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Practices of Exemplary Transformative Teachers, as Perceived by Students Transformed by an Urban High School Social Justice Course


Transformative urban high school teachers utilize a transformative pedagogical style in their classrooms to augment students’ learning experiences and cultivate development in their students. Largely unexamined, however, is how the tools of transformative pedagogy used in secondary classrooms compare with those used in other contexts and with other kinds of students, particularly adolescent learners. The purpose of the present study is to gain an understanding of teaching practices facilitating transformative learning in a mandatory, high school social justice course in an urban setting. To assess this, black students of a transformative Social Justice course were interviewed, along with current and former teachers of the course, and other faculty and administrators. Additionally, alumni of this course were surveyed and a range of curriculum materials were analyzed to determine the actual pedagogy and practices. Findings indicated that, despite a prevailing research focus on adult learners in the transformative field, transformative practices at the high school level are largely comparable to those practiced at the post-high school level, such as using tools for critical self-reflection and individuation. Furthermore, using some additional approaches, the teachers make use of the developmental timing of adolescence to create a class experience that is particularly edifying and, potentially, enduring.

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Correspondence to Marinda K. Harrell-Levy.

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Harrell-Levy, M.K., Kerpelman, J.L. & Henry, D.J. Practices of Exemplary Transformative Teachers, as Perceived by Students Transformed by an Urban High School Social Justice Course. Urban Rev 48, 73–100 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-015-0346-5

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  • Adolescence
  • Social justice
  • Transformative
  • Pedagogy
  • Black