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In the Mix: exploring urban Black Youth Culture in desegregated life sciences classrooms.

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Through an anthropological approach, in the form of a focused-ethnography, this study explored urban Black youth culture (UBYC), in the life sciences classrooms of a desegregated former model C school. In the exploration of UBYC the study was guided by the four research questions the address of which helped explain the context in which UBYC was created by UBY; the nature of this created culture and lastly; how and why it influenced the teaching and learning of life sciences. This study was trellised on a conflated conceptual and analytical framework which informed the nature of the research questions, research design and methodology. Such a conflated framework included: Schein’s (2004) organisational culture model for cultural analysis; Ryan and Deci (2000) Self-Determination Theory of Motivation; Bourdieu’s (1991) social imagery and Foucault’s (1997) notions of power. Using multiple methods, qualitative data were collected over a six month period. Data were analysed and interpreted against the analytical and conceptual frames and a report was compiled. Key findings of this study included the identification of the culpability of the context as structured by players in the life sciences classrooms in the creation of UBYC. Such contextual shortcomings included: classrooms in which culturally responsive pedagogy was not operationalised, classrooms contexts which were falling short in addressing learners’ needs for autonomy, competency and connectedness, and lastly, operationalisation of power in ways that escalated classroom conflicts. Schein’s (2004) model was used to decipher life sciences teachers’ assumptions. Through knowledge of the teachers’ assumptions and observation of their classroom practices, the context in which UBYC was created was established. It was from this understanding that UBY assumptions were deciphered. The deciphering of UBY cultural assumptions provided for the interrogation of how UBYC was influencing, and why it was influencing the teaching and learning of life sciences. It was found that UBYC enabled UBY to trivialise life sciences as a discipline, speak disparagingly about their teachers, disrupt classroom proceedings, sometimes openly defy or aggressively engage with their life sciences teachers. UBYC enabled UBY to perform such enactments as it allowed them to feel superior, powerful, connected and competent. It is envisaged that findings of this study would provide a lens for viewing contemporary classrooms. This perception is critical in deciphering and explaining phenomena that may be perceived as indiscipline and behavioural challenges. This study culminated with the development of a model for cultural studies in classroom settings. It was my view that such a model will help teachers in multicultural classrooms explore culture, as cultural understandings and their harnessing for instruction is the ultimate challenge that comes with diversity.


Doctor of Philosophy in Education. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2017.


Theses - Education.