UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social justice activist teachers theorize their work in public schools MacRae, Julia Lee Elizabeth


The purpose of this study was to understand how four social justice activist teachers theorized their work within the pubHc school system of British Columbia, Canada. The focus was on their understanding of the meanings, motivations, constraining and facilitating factors, and the impacts of their work. Through case studies, this study explored the lived experiences and reflections of prominent activist teachers who are a small minority in the teaching population. The term "social justice activist teacher" referred to one who advocates for the rights of minority groups, challenges widely held attitudes and assumptions about curriculum and teachers' roles, and works for change beyond the confines of one's own classroom. Four prominent teacher activists were interviewed two or three times across the 2004-2006 school years. Their reflections were first analysed individually, then for similarities and differences. It was found that they understand activism to be central to their roles as teachers and a key feature of their own identities. Their activism had its roots in childhood experiences and upbringings. They defined their activist work as focussed primarily within one or two theme areas (i.e., environmentalism, feminism, antiracism, anti-homophobia), and they worked in networks and coalitions to accomplish their goals. They found the education system to be a place where effective activism could take place. They all felt they were successful, although they sometimes felt thwarted or unsupported. A defining feature was their persistence.

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