Social Justice and Teacher Education: re-defining the curriculum
Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd
Faculty of Education and Arts
Executive Deans Office / Fogarty Learning Centre
Constrained by the expectations of governments and their education authorities, university teacher education is facing the same demands as schools for the application of so-called evidence-based methods in their teaching programs. Arguably, the result of the emphasis on narrow definitions of effectiveness in university courses is the reduction of commitments to social and educational equality to improvements in test scores and in similar measures of learning achievement. Social justice, as an underlying philosophy in teacher education, has been transformed into a marginalised rhetoric and a practice submerged in the preferences of individual university teachers who have been able to retain some control over the courses of study they teach. Individual teacher agency, in this political and accountability environment, appears not to have much purchase on educational decision-making. The re-structuring of the teacher education program at Victoria University of Technology (Melbourne, Australia) around commitments to social justice and social action is the theme of this paper. At its introductory stage, the re-structuring builds on the counter-intuitive insight that teacher education should contribute directly to improving the learning of school students. The paper will provide an overview of the specific features of the program re-structuring whose principal curriculum features are the school-based 'project' and a semi-structured 'protocol for inquiry' into practice. By re-constructing the structural conditions of teacher education, the aim of the new program is to encourage preservice teachers to be critically inquiring and socially active practitioners. The institutional goal of the program is the re-emphasis of social justice as an explicit discourse in the school-university partnership.