Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Learning


Curriculum and Instruction

Committee Director

Yonghee Suh

Committee Member

Shana Pribesh

Committee Member

Peter Baker


Current trends in the United States show a decline in voter participation and other forms of political engagement (Torney-Putra, Wilkenfeld, & Barber, 2008). There is further evidence to suggest that an understanding of civic knowledge and behaviors that represent civic participation is even more abysmal for urban students including students with low economic status and minority groups (Kahne, 2009; Torrey-Putra, 2001). However, traditional discourse around the gaps and deficits faced by urban students fail to recognize the educational systems that limit the growth and development of marginalized youth and ignore the assets that urban youth possess (Irizarry, 2001; Landson-Billings, 2006; Kirkland, 2010). Therefore, this intrinsic, embedded case study using an appreciative inquiry lens within a critical and indigenous paradigm sought to explore the questions 1) What factors and experiences contribute to the development of civic identity according to urban students? and 2) How can social studies teachers help to facilitate the development of an empowered civic identity according to urban youth? An analysis of the findings led to the development of a conceptual model that emphasized ethic of care as an intervening condition that contributes to the central phenomenon defined as empowering uplift. Empowering uplift characterizes the participants' sense of civic identity and is illustrated by participatory acts of civic engagement labeled as consequences of the central phenomenon in the model. Finally, the model includes strategies defined as authentic learning experiences that the participants suggested to help social studies teachers facilitate the development of active, empowered citizens in their classrooms.