Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-16-2023


In an era of accountability and censorship in public schooling, teaching for social justice is a difficult proposition for K-5 teachers. This inquiry explored the pedagogical principles of five elementary school teachers who navigate the rigors of standardization while also providing an education with a social justice orientation. Using a critical lens, this study v i was guided by the following questions: (1) how do elementary teachers approach topics of social justice in their curriculum? (2) what are the pedagogical considerations for teachers in urban schooling? and (3) what structures prohibit or provide proliferation for the integration of social justice in contemporary elementary education classrooms? Face-to-face interviews, focus groups, and teaching artifacts facilitated the data collection process. Data analysis revealed the following themes within the teachers’ narratives regarding their pedagogical approaches to teaching for social justice with young children: teachers provide equity of voice, build student/teacher rapport while maintaining community ties, plan for counternarrative curricula, and use the classroom and community as critical spaces for the open exchange of ideas. This study suggests that teachers can be catalysts for transformative change; however, teaching with social justice ideals in mind requires careful and well-planned-out pedagogies for circumventing the limitations set by districts for teaching in today’s diverse classrooms. This examination positions social justice education as a habit of disposition for teachers. It also has implications for potential systemic change for students of color, as it informs how elementary school teachers can take on this subject with a purpose of improving outcomes.

Keywords: social justice education, pedagogies, urban schooling, elementary

Document Type




Degree Name

Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Leila Flores-Dueñas

Second Committee Member

Rebecca Sánchez

Third Committee Member

Shiv Desai

Fourth Committee Member

Irene Vásquez

Fifth Committee Member

Deborah Roberts-Harris