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Disability and the Meaning of Social Justice in Teacher Education Research: A Precarious Guest at the Table?

This article is an excerpt that originally appeared in the AACTE Journal of Teacher Education (JTE) and is co-authored by Marleen C. Pugach, Ananya M. Matewos, and Joyce Gomez-Najarro. AACTE members have free access to the articles in the JTE online archives—log in with your AACTE profile to read the full article.

Preparing teachers for social justice has long been a driving force within teacher education, reflecting a commitment to educating students from multiple social identity groups who are marginalized and oppressed in schools. Given any particular decade, specific social identity markers may take center stage in this work—with new markers gaining visibility as previously neglected identity groups begin to receive vital, much needed attention.

Alongside social justice concerns for equity regarding race, class, ethnicity, gender, language, socioeconomic status and, more recently, sexual orientation and religion, stands the question of disability. As part of the overall vision for social justice, disability is generally viewed as a key social marker of identity. Yet students with disabilities continue to be marginalized and have persistently lower academic outcomes, such as graduation rates, compared to their mainstream peers (U.S. Department of Education, 2015). The connection between social justice and disability was amplified with the emergence of the disability studies in education (DSE) movement in the 1990s, which views disability as a socially constructed phenomenon, shifting its historical definition away from an immutable individual characteristic (Baglieri et al., 2011). Furthermore, the inclusion of students with disabilities itself has long been viewed as a social justice issue (Artiles et al., 2006).

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