Teaching for social justice : a case study of one elementary teacher's experience with implementing social justice education in the social studies
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This qualitative case study examined the efforts of one elementary public school teacher to implement a social justice curriculum unit in her fourth grade social studies classroom. The study was guided by two research questions and one sub-question. With the first research question, I examined the role of the teacher in an elementary public school classroom implementing social justice. With the second research question, I explored the manner in which social justice education was implemented in the elementary social studies and incorporated into a standards-based public school classroom. This study also examined the barriers to implementation faced by the teacher in a public school setting. The data collection for this case study included daily observation notes over a sixweek period, multiple interviews with the teacher participant, and classroom and unit artifacts. Four themes emerged from the data analysis. The first three themes each addressed the first research question and examined the role of the teacher in a classroom implementing social justice education. These themes examined the role of the teacher in terms of establishing a socially-just climate, creating a child-centered curriculum that allowed for voice and choice, and recognizing that education is value-laden. The fourth theme addressed the second research question and sub-question and examined the implementation of the social justice curriculum unit in a fourth grade standards-based public school classroom. The findings of the study suggest that the teacher has a pivotal role in the implementation of social justice education, as the teacher both serves as a model for social justice and sets the context for social justice education to emerge in the classroom. The findings also suggest that the teacher may have to negotiate and/or circumvent standardized curricula to implement a social justice curriculum unit. The findings of this case study further suggest that the structure and substance of the social studies at the elementary public school level may not adequately support social justice education. Finally, although there are many conceptualizations of social justice education, the findings of this study suggest that the teacher’s own perception of social justice education impacts its implementation in the classroom.