The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

Moving from Self to System: A Framework for Social Justice Centered on Issues and Action

Ashley Summer Boyd, Alison E. LaGarry, Jessie Montana Cain


In this article, authors propose a framework for social justice in preservice teacher education that differs from traditional approaches to diversity related courses. Rather than a sole focus on the ‘isms’, such as racism or classism, five distinct yet simultaneously occurring components are offered for the paradigm. First, this approach to social justice must continuously examine students’ autobiographical experiences. Learners interpret new information through their personal, socially constructed lenses, and it is thus crucial to help them identify and unpack their complex experiences. Second, we call for an organization by topics of concern for dismantling inequity, such as understanding systemic injustices within schools and outside of schools; the social construction of identity; and examining both how and what we teach. Third, we incorporate the critical analysis of media in order to better understand the ways issues are constructed and upheld in the dominant hegemonic culture. Fourth, our model encourages students to conceptualize social justice not only in pedagogical ways, but also as it relates to the content so as to address students’ struggles in connecting social justice to their discipline or grade level. Finally, this method includes the creation and implementation of social action projects. Too often we teach students ‘about’—about theories, about people, about schools without involving our students in the act of social justice.  For each component, we provide a description and justification as well as tangible examples of its implementation from our own practice.  We include further considerations for using the paradigm in discipline-specific ways and end with a call to action for continuing social justice education.  


Social justice; teacher education; autobiography; critical media literacy; social action projects

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