Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Joyce E. Many - Chair

Second Advisor

Dana L. Fox

Third Advisor

Peggy Albers

Fourth Advisor

JoAnna White


Beginning teachers committed to social justice and emancipatory education often experience isolation and discouragement and need communities for intellectual, social, and emotional support as they learn to teach, and sustain their commitments to transformative pedagogy. This qualitative inquiry followed recent graduates who demonstrated personal commitments to a more just world through their lives and their studies and who began their first year as teachers in a variety of settings. Framed within a theory of transformational learning, third space, and Adler’s concepts of social interest and encouragement, the participants and the participant researcher co-created a virtual community to reflect upon and problematize this complex stage of their careers. Guiding this inquiry were the following questions: (a) What are the individual experiences, tensions, and perceptions expressed by social justice educators during their first year of teaching? (b) How does an online community created to develop a support network influence the experiences of these beginning educators during their initial year in the field? Data collection for this individual and multiple case study included autobiographical information, postings, interviews, and extant data from the teachers’ preservice training and the beginning of their first year. Data were inductively and iteratively analyzed. Trustworthiness was established through attention to credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Exploration of the life histories of these women indicated that justice and equity have been their ontological way of being in the world, and that commitment extended through their preservice training and into their first year of teaching. These women approached curriculum in critical ways, problematized simplistic explanations of student apathy, deconstructed the one right answer myth, and worked to democratize education, liberating both their students and themselves. The co-constructed community provided multiple venues for reflection, discussion, collaboration, and support which were used by the participants to meet their unique goals and needs. Participants resolved to continue and expand the community beyond the data collection period so as to remain inspired and focused on issues of justice. Implications for teacher education programs, school districts, and beginning social justice educators themselves were discussed. Possible questions for future research were also explored.


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