11. When Walking the Walk Changes the Talk: Using Critical Reflection to Inform Practices of Social Justice Research and Social Justice
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189 11 When Walking the Walk Changes the Talk: Using Critical Reflection to Inform Practices of Social Justice Research and Social Justice Education Sabrina Ross and Alma Stevenson Social justice education is concerned with processes of teaching and learning that are directed at helping students critically reflect on dehumanizing sociopolitical conditions and the actions they can take to alter those circumstances (Adams, Bell, & Griffin, 2007). With its focus on improving social conditions, social justice education is closely aligned with Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) practices that emphasize connections between reflective, inquiry-oriented teaching and social transformation (Gilpin & Liston, 2009). Social justice education and transformative SoTL practices share an emphasis on critical reflection—identification and interrogation of beliefs that influence thoughts and actions, and transformation of beliefs that are not supportive of one’s educational goals (Brookfield, 1995). Critical reflection facilitates processes of social justice education and transformative practices of SoTL because it enables educators to identify connections between their individual teaching practices and broader educational and political goals (Brookfield, 1995); perceiving these connections is a necessary step toward social justice (Gilpin & Liston, 2009). In this chapter, our goal is to illuminate the significance of critical reflection for social justice education by focusing on the role of critical reflection in ensuring alignment between social justice claims and social justice practice. Consistent with qualitative principles of reflexivity and credibility (Weis & Fine, 2000), we employ a 190 | Ross and Stevenson first-person writing style in this chapter to highlight our own situatedness in the social justice inquiry we engage. We use a multivocal format of qualitative writing (Creamer, 2006) to highlight the diversity of our interpretive experiences and perspectives. The pronouns “we” and “our” are used when the writing reflects our shared interpretations ; the pronouns “I” and “my” are in individual narrative accounts to reflect differing perspectives, experiences, and/or interpretations. We use the phrase “walking the walk and talking the talk” to emphasize necessary connections between teaching about social justice and engaging in actions that support social justice. Through processes of critical reflection engaged during implementation of a summer literacy program for African American youth, one of us (Ross) recognized teaching practices that were inconsistent with the goals of social justice education. Using Brookfield’s (1995) four lenses of critical reflection (autobiographical, students’ perspectives, colleagues’ perspectives, and theoretical literature) to operationalize connections between critical reflection and social justice education, we discuss the ways in which critical reflection on our practices of social justice education resulted in changes to our summer literacy program as well as changes in the undergraduate teaching of one author (Ross). Organization of the Chapter The organization of this chapter corresponds to the four lenses of critical reflection proposed by Brookfield (1995): autobiographical, students’ perspectives, colleagues’ perspectives, and theoretical. Section one, “The Lenses of Critical Reflection,” details these four lenses and also presents our justification for their usage in this chapter. Section two, “Talking the Talk,” uses individual narratives to present the personal experiences and teaching philosophies that inform the social justice education we attempt to provide as teacher educators. This section corresponds to the autobiographical lens of critical reflection. Section three, “Walking the Walk,” discusses our conceptualization and implementation of a culturally relevant literacy program to support African American students. This section corresponds to Brookfield’s (1995) second and third lenses of critical reflection (students’ perspectives and colleagues’ perspectives); it explores unanticipated student responses to our social justice curriculum and changes we made to the literacy program following our critical reflection on those responses. Section four, “Changing the Talk,” revisits Ross’s autobiographical lens and its connections to teacher education. The lack of compatibility between one of those practices (i.e., an oversimplified discussion of culturally responsive teaching) and Ross’s social justice aims is discussed. Corresponding to Brookfield’s final lens of critical reflection (theoretical literature), this section emphasizes the importance of critical reflection for social justice by highlighting connections between pedagogy, inquiry, and social justice efforts. We conclude the chapter with a discussion of the significance of the present work for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. When Walking the Walk Changes the Talk | 191 The Lenses of Critical Reflection In his classic text Becoming a Critically Reflective Educator, Stephen Brookfield (1995) makes the argument that developing effective teaching practices requires faculty members to understand and identify the power relationships that influence processes of teaching and learning and the taken-for-granted ideas about one’s teaching that limit transformation. Arguing that power dynamics manifest themselves...