13. “The Way I View the World Has Changed”: Student and Teacher Reflections on Transformative Social Justice Education
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228 13 “The Way I View the World Has Changed”: Student and Teacher Reflections on Transformative Social Justice Education Annemarie Vaccaro, Athina Chartelain, Sarah D. Croft, Brooke D’Aloisio, Tiffany Hoyt, and Brian Stevens Learning about and doing social justice is a lifelong journey. For some of us, that journey begins with, or is intensified through, a particular life event or educational experience, such as an academic course about diversity. Annemarie Vaccaro, the instructor of two graduate-level courses about social justice in higher education, writes the first section of this chapter. She describes the courses as well as specific assignments designed to yield critical reflection and social justice action. The second portion of the chapter is coauthored by Athina Chartelain, Sarah D. Croft, Brooke D’Aloisio, Tiffany Hoyt, and Brian Stevens, former students who offer evidence from course assignments and postcourse retrospection about the transformative nature of these social justice educational experiences. In the introduction to this text, editors Liston and Rahimi reminded readers of Shulman’s (2002) argument that educators have an “obligation to inquire into the consequences of one’s work with students” (p. vii). This chapter serves as one example of how teachers and students can engage in transformative learning communities during an academic course and well after it ends. “The Way I View the World Has Changed” | 229 Since creating a more socially just world requires change, this chapter explicates how transformative social justice education can prompt action on behalf of learners. Through critical reflection on our experiences, we (as teachers and learners) offer specific insight into the ways the courses in general, and reflective writing assignments in particular, prompted transformative learning and social justice action. Encapsulating all of our rich educational experiences in one short chapter would be impossible. Instead, we have chosen to focus on four specific topics related to our transformative learning: the shift in our world views, the process of critical reflection, the emotional nature of social justice education, and the social justice action we were inspired to engage in. Course and Paper Overview Athina Chartelain, Sarah D. Croft, Brooke D’Aloisio, Tiffany Hoyt, and Brian Stevens are former students in one of two graduate courses that addressed social justice topics of oppression, privilege, identity, and cultural competency in higher education. Both courses are designed to help emerging educational professionals become more inclusive and socially just in their practice. To design these courses, I, Annemarie Vaccaro, use critical perspectives such as inclusive pedagogy (Tuitt, 2006), feminist pedagogy (Maher & Tetreault, 1994, 2006; Tisdell, 1995), transgressive education (Freire, 1970/2006; hooks, 1994), transformative learning (Brookfield, 1995, 2000; Dirkx, 1998; Mezirow, 1991), matrix of domination (Collins, 2000), and the multiple dimensions of oppression (Hardiman & Jackson, 2007). Unfortunately, there is not enough space in this short chapter to discuss each of these pedagogical perspectives. However, overlapping themes from these perspectives that undergird the courses included valuing students as active agents of the learning process; sharing power with students by inviting them to make decisions about curriculum, pedagogy, and classroom expectations; acknowledging the influence of sociopolitical structures on everyday life; encouraging students to engage in deep self-reflection about their social identities and assumptions about the world; infusing active learning into the classroom; inspiring inclusive and socially just action; role modeling risk taking and compassionate questioning by the instructor; and seeking paradigm-shifting learning outcomes as opposed to mere comprehension of course materials. Taken together, these pedagogical elements served as a foundation for our course learning communities. To structure these courses, I used a basic framework that contains three components :learningaboutthematrixofoppression,engagingstudentsindeepself-reflection, and calling students to action (Vaccaro, 2013). I believe students must first gain a foundational knowledge about the matrix of domination, where individuals experience and resist marginalization on three levels: individual, group, and system (Collins, 2000; Hardiman & Jackson, 2007). In this course rooted in critical and transformative paradigms , students are asked to go beyond mere comprehension of key concepts (e.g., 230 | Vaccaro et al. identity, oppression, privilege) to engage in critical reflection (Brookfield, 1995, 2000; Mezirow, 1991) on self and society. They are also invited to begin planning socially just action within their personal and professional spheres of influence. Woven into the courses is an emphasis on the nature of privilege and oppression in the United States as well as an emphasis on multiple and intersecting social identities (e.g., race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability) (Abes, Jones, & McEwen, 2007; Choo & Ferree, 2010; Museus & Griffin, 2011; Shields, 2008). The course allows...


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