'Race Space' Critical Professional Development as Third Space: Cultivating Racial Literacy, Ideological Becoming, and Social Justice Teaching With/in Urban Teachers
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Racial injustice in U. S. society cannot be separated from that which happens in U.S. classrooms. Indeed, many battles between white supremacy and antiracism are waged in the public school arena—such as, the whitewashing of slavery in textbooks, and the Supreme Court decision to ban Mexican American Studies in Arizona. Thus, this dissertation took into account teacher learning and classroom practice around race, racism, and social justice through professional development. Specifically, among teachers committed to social justice, this dissertation investigated the role professional development plays in shaping how their commitment translates into classroom practice. I designed ‘race space’ Critical Professional Development (CPD) (Kohli, Picower, Martinez, & Ortiz, 2015) to support in-service urban teachers in learning about race, racism, and what it means to engage in social justice teaching. I employ the term ‘race space’ to describe an aim to engender transformational, reflective, real talk and action around race and racism, through collective effort. With the theoretical groundings of critical race theory (CRT) in education, ideological becoming, and Third Space, I asked: What is the nature of ‘race space’ CPD? Specifically, among urban in-service teachers committed to social justice, how does a ‘race space’ CPD cultivate: a) racial literacy; b) social justice teaching, and; c) ideological becoming? Methodologically, this research project consisted of an ethnographic case study of the ‘race space’ CPD. During the 2016-2017 academic year, three in-service, social justice-oriented public school teachers, who teach mostly students of color, participated in twelve ‘race space’ CPD sessions over the course of eight months. I facilitated the sessions, completed 1-2 classroom observations of each teacher every week, and interviewed teachers and two of their students. Shay is a Black female Academic Intervention Services (AIS) and English Language Learners (ELL) teacher. Josh, a white male sixth grade special education teacher, teaches in a self-contained classroom. Gigi, a white female secondary biology teacher, teaches in a nontraditional high school. Primary data sources included: a) audio and video of ‘race space’ CPD sessions and classroom interactions, b) field notes, c) teacher and student interviews, and d) pre- and post-questionnaires of teachers. I transcribed audio of ‘race space’ CPD sessions and teacher and student interviews. Employing descriptive and process coding, I analyzed 591 pages of session transcriptions for narratives and dialogic exchanges around racial literacy, social justice understandings, meaning-making around social justice teaching, classroom practice, curriculum planning, and social justice ideological becoming. I then conducted a critical discourse analysis of focal dialogic exchanges to understand collective and individual racial literacy cultivation, social justice ideological becoming, and social justice teaching engagements.Data analysis revealed three major findings. First, ‘race space’ CPD cultivated racial literacy by being responsive to the racial literacy teachers already displayed while providing support in responding to the racial consciousness of students of color. Second, ‘race space’ CPD cultivated social justice teaching among teachers through dialogic exchanges that pushed thoughtful and meaningful social justice curriculum planning that co-exists with the organic social justice teachable moments that arise. Third, ‘race space’ CPD cultivated social justice ideological becoming among teachers, through dialogic exchanges that advanced and critiqued the oppressive nature of school. Through the actualization of a Third Space within ‘race space’ CPD, participant and facilitator ways of knowing/acting were both welcomed and called into question, for the purposes of interrupting and revising their performances of the present. Implications include extended time and space in professional development initiatives for learning around race, racism, and social justice.