Emma Nicosia


Summer 2020



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Trish Harvey

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

J.B. Mayo

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Ryan Oto


This study examines the ways that social studies teachers enact racial literacy in order to center race in their curriculum. The study is situated within the existing literature of culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally sustaining pedagogy, critical race theory and their applications in social studies education, and racial literacy. Employing a qualitative case study approach, the study is grounded in critical race theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). Six teachers and two curriculum administrators in a single school district were interviewed. Additionally, participant-observations and analyses of teachers’ curricular materials occurred. In order to analyze the data, I inductively put several theories relating to anti-oppressive education, whiteness studies, and racial literacy into conversation (Grinage, 2020; Kumashiro, 2015; Leonardo & Zembylas, 2013; Picower, 2009; Skerrett, 2011). The results suggested that teachers who described strict adherences to the literal wording of the state standards and centered their own content knowledge and expertise in their curricular approach showed less evidence of teaching with a race-conscious curriculum. Teachers who described centering student knowledge in their approaches and using social studies as a tool with which to counter the master narrative had more evidence of teaching with a race-conscious curriculum. My study was limited in that I could not, because of COVID-19, conduct classroom observations, and thus the data was limited to only what teachers chose to share with me through interviews and curriculum, and my own informal observations. In identifying barriers and entry-points for social studies teachers working to center race in their curriculum, the study suggests that teachers need a variety of professional development opportunities that are explicitly grounded in creating race-conscious curriculum, and centering student identities and experiences.


racial literacy, culturally relevant pedagogy, race-conscious curriculum, student identities and experiences








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