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Thinking with theory in a civil rights center

Erin C. Adams (Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
Sohyun An (Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)

Social Studies Research and Practice

ISSN: 1933-5415

Article publication date: 13 June 2020

Issue publication date: 14 September 2020




The purpose of this theoretical paper is to propose that museums can be useful sites in intervening the theory–practice divide in teacher education. The authors draw from their visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR or Center hereafter) to explore the potential of a local museum as a powerful intervention in the preservice teacher education theory/practice divide.


The authors’ theoretical framework draws off of “thinking with theory,” a method of using concepts to make sense of data by “plugging” a concept “into” data (Jackson and Mazzei, 2011). The authors believe that everyone, even their preservice teachers think with theories in an attempt to make sense of information and events. In their social studies methods courses, the authors offer readings, texts, videos and experiences that present ideas and concepts that are new to their preservice teachers in order to expose underlying theories that frame worldviews.


The authors provide four “snapshots” or findings. These include: heroification and villainification, White–Black binary and messianic meta-narratives, empathy and simulation and critical Black patriotism. Each of these snapshots is grounded in theories from scholars in the field of social studies, demonstrating one way to put theory to work.


As the aforementioned snapshots show, the authors found a place like CCHR that can serve as important space to think with theory and deconstruct presented narratives. The authors “plugged” concepts from social studies scholarship “into” the narratives presented at the CCHR. Specifically, the authors used villainification (van Kessel and Crowley, 2017), AsianCrit (Chang, 1993), Black Patriotism (Busey and Walker, 2017) and messianic narratives and martyrdom (Alridge, 2006).



Adams, E.C. and An, S. (2020), "Thinking with theory in a civil rights center", Social Studies Research and Practice, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 167-182.



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