Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 33, Issue 4, pages 405–419. (November 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
Social justice is the fair, equitable and impartial distribution of the resources, opportunities and benefits of society to all of its members, regardless of position, place or other exclusionary criteria deemed unfair (Johnson, 2008, 303). A socially just society is one in which all people are accorded equal worth and opportunity. It is a society incompatible with any form of prejudice or discrimination based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability or any other factor (Wade, 2007b, 156).
This article explores current research into the role of education in combating social injustice.
The authors have reconfigured a number of the identified themes from these research papers into four groups of issues of which teacher education programmes must be cognisant if they wish to work towards social justice outcomes.
The authors found that four areas were seen to be vital for a valuable teacher education programme for social justice.
First, a teacher education programme for social justice must consider curriculum and pedagogy in an interconnected and cohesive manner way. Assessment tasks must be an integral part of the curriculum and pedagogy.
Secondly there needs to be an understanding that social justice requires both short-term and long-term strategies. Thus courses that address special needs and catering for diversity must also engage with discussion of institutional racism and issues of power and prestige in society.
Thirdly teacher education programmes must bridge the gap between what is espoused in theory lessons about social justice and what happens in reality in schools and communities. Universities and the teaching profession must work more closely together on social justice issues.
Fourthly, preservice teachers should come from the same population as students that they teach. Teacher education programmes should recruit from a diverse pool of students.
From these four groups of issues, the authors developed six key features that should appear in a teacher education programme for social justice.
These six features included the fact that professional experience must be an integral part of the teacher education programme;
that an overall philosophy for social justice is adhered to by all staff;
that the programme would provide varied experiences with different groups within the society; that the programme would encourage students from varied backgrounds;
that the programme would focus on classroom strategies plus consider school, community and institutional issues;
and finally the programme would incorporate experience with education in the school as well as in the wider community.
These six key features were then correlated with initiatives implemented in the teacher education programme at Ourimbah at the University of Newcastle.
The LiNKS programme involved preservice teachers connecting with a local school for the duration of their degree for a minimum of 10 hours per semester. During this period they are engaged in assignment completion coupled with classroom and extra curricula activities that have been mutually negotiated between the school and the preservice teacher.
It was found that it was not necessarily the case that a greater connection between university course requirements and school experience could enhance social justice understandings in students. Students took a long time to recognise social injustice in the schools they attended. Many of the schools the students attended did not engage with their community and so a model of education within a broader community of purpose was not afforded these students.
However, the programme requirements that all courses had assessment items linked to LiNKS experiences brought staff together to discuss issues that arose from this. Opportunities were found within the courses to address social justice concerns and most staff were aware of how others were dealing with them.
The authors conclude that the LiNKS programme did offer them a chance to incorporate many aspects of a good social justice focused teacher education programme and as staff worked on various parts of it, as evidenced in this paper, it can offer some leadership.
The authors argue that putting the field experience as the centrepiece of teacher education programmes can have a consistent field placement from which to draw on deeper knowledge and understanding of school contexts would appear to be vital to a strong teacher education programme for social justice.
Johnson, B. L. (2008) Exploring multiple meanings and pursuits of social justice: A reflection on modern, interpretive, and postmodern possibilities. Teacher Development 12:4 , pp. 301-318.
Wade, R. C. (2007b) Service learning for social justice in the elementary classroom: Can we get there from here?. Equity and excellence in education 40:2 , pp. 156-165.