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Critical personal reflection on how to cultivate a learning community to cater for

diversity, social justice and equity.

Our game ‘Genex Tower’ has been developed to highlight the transparency of

diversity when it comes to personal identity. We selected intersecting groups to

highlight the prejudice and power play at work in society and how some groups

have better life opportunities than others. We focused on the equity issues

experience by the privileged versus the marginalized. We used intersections of

ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality and class to show the multidimensional

nature of personal experience. Our main aim was to expose young people to the

difficulties faced by others. In implementing the various social justice issues into

our game it was highlighted how difficult it can be to implement effecting

pedagogical practices.

Cultural diversity, gender expression, social power, privilege and linguistic and

economic diversity are all-important issues that arise. Society in general tries to

homogenise everything, normalising the different, with people thus losing their

identity. As in our game, a person’s agency can be removed or diminished due to

the misconception that they must fit into a certain “box” or category (Saltmarsh,

2007). By analysing and integrating social justice issues into my pedagogical

practices it is my hope that these forms of generalisations will be weeded out.

Keddie (2011) states that although there is an unprecedented amount of

diversity in schools, our classroom practices continue to reinforce and sustain

the concept of inequality and exclusionary understandings about differences and

diversity. She further states that the marginalised are still discriminated against

due to their racial, religious and cultural differences (Keddie, 2011).

Social justice issues need to be addressed early in a student’s schooling so that

acceptance and inclusion can be experienced by all students, not just those that

society have deemed ‘normal’. However, teachers feel that they are ill-equipped

and don’t have enough knowledge to deal with situations arising from inequality,

especially towards sexual diversity (Ferfolja, 2015, Ullman & Ferfolja, 2013).

Ferfolja (2015) states that part of the issue for beginner teachers is that they

know the theories on how to teach students but they experience difficulties

putting these theories into practise within educational settings (2015).

Theoretical considerations are highly woven into teachers understanding of

their students, so exposure to pedagogical theories and the best ways to inform

students on social justice issues are paramount. Understanding these theories

enables pre-service teachers to continually ask questions, reflect on the

application of the theories and adapt the theories to better aid their own lives

and the lives of the students they are teaching (Ferfolja, 2015).

My teaching practice will address issues of equality and diversity through

looking at social theories and what they propose is the best way of approaching

social justice in education. The main social theory I am going to focus on is

critical theory. Critical theories help create new perspective to look at

educational and social phenomena and are important in education as it

highlights the inequality and marginalization of groups. (Sever, 2012). My

pedagogical practices would focus around praxis and the concept of

transforming the elations of power to bring about a more just and equitable

world for marginalized communities (Ferfolja, 2015). My pedagogical practice

will aim to include all, and practice not just equality but equity, meaning if some

students need more help than others I will aim to recognize this and address the

issue head on. Furthermore I will ensure that my classroom allows group

engagement for all and will ensure recognition of language deficit (Creagh,

2012). It will be my aim not to stereotype students and to not avoid addressing

issues of difference out of fear from getting it wrong (Keddie, 2011). In my

classroom, I will aim to give a voice to all students, not just the privileged. As

Keddie (2011) suggests in her research, I will ensure that my pedagogical

practices incorporate creating a positive and socially supporting classroom

where minorities’ voices are heard and respected. I will also incorporate a

culturally diverse curriculum and day–to-day lesson plan so that the cultural

norm students are made aware of the various cultures in their classroom and in

the real world (Ho, 2011). Not all students are aware of multiculturalism in

society and through incorporating this into my unit plans I will allow the

marginalized to have a voice in the classroom (Ho, 2011).

Watkins & Noble, (2016) believe that one of the main aims of the Australian

curriculum is to highlight and promote intercultural understanding. Thought

needs to be given to the skills and knowledge students need for living in the

word they inhabit. The Australian curriculum does highlight the need for

students to develop empathy, and learn about and engage with diverse cultures

but it does not teach the teachers themselves as professionals how to engage the

students in the issues, and that they themselves are not equipped with the skills
and knowledge of intercultural understanding (Watkins and Noble, 2016). This

highlights that I need to address social issues in my classroom to not only equip

the students with the knowledge of acceptance and empathy to all marginalized

people on society, but also to ensure that I can teach this effectively; that I

completely comprehend the social justice issues that are occurring in society. As

a teacher, I need to think critically not only to adopt a capacity to critique but

then also apply my understanding in productive ways with students inside and

outside the classroom (Watford & Noble, 2016)

This unit has opened my eyes to the social justice issues experienced by the

marginalized in education. Through the use of critical theory I have gained a

stronger understandings of the way pedagogical practices can help the

understanding of “the other”. Furthermore, I have gained knowledge as a pre-

teacher that through community and school-wide awareness cultural

understanding can be achieved.

Reference List

Creagh, S. (2012). 'Language background other than English': A problem

NAPLaN test category for Australian students of refugee background. Race

Ethnicity and Education, 1-22.

Ferfolja, T.; Jones Diaz, C. & Ullman, J. (2015). Understanding Sociological Theory for

Educational Practices. Australia: Cambridge University Press

Ho, C. (2011). Respecting the Presence of Others: School Micropublics and Everyday

Multiculturalism, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 32(6), 603-619.

Keddie, A. (2011). Educating for diversity and social justice. Professional

Educator, 10(3), 27-30.

Saltmarsh, S. (2007). Cultural complicities: elitism, heteronormativity and violence in

the education marketplace, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in

Education, 20(3), 335-354.

Sever, M. (2012). A critical look at the theories of sociology of education.

International Journal of Human Sciences. Vol. 9 (1), p650-671

Ullman, J. & Ferfolja, T. (2015). Bureaucratic constructions of sexual diversity:

‘sensitive’, ‘controversial’ and silencing. Teaching Education, 26(2), 145-159.

Watkins, M., & Noble, G. (2016). Thinking beyond recognition: Multiculturalism,

cultural intelligence, and the professional capacities of teachers, Review of

Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 38(1), 42-57.