Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kris Gutiérrez

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Dutro

Third Advisor

Jennie Whitcomb

Fourth Advisor

Arturo Aldama

Fifth Advisor

Ben Kirshner


This dissertation is an exploration of two pressing challenges in education: first, the preparation of novice educators who are well positioned to support consequential learning with historically marginalized youth and in underserved schools and communities, and second, the related need for historically marginalized youth to have access to compelling, culturally nurturing learning opportunities. Aquetza, a social design experiment, is a grassroots summer enrichment program for historically marginalized youth and novice educators from across the state of Colorado, designed to attend to these interrelated challenges of youth and teacher learning. Drawing on Vygotskian and Freirean perspectives on learning and pedagogy, as well as decolonial and poststructural theory, the program provided a series of pedagogical interventions to help both youth and teachers engage in expansive learning, shifting their participation and identities in relation to school and community environments.

This research focuses specifically on teacher education and the developmental trajectories of novice educators who, as co-participants in the design, generated new pedagogical practices and identities for enacting culturally sustaining, decolonial praxis. In three distinct, yet interrelated manuscripts, I turn my attention to (a) exploring the theories necessary to support robust, decolonial pedagogical practice, (b) examining the ways in which practice-based approaches might serve to cultivate decolonial dispositions in novice educators, and (c) exploring case studies of the learning for individual participants working to become decolonial, culturally sustaining teachers.

Taken together, these manuscripts and design reflections argue for a radical reorientation of our energies in teacher education. I suggest that in order to better serve historically marginalized communities and youth, our novice educators need richly conceived spaces in which to consider the complex, affective dimensions of the schools in which they may teach. Further, their trajectories of learning must include destabilizing travesias, crossings, which productively disrupt the ways in which they see and live teaching and schooling. This study agues for a re-centering of our efforts onto the cultivation of culturally nurturing educators who can engage in the often ignored, but vital task of navigating the affective geographies of underserved classrooms, leveraging youth assets and pedagogical imagination towards consequential learning for all involved.