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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Exploring Social Justice Conceptions and Self-Reported Practices with Teacher Candidates

  • Author(s): Mamikonyan, Tatevik
  • Advisor(s): Kellner, Douglas M.
  • et al.

This two year longitudinal study focused on the evolving conceptions and self-reported practices regarding social justice of twelve diverse teacher candidates who were enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles’s (UCLA’s) teacher education program (TEP). The distinctive attribute of this study was to reveal how the social justice conceptions and practices of the twelve candidates changed between the time they entered and completed an urban-centered, social justice oriented teacher education program.

Using qualitative methods, this study conducted four interviews with each participant, one in the beginning and end of each academic year, over the two year program period. The theoretical backdrop for the analysis conducted during this study, included the works of critical pedagogue Paulo Freire and scholarship grounded in the critical tradition urging educators to be engaged in self reflection and be well informed about the structural inequalities due to social, historical, political and cultural contexts.

The results of the study indicate that all participants increased their understanding and commitment towards social justice education, and made an effort to integrate social justice into their pedagogical practice. Those who were initially committed to social justice ideals, maintained and further expanded their understandings and practices of social justice. Alternatively, those who were initially unaware and uncommitted to social justice issues gained an increased understanding of the concepts—mostly rooted in the instructional application of social justice—but had not integrated their concepts into teaching. This study did not evaluate UCLA’s teacher education programs’ impact, but rather explored the evolving notions of social justice among candidates as they completed their course of study.

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