High School Social Studies Teachers and their Tactics for Justice


  • Cathryn van Kessel Texas Christian University https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7450-5963
  • Kennedy Jones University of Alberta
  • Rebeka Plots University of Alberta
  • Kimberly Edmondson University of Alberta
  • Avery Teo University of Alberta




radical change, radical love, social studies education, symbolic evil, teacher research


What tactics are high school educators using to teach about socio-political changes in the past and present? Five educators in the province of Alberta (two female, three male; four urban, one rural; four white, one Arab; four without visible religious garb, one Muslim in hijab) explored content they considered to be “radical” and how they teach about (and for) significant socio-political changes toward making society hurt less. Coming from a perspective of symbolic evil, radical love, and radical imagination as inherent to beneficial social movements, the researchers used process and dramaturgical coding to analyze participant insights about decolonial and antiracist education as well as teaching for gender and sexual justice. Participants shared insights about the role of school context and teacher positionality, what might shape an educator to teach for radical change, as well as several tactics: operationalizing positionality, supplementing curriculum, challenging assumptions, subverting school rules, and addressing emotionality.

Author Biographies

Cathryn van Kessel, Texas Christian University

Cathryn van Kessel is an associate professor in the Department of Counseliing, Societal Change, and Inquiry in the College of Education at Texas Christian University.

Kennedy Jones, University of Alberta

Kennedy Jones, B.Ed., is a junior high Humanities teacher in North Edmonton, located in Treaty 6 territory. Her research interests include concepts of radical change and social-emotional learning to facilitate students' abilities to consider and adopt alternative perspectives into their worldview.

Rebeka Plots, University of Alberta

Rebeka Plots, M.Ed. studied at the University of Alberta in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton), in Treaty Six land, the traditional meeting grounds of the Cree, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, Nakota Sioux, and Metis. Her research interests include difficult knowledge and conceptions of "evil" in social studies education in order to help teachers understand and act on creating societal change in the classroom. She has taught secondary social studies in Alberta, Canada.

Kimberly Edmondson, University of Alberta

Kimberly Edmondson is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta, in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton, Canada) and resides on Treaty 6 land in the kisiskâciwanisîpiy river valley near the traditional territories of the maskwacis Nations, Papaschase Nations and maskêkosihk Nations. Her research interests include poststructuralist approaches to the study of difficult histories in social studies education in a Canadian context. Kimberly has contributed to social studies education in the province of Alberta at the high school, post-secondary, and ministerial levels during her 15 years of experience as an educator.

Avery Teo, University of Alberta

Avery Teo, B.Ed, is a graduate from the University of Alberta in secondary social studies education, and works for the University of Alberta Students’ Union. His work in Adult Education is focused in the field of Orientation, Transition, and Retention, along with student events programming.