10 SES 01 A, Teaching for Social Justice
The University of East London (UEL) offers initial teacher education leading to qualified teacher status in primary, secondary (including secondary employment based routes) and in post-compulsory education and training. The programmes are located in the university’s Cass School of Education and Communities and the university works in partnership with a wide range of schools and colleges and several local authorities, many of whom recruit students on graduation.
Last summer I worked with recent graduates from our primary and secondary postgraduate teacher education programme on a project funded by Civic Engagement. At UEL the Civic Engagement Fund supports hands-on projects that engage with or positively impact local communities. This project developed from a research project I’ve been working on with Professor Jean Murray (White & Murray, 2016). As members of the UK wide Poverty and Teacher Education research group, our work is concerned with the complex intersectionality in England between poverty, social class, disadvantage and educational attainment and in particular thinking about how we, as teacher educators, can develop student-teachers’ awareness and understanding of issues of social justice and equip them for teaching in schools in areas of disadvantage and social exclusion.
In this Civic Engagement project I collaborated with the Educational Video Centre (NYC), a non-profit youth media organization dedicated to teaching documentary video as a means to develop the artistic, critical literacy, and career skills of young people, while nurturing their idealism and commitment to social change (Goodman, 2003). The project was conceived as an intensive, five-day experience of making media, civic reflection and curriculum development. Working with (soon to be) teachers in the local community to develop practical engaged pedagogical strategies, the aim of the research was to consider how we might support educators to develop the knowledge, skills and practices to use media as a tool for exploring issues of poverty, race and civic engagement in their own classrooms – and impact on the communities in which they work.
Over a five day period beginner teachers engaged in modelled lessons, produced a video enquiry project, reflected on their experience as learners, as facilitators and as teachers, and learnt how to practice a culturally responsive pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995) that integrates principles of media education, critical literacy, and civic engagement.
While there is a great deal of research on youth media practices (Fisherkeller, 2011), and a range of helpful guides for teaching media in school (Scarratt & Davison, 2011) there are limited materials focussed on media pedagogy in teacher education. This project offered a pedagogical space to explore and (sometimes challenge) deficit views and create pedagogies for social justice and inclusion in teacher education.
This project is situated at the intersections of teacher education, critical media literacy and civic engagement in order to have the greatest impact on pedagogical practice. We engaged with a documentary production process to develop critical literacy, a ‘discourse that foregrounds and questions power relations’ (Shor, 1999, p. 18) and support the development of ‘conceptual tools necessary to critique and engage society along with its inequalities and injustices’ (ibid., p. 20). This project offered postgraduate student teachers a critically engaged professional workshop and coaching programme (which continued in their first year of employment) where they learnt to collaboratively produce their own documentary video as well as develop strategies for facilitating a project based enquiry process with their own pupils in response to community issues. The completed documentary film represents their engagement in the learning and production process and is an example of civic engagement in action. The research is situated within the traditions of practitioner enquiry (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2015) and feminist research (Letherby, 2003) and the findings are analysed using a bespoke theoretical framework, combining perspectives on teaching for social justice through teacher education (Clarke & Drudy, 2006) research on the processes of learning to teach (Burns and Mutton,2015) and studies of media education and critical literacy (Buckingham, 2003). Working with pre service teachers this research involves systematic documentation and analysis both of the pedagogical context and of the research materials including the documentary video, photography and reflections produced by the student teachers. Additional data sources include interviews with participants at the start of the project and follow up interviews once in they began teaching in schools after graduation.
Reflecting the conference theme of inclusion and exclusion, the research at the heart of this paper is concerned with how pre-service students conceptualise and experience poverty and disadvantage when teaching in schools in socio-economically deprived areas and how media education practices might be developed as a model of teacher education. At a time when one in four people in the EU experience poverty or social exclusion (Eurostat online data code (t2020_50) this paper offers one approach to how media education and visual or media pedagogical practices can be used to challenge the stereotypical deficit models of those who are excluded and the potential for innovative social justice work in teacher education. Findings from this study showed that engagement with media education practices and visual research methods gave student teachers pedagogically well-structured spaces for the expression and exchange of a diversity of views about inclusion, poverty and social class, and raised important questions about the role of media education practices in the classroom. In this paper I reflect on the project and report on the practices participants are now using in school in their first year as qualified classroom teachers.
Buckingham, D. (2003) Media Education: Literacy, Learning and Contemporary Culture, London: Polity Press Clarke, M. & Drudy, S. (2006) Teaching for diversity, social justice and global awareness. European Journal of Teacher Education, 29(3), 371-386. Doi:1080/02619760600795239 Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (2015). Inquiry as Stance: Practitioner Research for the Next Generation. New York, NY: Teachers College Press Cooper, K. & Stewart, K. (2013). Does money affect children’s outcomes? A systematic review, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation Fisherkeller, J. (ed) (2011) International Perspectives on Youth Media: Cultures of Production and Education. New York: Peter Lang Fry, S., & Seely, S. (2011). Enhancing Preservice Elementary Teachers’ 21st Century Information and Media Literacy Skills. Action in Teacher Education, 33(2), 206-218. doi: http://doi.org/10.1080/01626620.2011.569468 Goodman, S. (2003) Teaching Youth Media: A Critical Guide to Literacy, Video Production & Social Change. New York: Teachers College Press Ladson-Billings, G. (1995) “Towards a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy,” American Educational Research Journal 32, no.3 (Autumn 1995): 465-91 Shor, I. (1999). What is critical literacy? In I. Shor & C. Pari (Eds.), Critical literacy in action: Writing words, changing worlds, (pp. 1–30). Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, Heinemann White, M.L. & Murray, J. (2016) Seeing disadvantage in schools: exploring student teachers’ perceptions of poverty and disadvantage using visual pedagogy, Journal of Education for Teaching, 42:4, 500-515
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