Title page for ETD etd-07122012-135928

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Edwards, Kirsten Tralese
URN etd-07122012-135928
Title “She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction…”: The Influence of a Religio-spiritual Epistemology on the Academic Knowledge, Pedagogy, and Theorizing of Black Women University Teachers
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Educational Theory, Policy, & Practice
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Mitchell, Roland W Committee Chair
Chaney, Cassandra D Committee Member
Gourdine, Angeletta Committee Member
Hendry, Petra Committee Member
  • Religion
  • Pedagogy
  • The Black Church
  • University
  • Black Women
  • Spirituality
Date of Defense 2012-06-14
Availability restricted

This dissertation conducted a narrative inquiry into the lives of Black women university teachers who self-identify as possessing strong faith commitments within a Christian denomination. Critical Race Theory, Womanism and Womanist Theology, the Theory of the Black Church, and Post-colonial Studies were employed in order to facilitate this inquiry. Every woman was reared in a predominantly Black congregation (PBC), and many still practice their faith in a PBC. The primary focus of this study was to consider the influence a religio-spiritual epistemology has on their academic understandings, theorizing, and pedagogical practices. Data collected for this study included recorded conversations, field notes, researcher journals, classroom observations, and personal narratives submitted by the women participating in the study. Using a narrative thematic analysis (Riessman, 2008), the data was coded to uncover themes and categories that were evident across all of the data.

Findings revealed that the women held particular beliefs about their pedagogy and scholarship. The women often spoke about their perceptions of their students. These perceptions included ideals about their responsibility to their students, positioning themselves as facilitators in the classroom, and viewing their students as whole and/or spiritual beings. Surprisingly, many of the women also mentioned specific hopes and goals for their White students. They talked about their desire for their pedagogy and scholarship to have an impact in various ways. All of the women were explicit about not being perceived as proselytizers. Instead, they hoped to be living reflections of Christ. Several of the women mentioned some anxiety about being perceived by their colleagues as stereotypically Christian. Finally, the different ways the women did or did not take up issues such as homosexuality, abortion, and other religions was discussed.

This study is significant in that it considers an often ignored and under-theorized religio-spiritual epistemology employed by many Black women academicians. The study hopes to position this particular segment of the academy as a source of knowledge that can aid academia in serving all of its members. Findings in this study can also potentially help in the process of advancing academia in its pursuit of equity and justice broadly.

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