Document Type



Doctor of Education


Education, Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Jacquelyn Lewis-Harris


Kim Song

Gayle Wilkinson

Rafael Aragunde


The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States, is home to approximately 3.4 million U.S. citizens. The literature on Puerto Rican national identity (PRNI) describes how and why it has been debated on the island for more than five hundred years throughout the colonial trajectory, once under Spain and now as a commonwealth of the United States.

The education system in Puerto Rico, and particularly the social studies curriculum, has been used to promote particular ideologies regarding national identity. This study identifies what middle school teachers teach about PRNI and how seventh grade students identify themselves in terms of national identity. The investigation of curriculum delivery examines the elements that foster the Puerto Rican national character. Social studies educators who neglect the multiplicity of Puerto Rican identities fail to acknowledge that educational practices should be inclusive of the diverse understandings of PRNI. Such an acknowledgement needs to be incorporated to social studies classes where teachers discuss Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. Examining social studies classes in Puerto Rico becomes the ideal context to develop conjectures about PRNI that include a transnational identity beyond the nation-state paradigms.

Using a mixed method approach with a concurrent embedded strategy, I identified student perceptions about PRNI, which differ from those of educators. Teachers’ perceptions, citizenship, ethnic identity, and political ideology become intertwined with the delivery of social studies classes. Nevertheless, students develop their own perceptions of PRNI with only minor reference to the social studies class.

Students express dissatisfaction with their social studies classes. They also assign a high level of importance to PRNI, express a strong feeling of belonging to the Puerto Rican nation, and describe markers of national identity. The previous categories become pivotal considerations for the assessment of content-rich social studies lessons.