Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Elizabeth Currin


This action research study explored Black middle school students’ interactions with a high-quality civics curriculum that sought to complicate traditional notions of citizenship; provide authentic opportunities for engagement and participation; center student voices; and foster positive, empowered civic identities. The study also examined whether transformational coaching, with an explicit focus on culturally responsive practices, enhanced one social studies teacher’s ability to implement such a curriculum. Critical race theory and social identity theory illuminated how traditional civics education, rooted in white supremacy, excludes and distorts Black citizenship and civic identities; conversely, both theories informed alternative views of citizenship and identity rooted in critical patriotism, community, and activism. Grounded in courageous conversations protocols, students engaged in a series of open classroom discussions about current events, what being a “citizen” means, and how to impact meaningful change. Students also collaborated to identify problems in their communities and designed action plans, which they then implemented, to address their concerns. The combination of a safe space for honest, sometimes contentious, dialogue and opportunities to take meaningful civic action empowered students to develop a counter-narrative of Black citizenship in which they were informed and liberated agents of change. Similarly, the social studies teacher, through her own self-reflection and participation in the transformational coaching cycle, was better equipped to implement high-quality civics instruction for her students. The findings, beyond informing my own practice as a residency coach, may have implications for social studies teachers who hope to incorporate high-quality civics instruction in their classrooms. Further, instructional coaches may look to the study as an example of implementing explicit training in cultural responsiveness in transformational coaching.