04 SES 11 D, Different Learners, Teaching Practices, and the Curriculum
Teachers are the key to educational and social change in the school environment, which they lead through classroom planning and management practices (Lalas, 2007). These practices are derived, among other things, from the ideological motives that led them to choose the teaching profession and the educational concepts that take shape over the course of their training. Teachers who chose the teaching profession as a second career constitute a particularly interesting group. Research in the 21st century indicates a tendency to choose teaching as a second career for altruistic motives and as the result of a desire to benefit children and adolescents in a multi-cultural social context (Theriot, 2007; Sinclair, 2008; Lee & Lamport, 2011; Wagner & Imanuel-Noy, 2014).
These findings are consistent with the education policy of many countries around the world to narrow the social gap, to promote the values of equality and fairness among children in the educational system. At the same time, the academic institutions for the training of teachers are explicitly engaged in building a vision that strives to build a more just society, and integrate in the training programs aspects of social change, both on the theoretical and clinical levels. Thus, in the framework of the strategies that map the level of involvement of teachers in planning processes on the continuum between passive and independent, student-teachers are given to perceive the role of teacher as active and autonomous, and see themselves less as "curriculum transmitters" and more as "curriculum developers" and “researchers” (Shawer, 2010) who deal with difficulties in complex situations and offer solutions and changes in the wake of reflective thinking (Salberg 2011).
The most activist view is presented by Giroux (1989), who refers to teachers as “critics of curricula for social justice.” According to this stream of critical theory, the education system is a factor that preserves an unequal political, social, economic, and cultural reality that works for the benefit of the established groups through institutional structures, curricula, and teaching (Kochan-Smith, 2008). According to Giroux (1988), teachers must therefore be "intellectual agents of change" who form a "curriculum justice" by "shaping the purposes and conditions of schooling” (p. 126). However, Agarwal, Epstein, et. al. (2010) argue that the term “social justice” has a wide range of meanings and interpretations. Therefore, the researchers suggested that teaching for social justice includes: (a) enacting curricula that integrate multiple perspectives (b) supporting students to develop a critical consciousness of the injustices that characterize our society; and (c) scaffolding opportunities for students to be active participants in a democracy, skilled in forms of civic engagement and deliberative discussion.
Whipp (2013) presented a cluster of teaching practices identified in a social justice-oriented teacher, including caring relationships, high academic expectations, skill/content instruction, "funds of knowledge" pedagogies, use of student interests, cultural heroes, holidays, build background knowledge, differentiation, high behavioral expectations, consistent structure/routines, "warm yet demanding" climate, student empowerment, connection with parents, use of community resources, consciousness-raising, promotion of student activism, and advocacy for change in school policies/practices.
The purpose of this study was to deepen the knowledge of the teaching practices of social justice, which focus on classroom curriculum planning and classroom management, implemented in the context of disadvantaged populations; to map these practices as a model that can be learned and applied. Therefore, the research questions are: How do student-teachers, in their second career, translate their educational perception into curricular decisions and classroom management practices? What areas and practices of social justice do they apply in the low socio-economic status schools where they teach?
The chosen research method is qualitative-interpretive. Identifying and mapping social justice practices applied by student-teachers in their clinical experience was carried out through examination of their seminar papers. Of the 100 students who participated in the Master’s Degree level academic retraining program in the years 2016-2017 at the College of Teacher Education, 18 student-teachers specializing in the teaching of mathematics in the secondary school were chosen as subjects (n=18). As part of their studies, the subjects taught in low socio-economic status schools. Content analysis was performed employing an inductive-constructivist thematic method (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011) upon the students’ research papers – based on action research conducted by the students as part of their studies in a curriculum planning course. The basic assumption is that every research is a political act, because it not only reflects the researcher's position on the given reality, but also influences the choice of research subject and questions, the research procedure, and the words he chooses to describe his findings and conclusions, and which in turn construct reality (Ife, 1997). The texts of these seminar papers reflected the students' ideological and educational worldviews and the challenge they faced. As part of the action research they were required to perform and report on, they were asked to detail the actions they would take to try to solve the identified challenge and to implement an intervention program and evaluate its degree of success in a reflective manner. In the first stage, a preliminary analysis was performed on each research work separately, in order to make a decision regarding the required theoretical framework. In addition, during this analysis, the explicit practices were identified. At this stage, a list of practices on a variety of topics was formulated. The categorical distribution of the list of practices in the field of social justice was formulated in the second stage of the analysis. Concurrently, in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with each of the student-teachers. The purpose of the interviews was to deepen the understanding of the practices identified and to validate the interpretation proposed by the researcher.
The research findings reveal that in 80% of the research papers analyzed, the concept of the role of "teachers as intellectuals" (Cochran-Smith, 2008) is presented, whereby students see the school as an arena for social justice (Whipp, 2013), while the majority of students’ attention is identifying and exposing social educational injustices, such as selection mechanisms, unfair allocation of resources, and cultural bias in the use of language during class. At the same time, they express a desire to explore and implement practices intended to improve the educational and social situation of children and youth. The study identified five main categories of social remediation practices that students included in the intervention program they developed: (a) classification and differentiation practices; (b) practices related to teaching and learning methods; (c) practices related to the classroom climate and teacher-pupil relationships; (d) practices related to assessing student achievement; and (e) practices related to organizing the learning environment. However, previous research findings show that alongside the high capacity of student-teachers to generate social change, there is a low sense of competence in their involvement and influence in the school organization (Wagner & Imanuel-Noy, 2014). In light of this, the degree of autonomy given to teachers in the course of their duties should be examined, otherwise they will not be able to fulfill their ideologies within the educational framework.
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