Date of Award

Fall 1-8-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Joyce E. King, PhD

Second Advisor

Kristen Buras, PhD

Third Advisor

Janice Fournillier, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Natasha Thornton, PhD


Teachers in urban school districts are both gatekeepers and the frontline of defense against a myriad of injustices Black students and Black communities experience. The goal of this participatory action research (PAR) study was three-fold: 1) to provide teachers a safe but challenging space to identify their biases, assumptions, and fears about working in Black communities, 2) to provide teachers with social, cultural, historical, and political information not otherwise included in teachers’ traditional in-service professional development, and 3) to provide teachers an opportunity to co-construct solution-building projects with and within the communities they serve. The three-fold research goal provided a roadmap to examine if participatory action research demonstrated the skills, knowledge, mindsets, consciousness, worldview, beliefs, attitudes, dispositions, that is to say, the souls of teachers. This collaborative study was framed within the Black Intellectual Tradition (BIT) and employed a PAR approach, using focus groups, participant observation, and community listening sessions as data collection methods. The BIT refers to the intellectualism, scholarship, and activism of Black scholars in their quest for 1) liberation from enslavement and colonialism and 2) the interrogation of what it means to be human in a world that relegates Blackness to the margins of society. The BIT frames for education scholars whose knowledge counts and implores scholars to use this knowledge for social transformation.

During the PAR dissertation study, teachers engaged as co-researchers in a smaller study-within-the-dissertation study. The findings from both the dissertation study, and the collective study, suggest that Black teachers, engaged in PAR, demonstrate the capacity for, and commitment to soul-building study and struggle required for teaching and advocacy for educational equity and justice. Collaborative, soul-building study and struggle, on behalf of the communities they serve, led teachers to uncover the “New School Pushout” through a rigorous analysis of gentrification and urban education reform. Findings suggest that through the BIT and PAR, Black teachers persistently demonstrate their souls in urban communities.


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