Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Katherine Lewis, PhD

Second Reader

Matthew E. Davis, PhD


This research explored how teachers were teaching critical consciousness as decolonizing pedagogy within Tolteka R. Cuauhtin’s Ethnic Studies Framework (Cuauhtin, 2019b) at an alternative education high school. Critical consciousness—an expansive term developed by Paolo Freire in the 1960s—advocates for a problem-posing approach to education that includes essential elements of praxis (reflection and action), development of holistic humanity, critical examination of the processes of violence and power, and social-justice oriented self-empowerment among students that leads to actionable community change (Freire, 2005). Even though the conceptualization of Ethnic Studies as a theoretical framework is strong, there is a lack of existing studies that assess implementation of this theory related to real pedagogical practices in the classroom, including curricular content, lesson plans, daily activities, and rituals. This research used a qualitative approach to interview four teachers from an alternative education high school; teachers responded to the following central questions: (1) How do you envision the purpose of school? (2) How do you define decolonial pedagogy and the purpose of Ethnic Studies in high school? (3) How do you intentionally and purposefully incorporate decolonial pedagogy in your classroom through curriculum, lesson plans, daily activities or rituals? (4) Would you be able to share a story of a specific time when this occurred successfully in the classroom and/or a time you could have improved the situation? The findings from this research show that, although there is a lack of a universally shared conceptual and language framework of decolonial pedagogy, teachers nevertheless created and implemented a shared vision of decolonial pedagogy specific to the needs of the student population. Based on evidence, this specific decolonial pedagogy emphasized student empowerment and agency and sharing the power as a form of community-building.

IRB Number