Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad

Second Advisor

Emma Fuentes

Third Advisor

Sarah A. Capitelli


The common discourse in the field of education in the United States during the years 2002 through 2013 centered on the approach of making schools accountable for their students' performance, while aiming to bring proficiency to all students regardless of their socio-economic background. Prior to this study, little research existed on cultural workers who teach, and their associated outcomes with marginalized populations of learners. To fill this gap in the research literature, this study explored the question: How do cultural workers define their work, and in what ways do they connect their stories to the current academic discourse on the purpose of education and gaps in our mainstream educational system? For the purposes of this study, cultural work based education may be defined as an educational initiative, project, or program whereby people who are involved in artistic and sovereignty endeavors practice spoken word poetry, circus arts, public mural arts, contemporary dance and choreography, or self-determination community organizing.

My participant-narrators were eight cultural workers who taught in successful educational initiatives during the years 2002 through 2013. The term participant-narrator is used throughout this study because the participants fulfilled two specific roles: participants who contributed to this research, and narrators of their oral histories. I used a qualitative approach, most specifically oral history interviews as the methodology, and I conducted a four-step data collection process which included: a) conducting three face-to-face interviews; b) transcribing all interviews, c) participant-narrators reviewing all transcripts for accuracy, and d) revising all transcripts for exactness.

This study's findings revealed cultural workers: a) facilitate learning by intentionally demonstrating conscious care in their instruction; b) connect their stories to the current academic discourse on the purpose of education, and gaps in the mainstream educational system, through their popular education approach; and c) view their work as an active contribution to social change as an outcome to their way of viewing teaching as a process of being solution-bound. Consequently, this research provides potential insights into successful educational strategies with marginalized learner populations that may be successful in meeting achievement goals within mainstream educational K-12 settings.