Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Department name when degree awarded

Teacher Education and Leadership

Committee Chair(s)

Steven Camicia


Steven Camicia


Spencer Clark


Susan Turner


Courtney Stewart


David Lewis


There is urgency for teacher educators to instruct preservice teachers in the core tenants of social justice education. This urgency is based upon the ever-growing shift in the American demographic landscape and the responsibility of educators to teach for equity, justice, identity and community within classrooms across the U.S. Preservice teachers report feeling inadequately prepared to educate for social justice when entering the formal classroom setting. Feelings of incompetence in social justice teaching pedagogy expressed among preservice teachers coupled with minimal examination in the literature of the effects of teacher education practices that aid in the readiness to teach for social justice provided the foundation for this study.

This study examined experiential methodology that can prepare preservice elementary teachers to teach for social justice, particularly within an elementary social studies context. Specifically, the study focused on two primary research questions: (1) How do preservice elementary teachers in a social studies methods course conceptualize teaching for social justice within an experiential framework? (2) In what ways did preservice teachers operationalize teaching for social justice in the practicum classroom? Also examined was how development of community in an elementary social studies methodology course fostered the understanding of teaching for social justice among preservice teachers.

The findings of this study highlight preservice teachers were able to conceptualize building communities with experiential methods to teach for social justice and how doing so created an effective learning community within the methodology class. Although the preservice teachers valued the implementation of experiential methods into their social studies methodology to foster the teaching of social justice, substantial difficulties were expressed in their incorporation of experiential methods in the practicum environment due to a lack of confidence, teaching competence or collegial support. Recommendations for teacher education programs are also discussed.