Activist Educators and the Production, Circulation, and Impact of Social Movement Knowledge


  • Tricia Niesz Kent State University



social movements, education activism, activist educators, social movement knowledge, educational change, teacher unions, social justice unionism, unions, learning in social movements


The burgeoning research on contemporary educator movements provides insight into what activist educators know and believe, what they learn through their collective organizing and activism, and how they engage in inquiry to generate new knowledge for praxis. Yet, although this work suggests that knowledge is being generated, circulated, and mobilized for action among organizers and activists, the process remains mostly tacit. In this article, I draw from Eyerman and Jamison’s (1991) work on the cognitive praxis of social movements, as well as several studies of educator activism, to argue for the importance of understanding how activist educators produce and circulate social movement knowledge. To make this argument, I share diverse examples of how communities of activist educators engage with knowledge generated by social movements, create new localized knowledge for their activist activity, and promote that knowledge within and beyond their movement networks. Circulating their knowledge through networks extending over time and space, activist educators ultimately bridge social movement knowledge into spheres of influence over state schooling, new arenas for struggle in the contested terrain of education.

Author Biography

Tricia Niesz, Kent State University

Tricia Niesz is an Associate Professor of Cultural Foundations of Education in the College of Education, Health and Human Services at Kent State University.






Contemporary Educator Movements: Transforming Unions, Schools, and Society