Developing Critical Capacities for Social Justice in Teacher Candidates

As preKindergarten-12 educational contexts in the US and around the world become increasingly more diverse, it is ever more critical for teacher candidates to examine and explore their own identity and positionality. Our undergraduate teacher education program attracts candidates who are predominantly White, middle-class, CIS-gendered, heteronormative, and able. They hail from towns and cities in which they are most often positioned as part of the dominant identity group. Our concern is that public schools do not reflect these privileged identities. This paper describes the practices of two teacher educators responsible for introductory coursework in a traditional teacher education program. Our goal is to develop practitioners who are reflective and who see themselves as agents of social change. Developing anti-racist perspectives through the study of their own identities is central to this goal. Work by Arao & Clemens (2013), DiAngelo & Sensoy (2014), and Nieto (2008) helps to frame this work. Our introductory courses are important environments in which to develop our students’ critical and analytical thinking about their identities, the nature of schools, and the profession. We do this by troubling their privileged identities and positionalities, to engage them in learning about social justice (Harro, 2013; Tatum, 2013; McDermott & Samson, 2005). Through assignments like a demographic analysis of their hometown, readings focused on identity and identity development, and Freire’s (1973/1990) Pedagogy of the Oppressed we hope to dispell the notion of “colorblindness” and to develop in our students a more grounded and responsive view of themselves.

Teacher Preparation, Social Justice, Identity

Learning in Higher Education

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

  • Paul Vellom
    • Associate Professor, Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies, Western Michigan University, United States Michigan, United States