Shifting Our Focus: Teacher Transformation Through Anti-Oppressive Education
Brown, Christopher Duncan
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Shifting Our Focus: Teacher Transformation through Anti-oppressive Education is a case study of how students experienced a justice-oriented graduate course for educators, and how their experiences had the potential to be transformative. Perspectives of fourteen participants were collected through focus groups, interviews, journals, and participant observation and were analyzed thematically using the constant comparative method. The conceptual framework for the study included both transformative learning theory and anti-oppressive education theory. Factors that foster transformative learning and three theoretical dimensions of anti-oppressive education that were deemed crucial to anti-oppressive education (Inclusive, Critical and Poststructural dimensions) guided the analysis within a transformative learning theoretical framework that examined whether participants’ perspectives had changed and whether they had committed themselves to engaged activism. The results of the case study indicated that, as well as providing opportunities for dialogue and critical reflection, the quality of instruction, authenticity of the instructor, course content and process all had a substantive impact on the transformative potential of anti-oppressive education. As well, the Inclusive, Critical, and Poststructural dimensions of anti-oppressive education served different functions within anti-oppressive education. The inclusive dimension provided a familiarity to participants but, by itself, did not lead to disorienting dilemmas that could be transformative. The critical dimension, with its emphasis on critique, led to subjective reframing that was emotional and transformative for participants new to anti-oppressive education, and led to objective reframing. The poststructural dimension supported the perspective transformation of participants by providing a new lens through which to see inequity and a way to see their own social construction in equity in a way that was supportive. During a post-interview three months after the course ended, only one participant acknowledged completing their activism project. However, all participants new to anti-oppressive education were thinking differently and were moving towards activism. Those more experienced in antioppressive education, potentially because they had a perspective transformation at an earlier time, were engaged in activism.