JTE Author Interview: Social Justice and Teacher Education

Have you seen the JTE Insider blog managed by the Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) editorial team? Check out the latest entry below.


This interview features insights from the JTE article “Social Justice and Teacher Education: A Systematic Review of Empirical Work in the Field”, written by Carmen Mills and Julie Ballantyne. The article is featured in the September/October issue of JTE.

Q: What motivated you to pursue this particular research topic?

A: We were invited to submit a chapter to the Oxford Handbook of Social Justice in Music Education. Our chapter explored the intersection of research in the fields of music teacher education and social justice. We found the process of conducting a systematic review so stimulating that we decided to undertake a similar, yet broader task, of conducting a systematic review within the fields of social justice and teacher education. While we hope that the article will be of value to the readership of the journal, we also conducted the review with a view to informing our future work in the field by providing us with evidence to support our hunches about the types of research that are predominant in the field. While important, the proliferation of these small-scale case studies – typically confined to a single course or subject over one semester, within one program, within one institution – may contribute to research in the field revisiting familiar territory rather than connecting with a larger research program.

Q: Were there any specific external events (political, social, economic) that influenced your decision to engage in this research study?

A: The widening achievement gap between students in schools and the close alignment between these unequal learning outcomes and the socioeconomic background of students has fueled an ongoing concern for us as teacher educators. With a clear warrant for preservice teacher education to work toward the development of teachers who are socially just in their beliefs and practices and disposed to make a difference in this current climate, our motivation was to explore the research that is taking place to address this important issue in teacher education.

Q: What were some difficulties you encountered with the research?

A: The sheer volume of publications in the field necessitated the development of very clear guidelines for criteria for inclusion in the pool of articles for exploration within the manuscript.

Q: Writing, by necessity, requires leaving certain things on the cutting room floor. What didn’t make it into the article that you want to talk about?

A: Hundreds of articles were closely examined to determine whether they met the criteria for inclusion. We underestimated the sheer amount of work required to conduct a systematic review in a field of this magnitude, and it is unlikely that we would be able to put a figure on the number of hours that went into the article’s development. There were many articles encountered that were excellent, and highly interesting, but which didn’t fit the strict criteria developed for this project.

Q: What current areas of research are you pursuing?

A: Carmen’s current research, with Trevor Gale and Russell Cross, is as chief investigator on the Australian Research Council discovery project, “Social Justice Dispositions Informing Teachers’ Pedagogy in Advantaged and Disadvantaged Secondary Schools.”

Julie’s current research explores the development of teacher identities across the career life-span, and she is leading an international project trialing the use of mobile technologies to bridge gaps between the school classroom and preservice teacher education.

Julie and Carmen are also developing a shared research agenda to build on the recommendations of this article within the field of teacher education and social justice.

Q: What new challenges do you see for the field of teacher education?

A: The challenges that we envision for the field build upon the findings of our systematic review: the development of large-scale research, with data generated longitudinally, or cross-institutionally, from multiple sources, through mixed methods with large numbers of participants. We believe that generating these types of data sets may enable trends to be seen over time and across contexts. Support from funding agencies for projects of this complexity and scope is a further challenge for the field.

Q: What advice would you give to new scholars in teacher education?

A: Working in teacher education is a massive privilege. To enable students to make meaningful and realistic encounters with the realities of teaching in socially just ways is an ongoing challenge for all teacher educators, not just those teaching courses with social justice as a focus. We encourage new scholars in teacher education to have the courage to continually reflect on their own prejudices and practices and to take the risks necessary in their courses to move the field forward.

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