Journal of Critical Issues in Educational Practice


Critical hope, hope gap, poverty, paradigm, engagement, social justice, equity


This current study framed the concept of “critical hope” and examined how systemic oppression in society continuously perpetrates the “hope gap” in low-income students. We defined critical hope, in this study, as the optimistic way of viewing and acting on the world from a critically historically conscious, socially and culturally situated perspective with a personal belief that inevitable change will inspire a sense of community, advocacy, liberation, and justice (Strikwerda, 2019). This rich definition incorporates the elements of hope deduced from existing related foundational and empirical research literature (Freire, 1970; Freire, 1994; Freire, 1997, bell hooks, 2004; Edwards et al., 2007; Giroux, 2011; Noddings, 2017; Stitzlein, 2018; Massey, Vaughn, & Herbert, 2021).

This study revealed the manifestations of critical hope in teachers’ paradigm that influence their pedagogy and classroom practices. Evidence of hope in teachers’ interviews has been identified in: (1) teachers’ vocabulary expressions and written directions that connect, connote, or imply valuing and trusting optimistic aspirations to succeed, (2) teachers’ written tasks and assignments that prompt critical thinking and aspirations to be caring, and (3) teachers’ lesson plans that may elicit a sense of community and humanizing practices. A qualitative methodological approach using narrative inquiry was selected to explore, identify, and understand the concept of hope as an equity solution by reconstructing, analyzing, and understanding the lived experiences of 10 teachers in the realm of practice with hope as the forum (Conle, 2001; Connelly & Clandinin, 1990).

By using hand-coding and NVivo as the mode of coding the narratives of teachers during the interviews, nine themes reflecting hope emerged: 1) building trust, high expectations and caring relationships; 2) goal oriented, willingness to act, and perseverance; 3) critical reflection, advocacy, citizenry, and empowerment; 4) valuing optimism; 5) confronting hopelessness; 6) personal commitment to ethical responsibility and accountability; 7) humanizing self-identity and sense of community; 8) consciousness of economic, social, cultural, and historical life barriers; and 9) inspiring motivation and engagement. Recommendations based on the findings of the current study are presented.