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Possibilities in Practice

Social Justice Teaching in the Disciplines

Edited By Summer Melody Pennell, Ashley S. Boyd, Hillary Parkhouse and Alison LaGarry

This edited collection illustrates different possibilities for social justice practice in various grade levels, disciplines, and interdisciplinary spaces in P–12 education. Chapters in this unique volume demonstrate teaching with a critical lens, helping students develop critical dispositions, encouraging civic action with students, and teaching about topics inclusive of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Based on empirical research, each contribution is rooted in a critical theoretical framework and characterizes findings from sustained study of pedagogic practice, spanning subject matter from social studies, English Language Arts, music, mathematics, and science. Through this work, both pre- and in-service teachers as well as teacher educators will be inspired to practice social justice in their own classrooms.

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Chapter Six: “Act Like a Girl!”: Preservice Elementary Teacher Perspectives of Gender Identity Development 4th–5th Grade (Elizabeth E. Saylor)


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“Act Like A Girl!”

Preservice Elementary Teacher Perspectives of Gender Identity Development

4th–5th Grade


Feminism, like social studies, is a democratic ideal, a social justice perspective, a movement that promotes advocacy for citizenship and civic engagement; it is all encompassing in the pursuit of equality and justice for all (Saylor, 2017). The canons of feminism and social studies education reinforce and support each other. Nonetheless, few elementary instructors are open to engaging in feminist discourse.

Gender inequality and sexism exist through explicit and implicit thoughts and behaviors. Research reveals that sexism, including gender stereotyping and sexual harassment, can be reduced through raising awareness and through the espousal of feminist perspectives (Becker & Swim, 2011; Becker, Zawadzki, & Shields, 2014; Cundiff, Zawadzki, Danube, & Shields, 2014; Zawadzki, Danube, & Shields, 2012). However, to reduce sexism with feminism, individuals (specifically women) must first be aware that we exist in a misogynistic, patriarchal society and recognize all of these nuanced undertones. However, there is a lack of research on what perspectives elementary teachers have regarding feminism, including sexism and gender identity development. Additionally, there is a dearth of research concerning how preservice teachers come to their understandings of feminism and what messages they received in school concerning feminism and their own gender identities. Exploring the development of teachers’ understandings, ideologies, and beliefs can uncover their purposes for becoming teachers and...

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