Doin’ It for the Culture: An Exploration of Critical Consciousness and Civic Engagement Within HBCU Core Curriculum
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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Within the context of higher education, HBCUs are more specifically known, due to their controversial origin, for having mission and vision statements that broadly imply attending this particular institutional type will aid its students in their civic development. However, despite the vast literature on civic engagement and college students, little attention has been paid on the tangible ways HBCU faculty have prepared students in becoming more civically engaged. Furthermore, while HBCU faculty are known to research and teach on central issues that affect the African American community (Wilcox et al., 2014), there is a dearth of information on how their work impacts students to be critically conscious, socially just, and woke. This dissertation study sought to address the gaps in the literature by exploring how HBCU faculty utilized curriculum and instruction to aid students in becoming more critically conscious and civically engaged to align with the espoused values in their mission statement. The study was guided by the following questions: (1) How do HBCU faculty in core curricular courses use pedagogical frameworks to foster wokeness and critical consciousness amongst students? (a) What aspects of critical and inclusive pedagogy are aligned with HBCU faculty teaching practices? and (b) How do HBCU faculty describe their teaching practices in relation to the civic engagement aims of the institutions mission statement? Participants included four faculty members who taught within the core curriculum at a public HBCU situated in the Southeast. Data collection involved reviewing institutional documents such as the mission and purpose statement of the university, course syllabi, and a description of the readings and assignments. Furthermore, it included interviews with each faculty member. To make sense of the data, this study was guided by the tenets of critical pedagogy and inclusive pedagogy, Freire’s (2000) definition of critical consciousness and Ehrlich’s (2000) definition of civic engagement. The findings in this study unpacked faculty’s considerations and thought processes behind their curricular decisions. Moreover, it highlighted tangible ways faculty applied the pedagogical frameworks to foster critical consciousness and the civic engagement aims of the institutions mission statement. The findings indicated opportunities where faculty could enhance their teaching praxis by approaching curriculum from an intersectional perspective. Lastly, it emphasized support from senior administrators was a requisite when teaching for social change. The study offers recommendations for research and practice based on these findings.