Teacher Scholars for Social Justice
At Illinois Wesleyan University, teacher education is grounded in the liberal arts and social justice mission of the University. Studies in the liberal arts, sciences, and humanities bring historical, philosophical, social and cultural context to the educative endeavor. The teacher’s challenge requires the same spirit of inquiry, creativity of thought, skillful communication, and strength of character expressed in the university mission. As we educate future teachers, we aim to enable them to think critically and creatively about the processes and prospects of education, and the role of education and the teacher in a diverse and democratic society.
In particular, our mission is to educate teachers who are committed to social justice in their classrooms and schools so that the democratic ideals of equity and opportunity are realized for all students. This mission, in turn, necessitates that the university’s commitment to diversity be embraced by teacher educators and future teachers alike. Given that the student population is becoming increasingly diverse while teachers remain overwhelmingly white, female, and middle class, teachers are challenged to work with students from a wide range of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic origins, abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Thus, we strive to prepare teachers who understand, appreciate, and are responsive to students from diverse backgrounds, and who have the knowledge, skills and dispositions to foster learning among all children regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, language, class, gender and/or ability. We hold to a vision of teachers committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of all students, teachers who will inspire among their students a passion for learning and acting in the world, and in so doing, who will transform the educational landscape. This is our vision of teacher scholars committed to social justice. Printable Version (pdf)
Dispositions of Teacher Scholars for Social Justice
Scholarly reflection involves asking questions, rethinking what one knows, posing problems, and generating possible solutions. It requires self knowledge. Collaborative reflection engages candidates in inquiry communities with their peers, their mentors, and their students. We expect candidates to re-examine their assumptions about learning and teaching, to be open to new ideas, to take seriously the tasks of self-assessment in considering how one engages all students in learning, and to engage in perspective taking to understand the experiences of students different from themselves. Teaching for social justice necessarily requires reflection about the educational implications of students’ culture, ethnicity, class, language, and ability. Teacher scholars reflect upon their disciplinary knowledge and how to bring that knowledge to life for the students they teach. They examine their own practices as well as institutional practices with respect to creating inclusive, democratic classrooms.
Inquiring into one’s students, one’s discipline, one’s teaching practices, and institutional practices while addressing the imperatives of social justice requires initiative, artistry, and creativity on the part of teachers. Resourcefulness requires a commitment to ongoing learning, the ability to draw from theory, research, and disciplinary knowledge when developing curriculum and pedagogy responsive to culture, ethnicity, class, language and ability. Resourcefulness involves searching for and modifying meaningful curricular materials, engaging teaching technologies, and collaborating with specialists, colleagues, families and community members to meet the learning needs of their students.
Inquiring into and reflecting upon the problems and prospects of schooling is not sufficient by itself if one is to adopt a commitment to teaching for social justice. One must engage in praxis. The concept of praxis comes to life in myriad ways as candidates respond to the lived realities of students in their classrooms. Responsiveness is required to develop authentic, reciprocal, and empowering relationships with students and their families and to develop multicultural, inclusive and democratic pedagogies. In turn, responsiveness requires an emotional capacity to enter into learning and teaching relationships, to appreciate and respect student and family diversity, and to willingly engage in collaboration with colleagues and students’ families to meet students’ needs. Responsiveness demands genuine care, and concern for all students’ well-being and academic success. It includes taking time to know one’s students and to thoughtfully create supportive learning environments. Responsiveness involves establishing caring, inclusive, inspiring and safe learning communities in which all students feel they belong. All of this in turn requires candidates to be reflective and resourceful; thus these three themes are integrally intertwined.