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Educators' Perceptions of Adinkra Symbols: A Phenomenological Study

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posted on 01.05.2020, 00:00 authored by Kwadwo A. Oppong-Wadie
Adinkra symbols have over the years become a feature of the African-American cultural landscape and has found its way into educational contexts in its use as a culturally situated instructional tool. Educators use Adinkra symbols in both formal and informal settings. The question that drives this study hinges on ‘how are these educators experiencing Adinkra symbols and what constitutes an experience’? The purpose of this study was to understand and describe the “essence of the experience” and the transactional meaning making that emanates from educators’ interactions with Adinkra symbols, and the implication of this on literacy for people of African descent in educational settings. Data from interviews and audio recordings were collected from 11 educators who use Adinkra symbols in their instruction. I employed qualitative research methods using a phenomenological approach. This study used the development of textural and structural descriptions of the educators’ experiences that resulted in a phenomenological description by identification of patterns and themes. These descriptions formed the core of the meaning making experiences that educators make from their interaction with Adinkra symbols. Meaning making is here defined as the process by which people understand or make sense of life, events, relationships, and the self. Meaning making is central to education (Ogden & Richards, 1923). This study was guided by a theoretical framework, African-centered theory. The essence of the experience of educators’ interactions with Adinkra symbols is primarily a function of social and cultural practices. Sign systems are imbued with the capacity to convey meaning (Gavelek & Whittingham, 2017). I therefore emphasize the potential that symbols and images have in the conveyance of meaning but more so how educators come to experience them and the implications these experiences have for instruction.



Thomas, Michael


Thomas, Michael


Curriculum and Instruction

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Webb, Torica Woodard, Rebecca Larnell, Gregory Morales, Zitlali

Submitted date

May 2020

Thesis type




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