Modeling Compassion in Critical, Justice-Oriented Teacher Education

Dec. 04, 2008

Source: Harvard Educational Review. Vol. 78, Iss. 4; pg. 652-675. Winter 2008.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The work of teacher education becomes increasingly focused on the challenges of helping mostly white, monolingual, middle-class prospective teachers become compassionate, successful teachers of racially, culturally, linguistically, economically, and academically diverse students. At the same time, some teacher educators struggle to find compassion for the prospective teachers they teach. McDonald and Zeichner (2008) argue that multicultural education often pays less attention to societal structures that perpetuate injustice, while social justice teacher education often focuses on these structures. McDonald and Zeichner's (2008) commitments to teacher education both celebrate diversity and address structural inequities.
Motivated by this concern and drawing on feminist and Buddhist theories, the author argues that many teacher educators would benefit from a renewed consideration of modeling the pedagogy they hope prospective teachers will employ. In this paper, she analyzes and brings together the work on critical, justice-oriented approaches to teacher education. The author discusses relationships in teaching, modeling as pedagogy, and the Buddhist notion of compassion to articulate a pedagogy of modeling in critical, justice-oriented teacher education.


Many teacher educators already carry out the kind of pedagogy that the author suggests in their daily work with prospective teachers, and some teacher education programs articulate elements of this very explicitly in their missions. However, this approach to teacher education is far from universal. Too often the discourse among teacher educators revolves around blaming prospective teachers for the qualities they lack and the practices they are not implementing. The author proposes that modeling compassion while pushing prospective teachers toward critical, justice-oriented teaching is a pedagogy of teacher education that has the potential to move us closer to transformative teacher education.

McDonald, M., & Zeichner, K. (2008). Social justice teacher education. In W. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stovall (Eds.), Handbook of social justice in education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Updated: Mar. 09, 2009