Understanding the relationship between critical pedagogy and social studies : dialectics, agency, and solidarity




Magill, Kevin R.

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The purpose of this study was to understand how social studies teachers interested in critical theory understood it and how it actually emerged in ideology, pedagogy, and recognition. This critical qualitative case study examined the critical consciousness of the participant teachers and ways they addressed the dialectical tensions situating their social studies teaching experiences. Through ethnographic methods of observation, interviewing and artifact analysis, I describe how the focal teachers understood critical social studies teaching by: centering student experiences as a means of critical social studies teaching; and by utilizing the social studies curriculum to critically enter practice or by utilizing social studies curriculum as a vehicle for criticality. Emerging from these themes I found: dialectical tensions exist which serve to influence the scope of critical teaching; criticality circles content and pedagogy; teachers tend to be more conceptually/abstractly than materially critical; teachers demonstrate a range of reflexivity as praxis and; what unites critical social studies teachers is their desire for social justice and transformation. Participant teachers also taught critically in their engagement with civic instruction by: first, attempting to trouble uncritical ways citizenship is defined through negating the traditional civic archetype. Second, teachers centered issues of race, power, and politics to illuminate inequity inherent to civic discussions. Emerging from these themes I found: critical social studies teachers attempt to make clear temporal connections between citizenship and disciplines; teachers attempt to work through student experiences to support possibilities for current consciousness and future civic transformation and; that teachers believe critical transformative teaching includes dialogue. Third and lastly, the teachers demonstrated a range of critical interpretations and pedagogical practices, however each engaged in relational recognition of dialectical positioning and intellectual solidarity with students.


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