Teacher Seeks Pupil--Must be Willing to Change the World: A Phenomenological Study of Professors Teaching for Social Justice
Pigza, Jennifer M.
Hultgren, Francine F
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This dissertation explores the lived experiences of faculty who teach for social justice in the context of higher education. The tradition of hermeneutic phenomenology grounds this inquiry (Gadamer, 1960/2000; Heidegger, 1971/2001, 1977/1993; Levinas, 1969). The phenomenological research activities designed by van Manen (1990) provide the methodological framework for entering the study. By calling upon the philosophical traditions and methodological guidelines of hermeneutic phenomenology, the research begins to name what it means to teach and be for social justice in higher education. This study involves conversations and classroom observations with five faculty members representing three colleges and universities. Among the participants are three women and two men; three faculty with tenure, two without; two people of color; Jewish, Christian, seekers, and unnamed; one person who self-identifies as gay; and, ages mid-30s to early 60s. They are grounded in more than five different disciplines, and teach in at least seven departments, at three types of institutions. Through this hermeneutic phenomenological exploration, the lived experience of teaching for social justice in the context of higher education shows itself in two main themes. The first theme reveals elements of articulating social justice through speaking-teaching-being. Within this theme, sub-themes are present, such as troubling language, currency and curriculum, and reading the world-word. The second theme refers to a sense of wide-awakeness in the pursuit of social justice and its teaching. Sub-themes here include the notion of taking attendance and being attentive, linking seeing with doing, and serving and sustaining a vision. The first set of pedagogical implications of this study focus on the influence of culture, the notions of liberal and conservative ideas, speaking truth to power, and crafting a language of longing to teach for social justice. A second set of pedagogical implications emerge from the proposed idea of a currere communis for social justice. The research suggests the development of communities that support transformative learning for faculty and other educators in higher education. The currere communis for social justice also extends to suggest implications for the teaching of students and the teaching of the general public, as well as directions for future research.