Urban Black Youth Culture in Classrooms Examined
‘Urban Black Youth Culture (UBYC)’ in the life sciences classrooms of a desegregated former Model C school was the subject of anthropological research done by Dr Lifeas Kapofu for his PhD in Science Education.
‘This study stemmed from my personal experiences as a school teacher when my colleagues registered “problems” some Black learners faced and I was expected to explain the motivation for Black learner enactments,’ said Kapofu.
This led to Kapofu exploring a new cultural phenomena called Urban Black Youth Culture that he feels is taking root in desegregated teaching and learning contexts.
In the exploration of UBYC, his study helped explain the context in which the culture was created by Urban Black Youth (UBY); the nature of this created culture and how and why it, influenced the teaching and learning of life sciences.
Key findings of Kapofu’s 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; classroom contexts which were falling short in addressing learners’ needs for autonomy, competency and connectedness, and operationalisation of power in ways that escalated classroom conflicts.
The deciphering of UBY culture provided for the interrogation of how and why UBYC was influencing the teaching and learning of life sciences. Kapofu found that UBYC enabled UBY to trivialise life sciences as a Discipline, speak disparagingly about their teachers, disrupt classroom proceedings, and 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 the findings of this study will 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,’ he explained.
Kapofu’s study culminated with the development of a model for cultural studies in classroom settings. ‘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.’
Kapofu says his model ‘can be adopted and applied to foster smoother inclusive negotiations in the cultural terrain in diverse contexts’.
He thanked his family, friends and supervisors, Dr Angela James and Dr Michele Stears.
Kapofu had this advice for other students: ‘Work hard. It is possible to complete your thesis with an excellent review, but it’s a game with a limited number of cheer leaders. It is also humbling to know that you are responsible for generating something as potent as new knowledge, the impact of which you cannot predict.’