Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Graham Casey Brown


Members of countries with democratic governments rely on the political involvement of its citizens to elect individuals to positions of power as well as to approve legislative initiatives that are presented for voter approval on ballots (Hahm, 2000; Mayer, 2011). However, voting is just one of many examples of political activity (Wiltfang & McAdams, 1991). This qualitative study was designed to address a gap in the research by analyzing factors that motivated secondary, social studies teachers to become politically active. Teachers are overwhelmingly absent from political activities other than voting (National Teacher Association, 2010). Even though they teach a subject that stresses the importance of civic responsibility across time, social studies teachers are not more likely to participate in politics than teachers of other content areas (Fowler, 2006; Lavine, 2014). While researchers have explored the obstacles teachers face in becoming politically active, very little attention has been paid to exploring the minority of teachers who engage in politics within their communities. There is minimal interaction between teachers and policymakers, which results in miscommunication between those who write education policies and those who implement education policies (Pustka, 2012). Schools would benefit from open communication between policymakers and teachers since those in the classroom are considered to be experts in their field (Burns, 2007). Teachers could provide accurate and current insight into the successes, challenges, and failures of schools (Burns, 2007, Pustka, 2012). However, drafting education legislation often involves policymakers and teachers working as separate entities with policymakers drafting legislation and teachers implementing policies (Pustka, 2012). Using cognitive mobilization theory as a conceptual framework, this study included an investigation of the motivating factors of politically active teachers. Face to face interviews allowed teachers to reflect on previous events that they believed contributed to their decisions to engage in politics. Teachers also were asked to speak about personal perceptions of their own political activity in terms of how their involvement in politics affected policy as well as their classroom pedagogy and student learning. Whether it was the influence of a politically involved parent, friend, or teacher, through school or an organization, or because of a significant event, participants in this study were exposed to politics and motivated to become politically active at some point in their lives prior to teaching. Additionally, political policy as well as personal, political activity affected the participants’ pedagogies. Finally, social studies teachers play an important role in modeling civic responsibility to their students. The findings of this study will be useful for teachers who wish to become more politically active and for politicians who wish to increase communication with teachers who are directly affected by education policy initiatives.


Political participation, Politics, Social studies, Education, Political activity, Education policy, Political activism, Educators, Policy makers


Education | Educational Leadership


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington