Leading for Equity: An Exploration of Individual and Institutional Supports for Teacher Activism
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Background and Objective: Curricular activism is proposed as a means by which teachers may challenge educational inequity for marginalized students in our nation’s public schools. This research aims to determine the frequency of teacher engagement in curricular activism, to explore the factors that predict this activism, and to examine activist teachers’ perceptions of school leaders’ support for their activism. Azjen’s theory of planned behavior (1991), which asserts that attitudes, perceived behavioral control, and social norms predict intentions, which then lead to behaviors, provides the structural model for this study.
Study Design/Materials and Methods: Data from the Social Justice Scale (Torres-Harding, Siers & Olson, 2012) were analyzed using descriptive statistics and Structural Equation Modeling; interview data were analyzed using narrative techniques. Both sets of findings were then integrated using an explanatory-sequential mixed methods approach.
Findings: Surveyed teachers (n=172) reported engaging in curricular activism at a modal frequency of at least once per week. SEM analysis of the proposed model produced a suboptimal fit, with perceptions of behavioral control failing to regress significantly on both intentions and activism behaviors. Interviews provided explanations for the quantitative findings.
Conclusions: Curricular activists appear to be motivated to engage in these actions by the pro-social justice attitudes of themselves and a few trusted teacher allies. They report having limited power to address educational inequity outside of the classroom context. Principals were perceived as offering little in the way of support for curricular activism, and as being impeded from offering more by multiple external factors.