Sociocultural Frameworks as a Humanizing Research Tool (Part 2)

Categories: Contemporary Issues, Other, Research, Research Design, Research Ethics, Theory

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In the first quarter of 2021 we explored design steps, starting with a January focus on research questions. We continued to learn about the design stage in February by focusing on Choosing Methodology and Methods. The focus for March is on Designing an Ethical Study.

 This post continues the discussion by William Thomas; here is part 1: Sociocultural Frameworks as a Humanizing Research Tool in contextualizing Black Male Teacher Retention.

Creating an Inductive Sociocultural Conceptual Framework

Imenda (2014) makes a distinction between how conceptual frameworks and theoretical frameworks function in research studies in relation to inductive and deductive approaches to the literature and data analysis. According to Imenda, “a deductive approach to literature review typically makes use of theories and theoretical frameworks, the inductive approach tends to lead to the development of a conceptual framework” (p. 185).  Taking this into consideration, I proceeded to develop a conceptual framework that was grounded in my research questions:

From the perspectives of Black Male Teachers who are alumni of Morehouse College,

  1. How do current and former K-12 public school teachers who are alumni of Morehouse College understand the influence of professional development, contextualized job experience, self-motivation, and their roles and relationships with young males of color on their decision to remain a teacher?
  2. How do the contexts of, and experiences in, their teaching careers and overall life journey influence their decision to remain in the profession?      

As I explored my research question, I attempted to find explicit humanizing theories and research approaches that would support the unpacking of life narratives from Morehouse College alumni. Some of these research approaches included the work of Jason Irizzary with Participatory Action Research (Irizzary, 2011) where representatives from a specific population participate as “co-researchers” utilizing qualitative and quantitative research.  Another humanizing methodology I explored was Feminist Research Methods (Tolman et al., 2000) and its belief that gender is a primary category of experience and there for analysis.  Jill Moorawski feels this approach to research “accommodates gender as a central analytic category” (Tolman et al., 2000, p 57). However, the research approach I chose was one that was able to stretch and address the humanizing gender experience of BMTs as well as the participatory nature of my positionality as someone who meetings the demographic requirements of the desired population under research.  La Tefy Schoen describes conceptual and methodical issues with Sociocultural Research (McInerney et al., 2011, pp. 11–40). Schoen defines socioculturalism  as “a philosophical approach to understanding the way individuals behave and learn in social contexts” (McInerney et al., 2011, p 11). 

Because this research approach focused on how individual, social and contextual issues impact learning and behavior, I felt it aligned with what I wanted to learn about as it relates to  life circumstances that impact motivation and teacher retention.  My particular research focuses on self-motivation as it relates to returning as a public-school teacher, which has started to be studied by contemporary socioculturalists.  Judith MacCallum and Kimberly Pressick-Kilborn explore the possibilities of using sociocultural theory in understanding change in motivation (McInerney et al., 2011, pp. 163–187).  This humanizing research approach would allow me to develop an inductive conceptual framework that could visually support my inquiry around life circumstances, self-motivation and retention of BMTs. 

The Conceptual Framework

My study is anchored in a conceptual framework and guided by the research questions. From the creation of my inductive conceptual framework, I proceeded in my literature review to examine contemporary theories that were related to my concepts of inquiry, which led to the development of an aligned theoretical framework that would act as a cornerstone for this study and a springboard to  understanding of these theories within the context of BMTs.

This conceptual framework below is a visual representation that contextualizes my sense-making of these themes along a life journey continuum that includes various decision points leading to the decision to remain a teacher within a condition of structural racism broadly, and in schools specifically.

The three overlapping circles represent various factors that may impact the decision of a Morehouse alumni to remain a teacher.  The intersectional magnitude of influence of these factors are determined based on an individual’s life journey which the framework shows at distinct decision points where the factors may be applied.  The culmination of these decisions and the factors that influenced them could directly impact the ultimate decision to remain a teacher, which is represented at the end of this teacher life cycle for Morehouse alumni. 

This study hopes to fill in the spaces in-between the decision points to see if there are patterns in the experiences of various alumni from Morehouse when navigating the education profession as a teacher. This is what I mean when I take up the term “storying the gap” (Ravitch & Kannan, in review)—it is the stories of these men that can generate a true understanding of the range and variation of experiences and what they might suggest to the field of teaching and teacher education.

In the next part of this series, I will introduce how I was able to use this Sociocultural Conceptual Framework to build a Humanizing research methodology centered around a relational inquiry and a mixed-methods approach to humanizing research.  Huber reminds us that humanizing research methodologies “can open opportunities to see beyond the structural racism that creates so many challenges and barriers, and provide insight into the everyday practices of resistance, agency, and hope” (Huber, 2014).


Huber, L. P. (2014). Moving Beyond Ethicality: Humanizing Research Methodologies with Undocumented Students and Communities. UndocuScholars.

Imenda, S. (2014). Is There a Conceptual Difference between Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks? Journal of Social Sciences, 38(2), 185–195.

Irizarry, J. (2011). Latinization of U.S. Schools: Successful Teaching and Learning in Shifting Cultural Contexts (Series in Critical Narrative) (1st ed.). Routledge.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Just what is critical race theory and what’s it doing in a nice field like education? International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 7–24.

McInerney, D. M., Walker, R. A., Liem, A. G. D., & Schoen, L. T. (2011). Sociocultural Theories of Learning and Motivation: Looking Back, Looking Forward (Research on Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning) (Illustrated ed., Vol. 10). Information Age Publishing.

Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (2nd ed.). Zed Books.

Tolman, D. L., Brydon-Miller, M., & Morawski, J. (2000). From Subjects to Subjectivities: A Handbook of Interpretive and Participatory Methods (Qualitative Studies in Religion, 5). NYU Press.

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