Critical Pedagogy in U.S. History Classrooms: Conscientization and Contradictory Consciousness Public Deposited

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Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Parkhouse, Hillary
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Critical pedagogy has been a significant interest area for education researchers and practitioners over the past fifty years because of the promise it offers not only for more equitable, democratic, and student-centered education, but also for a more just world. Although there have been major theoretical contributions to the field of critical pedagogy, relatively little empirical research has been conducted on its use in K-12 classrooms. Furthermore, the research has tended to focus more on teachers’ dispositions and approaches than it has on students’ responses to critical pedagogy. This postcritical ethnography responds to these gaps in two ways: first, by exploring specific approaches to critical pedagogy in two 11th grade, urban U.S. History classrooms; and second, by integrating observational data with teacher and student interviews to illuminate how the teachers and students together resist traditional forms of schooling in the US. The findings suggest that the approaches used by teachers with a critical orientation included dialogue for dissent and for unfixing opinions, teaching oppression but pairing it with examples of resistance, and encouraging students to take action to address contemporary injustices. Students in these classrooms demonstrated critical consciousness related to racism and their definitions of citizenship. However, dominant ideologies such as meritocracy, individualism, American exceptionalism, and a belief in inevitable progress contributed to students’ contradictory consciousness related to sexism, capitalism, and neocolonialism. Furthermore, these ideologies compromised students’ determination to take political action to address the social injustices they identified. Although students were planning to vote, they did not express a desire to engage in more transformative resistance such as through collective direct action. The implications for critical pedagogy practice is that educators should pair their teaching about past civil rights violations and victories with lessons on the more subtle ways that social structures continue to subordinate women, immigrants, racial and sexual minorities, and many others. This extension of critical pedagogy, which would include lessons on the concepts of ideology and hegemony, may help students understand how contradictory consciousness is sustained and in turn sustains the dominant social order.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Rong, Xue Lan
  • Bolick, Cheryl
  • Boyd, Ashley
  • Hilburn, Jeremy
  • Gulledge, Suzanne
  • Noblit, George W.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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