Teachers as Critical and Constrained Learners and Actors for Racial Justice in Schools
Joy Esboldt

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

Teacher Education/Teaching and Learning
Persistent racial injustice and a continued white demographic and epistemological dominance in teaching underscore the urgency of initiatives focused on teachers? antiracist development across the country. However, scholars still know little about how teachers? antiracist learning and enactment unfold in practice, as co-mediated by their organizational and sociopolitical environment. In response, this qualitative research study investigates the co-construction of antiracist discourses and how teachers interactionally learn, negotiate, and enact these discourses. Data include ethnographic observations of professional development (PD), focal teacher-mentor pairs? meetings, teachers? classrooms, and school board meetings, and interviews with PD facilitators, mentors, and teachers, through a partnership with a new teacher equity-oriented mentoring program. Bridging critical theories of race with the learning sciences, sociology of education, and education policy, I examine instantiations of whiteness, specifically as supremacist ideologies reproduced in institutions. This analysis attends to how power, ideas, and their dialectical relationship with enactment, perpetuate racial injustice, even when not in majority-white spaces. I find that teachers navigate a contested terrain as they learn, and that prevalent antiracist discourses converge with evolving neoliberal reforms, district and school structures, and the organization of learning environments. Moreover, my research captures moment-to-moment transformative opportunities that arise, which offer promising direction for future research and design as potential levers for change. This work expands current understanding of teacher learning, underscoring the critical and constrained role of teachers even within robust efforts aimed at social justice.
About Joy Esboldt
Joy Esboldt is a doctoral candidate in Critical Studies of Race, Class, and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley School of Education (BSE). She is also a member of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Designated Emphasis. Esboldt?s research focuses on teachers? learning about race, equity, and power as it intersects with gender and cultural politics. Esboldt?s scholarship has engaged topics of organizational tensions that teachers navigate, teacher perception of principal leadership, and the racialized-gendered histories and socialization of the teaching profession using multilevel interdisciplinary analyses and by locating the work and learning of teachers within interactional, organizational, and sociopolitical constraints and possibilities. Her dissertation examines the co-construction of race and equity discourses across multiple sites of teacher learning through a Research-Practice-Partnership between a university and school district. Esboldt has taught the BSE?s Teacher Credential Program and the undergraduate Education Minor. She has also worked with the California School Leadership Academy. In addition to being awarded an NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship, Esboldt?s research has been supported by: a UC Regents Fellowship, a California Teacher Education Research and Improvement Network Doctoral Fellowship, a Marcus Foster Fellowship, a UC-Berkeley Center for Race and Gender Grant, and a P.E.O. Scholar Award. Esboldt earned a M.Ed. in Education Policy from the University of Illinois and a B.A. in Spanish Literature and Language from Carleton College. Prior to graduate studies, Esboldt was a public-school teacher and teacher coach in Minnesota.

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