “Frontline,” “Long Ago & Far Away,” and PBS specials on Amelia Earhart and the Honorable Thomas P. O’Neil, Jr. She was also a writer/producer for the popular ABC-affiliate nightly newsmagazine “Chronicle,” where she often covered social issues. Feinberg directed a two-year statewide media campaign for the ABC affiliate in partnership with the United Way of Massachusetts.

In addition to her previous media work, Feinberg served as the Director of Communications and Press Secretary for the Boston Public Schools. She also served as Senior Associate for FrameWorks Institute in Washington, D.C., where she helped translate social science research about how Americans think about key social issues into messaging for senior leaders engaged in policy and program change. Feinberg was a strategist to school districts in northern New England that received funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to embed student-centered philosophies and practices. She also served as Regional Partnership Lead for Reimagine Learning, a project of New Profit that focused on better supporting marginalized and minoritized students. This work led to the creation of the Essex County Learning Community (ECLC), which launched in 2018 and is the flagship program of Power of Place Learning Communities.

Read more about Dr. Feinberg and her dissertation Being and Becoming Across Difference: A Grounded Theory Study of Exemplary White Teachers in Racially Diverse Classrooms here.

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