Future professionals' perceptions of the impact of programme curriculum, pedagogies, and wider university environment on their development as agents of social justice

Project Details


A dimension of academic programmes that is of great significance to the education of socially responsible professionals is the development of their capacities to enact principles of social justice in the many different and varied professional contexts in which they will work. One of the graduate attributes promoted by the UoE is an understanding of the social, cultural, global and environmental responsibilities and issues. The proposed project explores how the University curricula and pedagogies designed to promote these attributes in graduates, and the larger campus climate within which formal academic study takes place, are perceived by students to contribute to shaping their views of their professional roles and practices. The sites for this research are 4 programmes across 2 schools (serving over 500 students) designed to promote socially just practices in educational, legal and community-based work settings. Students from these programmes will be engaged in a study of: A) their views of their professional roles and practices as agents of social justice; B) their perceptions of the influences of the programmes’ curricula and pedagogies, as well as the broader university environment on shaping those views. The findings will be used to inform and enhance the programmes across the respective Schools and beyond. The research will be disseminated widely within the University community, for example, through the Global Justice Academy and the Institute for Academic Development and made available on relevant websites to colleagues seeking to explore the impact of programmes on developing graduates’ capacities to contribute to social justice agendas in other disciplines.

Key findings

1. By and large, the participants see acting as agents of social justice as integral part of their professional roles alongside, and as more important than implementing prescribed procedures.
2. Although students perceived agency as part of their professional roles, they also expressed concerns about the extent to which they are able to take actions.
3. Participants largely saw themselves as responsible for meeting the needs of pupils with diverse needs.
4. Participants’ perceptions of their competence as agents referred primarily to their individual practice, less to the engagement with institutional and even less with broader social contexts.
5.Undergraduate students mostly discussed how what they did depended on the wider system or other teachers around them.
6. For the postgraduate students, agency for social justice had to involve the engagement of the society at large or at different levels.
7. Participants made decisions about the kind of actions that they might take based on what they perceived as their roles as teachers; their perception of what is fair for the child in the scenario; what effect the situation might have on the child’s learning experiences; and how they perceived the role of others (i.e. school management, parents, and other children) in the scenario.
8. Some of the main opportunities students recognised for exercising agency include: building relationships with parents and pupils; modelling fairness, and seeing a child holistically.
9. Students’ perceived some of the major constraints in institutional settings, getting parents’ to be involved, and difficulties in challenging excepted norms.
10. By and large, the participants perceived the curricula and pedagogies employed in the participating programmes as enabling for them to act as agents of social change.
11. Participants from the masters programme seemed more prepared to engage in a broader reflection and identified various ways in which they were capable of transforming their context of practice as compared to students on the undergraduate programmes.
12. Few students from the Moray House School of Education participated in any university wide extra curricular activities around issues of social justice
Effective start/end date1/01/1531/12/15


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