Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


This qualitative study utilizes narrative inquiry to consider how difference and equity are experienced and represented in middle years classes and to link teachers’ concepts of curriculum to that experience and representation. The inquiry is grounded in a case study of interactions among students and between students and teacher in a grade six classroom in a Canadian city. Additionally, interviews with the grade six teacher and with four other teachers, who had a commitment to including social justice issues in the curriculum, develop the relationship of teachers’ curriculum concepts to teaching for social justice. The implications of that relationship for classrooms and schools of education are explored. The study is formed by its problem: How can we teach meaningfully about social justice issues in middle years classrooms? Teaching for social justice is interpreted broadly as including both formal and social curriculum. Naming and engaging with difference are required for such teaching. Taking up our differences and resisting representations that marginalize may build equity in our schools. Equity concerns access to rights and difference concerns the recognition of the specificities of identity. How social justice issues are located, that is found, in the middle years milieu and how they are located, that is given a place, in middle years classes are addressed. Middle years students’ need for “fairness” was found to be a potential location for working with social justice issues. It was found that constructing locations to address social justice issues involve both personal and curriculum choices made by teachers, in response to students and to institutional structures and the social context. The initial analysis suggested that teaching for social justice cannot simply be mandated. The need for structured ongoing conversations with students and for curricular support when teaching social justice issues was meaningful to the teachers in the study. The implications of this study’s orientation to social justice for classroom teachers and for teacher educators include working reflectively with narratives of experience and connecting the personal and the social contexts of experience. For teacher educators it involves working for philosophical, structural and curricular change in our institutions.