Theses Doctoral

Are They "American" Enough to Teach Social Studies? Korean American Teachers' Social Studies Teaching Experiences in American Public Schools

Choi, Yoonjung

This study explores three Korean American social studies teachers' experiences of teaching social studies, focusing on their curricular and pedagogical perceptions and practices. Framed by sociocultural theory, this study aims to shed light on the heterogeneous stories and socially and culturally contextualized teaching experiences of Korean American social studies teachers, which have been largely undocumented in the social studies scholarship. The major research question for this study is: How do three Korean American social studies teachers perceive social studies curriculum and implement pedagogy in the realities of their classrooms? Subsidiary questions are: (a) What are these Korean American social studies teachers' perceptions and experiences of teaching profession in American public schools?; (b) How do these Korean American social studies teachers perceive social studies curriculum and implement pedagogy in the realities of classrooms?; and (c) How do sociocultural experiences of these teachers influence their curricular and pedagogical practices? This qualitative multicase study investigates three Korean American teachers who taught global history in urban public high schools in the Northeast. Data sources include a semester-long classroom observation, interviews, and artifacts. Findings indicate these three Korean American teachers exhibited diverse, complex, and contextualized experiences of teaching profession, and particularly teaching social studies. The racial minority teachers' experiences of racism and academic struggles during K-12 schooling, cross-cultural/international experiences, and familial immigration backgrounds served as a springboard for them to have better understandings of their culturally and linguistically diverse students and to teach for global/multicultural perspectives. Powerful teacher education infused with social justice perspectives and supportive, autonomous, and cooperative school atmosphere aided them to implement student-centered, inquiry-based pedagogies which improved academic engagement of their students. Meanwhile, misguided curricular beliefs and philosophical stance, rigid school culture, bureaucratic school personnel, pressure from high-stakes tests, test-driven contexts, and racism pervasive in school culture became barriers for the teachers to practice culturally relevant and meaningful pedagogy in their classrooms.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Teaching of Social Studies
Thesis Advisors
Marri, Anand Reddy
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 30, 2012