Good and just teaching: The case for social justice in teacher education

Marilyn Cochran Smith, Karen Shakman, Cindy Jong, Dianna G. Terreli, Joan Barnatt, Patrick Mcquillan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

199 Scopus citations


A particularly controversial aspect of teacher preparation is the increasing number of teacher preparation programs that emphasize "social justice" as part of the curriculum. This article examines how students in a program with a social justice agenda understood the concept and how their understandings played out in practice. Using interviews and observations, we show that teacher candidates focused on ensuring pupils' learning rather than merely boosting their self-esteem or spreading political ideologies, as critics of the social justice agenda suggest. In classrooms, candidates concentrated on teaching content and skills but also had a critical perspective, built on pupils' cultural resources, and attempted to reach every pupil. We argue that teaching for social justice, or what we title "good and just teaching," reflects an essential purpose of teaching in a democratic society in which the teacher is an advocate for students whose work supports larger efforts for social change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-377
Number of pages31
JournalAmerican Journal of Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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