This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Multi-Study Approach to Examining the Transformative Potential of Teaching Social Justice to High School Students




Harrell-Levy, Marinda

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


These three papers test existing educational and identity development theory regarding the phenomenon of transformative pedagogy and its effectiveness, in order to determine the predictive ability of a class on morals and ethics with transformative goals during eleventh or twelfth grade Social Justice towards transformed individuals later in life. This is done using a mixed methods approach: Quantitatively, correlations between pedagogical methods and moral identity development are examined through structural equation modeling using data from a diverse group of students from parochial schools in the Northeast. Qualitatively, an in-depth look at the phenomenon of Social Justice is taken by capturing the lived experiences of former students of just one school. Qualitative results reveal that social justice teachers influence the development of their students in a real and lasting way, including aspects of alumni’s civic, personal, and moral identity development. This is done utilizing several transformative methods, including critical self-reflection, consciousness raising, integrating aspects of emotional and spiritual development, and more. Quantitative results, which resulted from date collected from 362 former” social justice” students from seven different schools, revealed that students who had more transformative class experiences (higher critical self-reflection, more charismatic forms of instruction, and relatable course content and methods associated with the transformative style) were significantly higher on moral identity development than students who did not. Overall, results from the three studies suggest that classes with transformative goals can be quite influential on the long-term identity development of adolescents, and points to the salience of certain parts of the class in influencing such outcomes.