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Vol. 18 (2005 Spring)

Two Women Professors Search for Tools to Teach Social Justice

June 1, 2023


One of the promises of higher education is that instruction cultivates critical thinking and insight into social reality, and, ultimately, contributes to a more just society.  The disappointment is that coursework does little to help students begin the process of critically examining their own thinking, feelings, and desires. The purpose of our study was to discover how university coursework acquaints students with the issues of democratic community and social justice, to help them begin to examine the issues more critically, and provide students with an impetus to work for change in their communities.

The study was initially conducted in one course in the college of education’s educational leadership department during the summer semester 2003. It then continued during the fall 2004 semester in four courses: two courses in the Department of Educational Leadership with two sections of Social Foundations of Diverse Communities. The other two courses were in the bachelor’s of general studies program: ProSeminar in Critical Skills and Diversity in the Workplace.The study asked the following questions: 

1. In one semester of coursework designed to acquaint students with issues of    social justice, do students experience a change in their:

  • Definition of social justice?
  • Recognition of practices relevant to social justice in their organizations?
  • Sense of responsibility for contributing to change in the distribution of justice?

2. What specific type of pedagogy promoted movement toward change?