Date of Graduation

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department/Program

International and Multicultural Education

First Advisor

Susan R. Katz

Second Advisor

Shabnam Koirala Azad

Third Advisor

Patrick Camangian

Abstract

Human rights education (HRE) holds the potential for educators to begin an honest dialogue with students and to connect local issues with international struggles for human rights. However, HRE and other teaching approaches that build understanding of systems of power and oppression that lead to human rights violations are not widely embraced in U.S. schools. In this participatory action research (PAR) study, a group of five educators in the San Francisco Bay Area examined the development and implementation of HRE and social justice education.

Broad research questions guided the group process, asking how educators engaged with youth about human rights and social justice and how these issues connected to students' lives. The team developed as a community of transformative intellectuals, creating an educational space devoted to critique and social change. Simultaneously each teacher selected an individual research project connected to her own teaching setting. These projects ranged from a classroom human rights blog to a school-wide anti-bullying movement.

Research data consisted of transcriptions of monthly team meetings, communications among the research team, researcher reflections, and classroom observations. Emergent themes included the power of PAR as a tool for professional and personal transformation and shared understandings about effective methods of teaching for social change, such as HRE and other approaches. Results highlighted examples of democratic classroom spaces where students discussed and investigated issues that mattered in their own lives, even when the conversations were challenging.

This PAR study emphasized the need for teacher inquiry to support changes in practice and transformation of the education system. Teacher researchers confirmed that a supportive team encouraged them to go beyond what they were capable of doing alone. Second, this research established that HRE must be relevant and meaningful to students' lives in order to position youth to become agents of change in their schools, communities, and the world. Finally, the study contributed to conversations on the power of critical, transformative HRE to link local issues with transnational struggles for human rights.

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