Inspiring social justice: Teacher educators’ experiences of culturally and linguistically sustaining pedagogies in initial teacher education units

Author Identifier


Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)


School of Education

First Supervisor

Dr. Annamaria Paolino

Second Supervisor

Dr. Jane Merewether

Third Supervisor

Dr. Christine Cunningham


Australia represents a multitude of cultures and languages with over a quarter of residents born overseas and over one-fifth speaking a language other than English at home. Yet Australian pedagogy and praxis remain heavily influenced by dominant Anglocentric systems of knowledge and culture, with schooling and the curriculum shaped by whiteness. The literature reveals a gap surrounding the critical orientations of teacher educators and highlights disparities between teacher education programs and their provision of culturally and linguistically sustaining education.

Informed by Critical Theory, this research explores teacher educators’ experiences of Culturally and Linguistically Sustaining Pedagogies (CLSP) within Initial Teacher Education (ITE) units at Australian universities. The study was framed by Critical Pedagogy and underpinned by a lens of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies (Paris, 2021) in its examination of how teacher educators enact social justice and sustain diverse linguistic and cultural heritages.

A survey instrument was developed from the literature to explore teacher educators’ dispositions and experiences in relation to CLSP. Data were collected from a survey of 209 teacher educators who work in teacher education programs at Australian universities. In addition, 23 interviews with teacher educators were conducted.

The data centre six salient themes related to teacher educators’ dispositions and experiences of CLSP within ITE units. Data interpretation foregrounds a social justice agenda as a key driving force in the enactment of CLSP. Teacher educators with a deep commitment towards CLSP fostered critical consciousness and engaged in critical reflexive practice. The data also illustrate teacher educators may experience conflict due to a neoliberal influence on education which impacts agency to adopt CLSP.

The survey data suggest generally strong dispositions towards CLSP, although attitudes towards conflict, multilingual practices, and EAL/D pedagogy appear to vary. The interview data also highlight a lack of efficacy surrounding plurilingual pedagogy and EAL/D practices. Monolingual attitudes and superficial multilingual practices may exist within ITE programs which impact the adoption of CLSP.

Findings also centre respondents’ experiences of working to overcome preservice teachers’ resistance towards CLSP. Interviewees reported challenges when facilitating dialogue to foster preservice teachers’ understanding of their own positionality and whiteness. The data highlight respondents’ efforts to disrupt the silence around racism as part of CLSP and reveal a disparate approach to anti-racist pedagogy within ITE units.

This interpretation illustrates the fraught space within which teacher educators operate and the ways in which pedagogies which are culturally and linguistically sustaining may be supported or hindered. The findings of the study have implications for ITE programs within Australia and in similar contexts where teacher education remains dominated by whiteness.

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