Teaching and educating for social justice: a call for critical teacher education

Ninetta Santoro

Research output: Contribution to conferenceKeynote


Teaching and educating for social justice features strongly in how many teachers envision the purpose of their work. They mostly enter the profession for altruistic reasons and to make a positive difference to the material and social aspects of students' lives. However, often there are tensions between what teachers want to do and achieve and what it is they are able to do. Despite the best of teacher intentions, some groups of students are disadvantaged by, and within schooling systems that fail to address their needs and cannot provide them with education that is meaningful and effective.

In this paper I address such tensions and inconsistencies. I raise questions about what teaching for social justice means in practice and particularly, in relation to culturally and linguistically diverse students and the development of culturally responsive pedagogies. Despite their desire to teach for social justice, many teachers struggle to address the learning needs of students who are not from the dominant cultural mainstream. Students of colour, immigrants and refugees are often marginalised by ineffective education practices and thus, denied access to the social and material resources that facilitate their full participation in society.

I draw on my own research as well as the work of key international scholars in the field to illustrate and highlight what I see as the barriers to teachers' effective engagement with issues of educational disadvantage and social injustice. I then argue the need for critical teacher education, that is, education that develops teachers' critical awareness about how relations of power and historical and socio-political discourses shape education and teaching practices. Importantly, a critical teacher education enables teachers to develop reflective and reflexive dispositions. Thus, it has the potential to make visible, those practices that sustain inequality and injustice within schooling systems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Nov 2013
Event Education for Social Justice - Uppsala University, Uppsala , Sweden
Duration: 28 Nov 201329 Nov 2013


Conference Education for Social Justice


  • teaching and education
  • social justice
  • critical teacher education


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