Teaching for social justice within the language curriculum : embedded assumptions and pedagogical practices of a secondary school teacher.
This study was located within the critical research paradigm. It examined the ways a secondary teacher of English Home Language conceptualised and interpreted social justice imperatives in the English Home Language Curriculum Statement for Grades 10 to 12. It further examined how these conceptualisations and her understandings impacted on her pedagogical practice. The aim of the study was to initiate a discussion and engagement with critical pedagogy and critical theory in education and to recognise the powerful role of the teacher in the classroom. The study used a qualitative case study method. Data generation included document analysis, interviews and lesson observation. The methodology used for the analysis of data was Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) in view of its critical perspective and its focus on power and discourse, and the identification of oppressive discourse/s in social interactions. The participant in the study was a white, female teacher with ten years teaching experience at a fairly well-resourced school in the KwaZulu-Natal area. The study found that this teacher‘s conceptualisation of social justice, and the implications of this on her classroom pedagogy, was influenced by her own social realities. Overall, her conceptualisation of the social justice imperatives in the curriculum was rather narrow and limited to understandings that could be linked to traditional multicultural education. Four discourses of social justice embedded in the teacher‘s assumptions and pedagogical practices, emerged from the analysis: the discourse of academic excellence; the discourse of inclusivity and diversity; the discourse of affirmation and validation; and the discourse of critical thinking. The study highlighted the need for further research to support teachers in adopting a social justice approach to teaching. In order to address the social justice imperatives identified in the curriculum, South African teachers need to become critical agents of change. This could only be done by identifying their understandings about what it means to teach critically and to examine their assumptions about teaching for social justice.