Date of Award

Fall October 2015

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Jill P. Bickett

Second Advisor

Rebecca Herr Stephenson

Third Advisor

Sara Kersey


Teacher preparation programs are making concerted efforts to prepare practitioners to transform urban education. Current studies rely heavily on self-reported data with little to no inclusion of the voices of teachers or perceptions of principals. This qualitative case study aimed to fill that gap by exploring how alumni of one social justice–themed University Teacher Preparation Program (UTPP) defined and implemented socially just teaching practices in urban elementary classrooms. Participants included six teacher alumni in their first, second, or third year of teaching, two supervising principals, and one UTPP staff member. Methods included semistructured interviews, full-day classroom observations, and a review of program documents. The study was guided by 12 characteristics of socially just teaching outlined in a new practice- based conceptual framework. Major findings combatted current critiques of social justice education and highlighted the importance of relationships, collaboration, craft, and selection in teacher preparation. Minor findings revealed the impact of school culture, critical reflection, and teaching experience on social justice pedagogy. Recommendations include a need for UTPP to pay greater attention to the craft of teaching for social justice, develop assessment literacy in preservice candidates, and model activism inside and outside the classroom.