Beginning a social justice journey between teacher educators through a community of learners

Social justice as a concept and a pedagogy is gaining traction in the physical education teacher education (PETE) literature (Walton-Fisette & Sutherland, 2018) but few allude to the ‘hows’ of doing social justice work in PETE (Walton-Fisette, Philpot, Phillips, Flory, Hill, Sutherland, & Flemons, 2018), particularly, given the context orientated nature of social justice, in an Irish setting. Informed by Freire’s (1973) concept of dialogue, and underpinned by agonistic respect (Monforte & Smith, 2021), we, six physical education teacher educators, began a social justice journey through a community of learners exploring our own positionality in relation to social justice and a focus on the ‘hows’ of doing social justice work.Encouraged by Mitchell, Sutherland, and Walkton-Fisette (2021), through the community of learners, we engaged in individual and collaborative self-study to explore positionality, pedagogical practices, and programmatic decisions that can enhance and / or limit socially just practices. Questions, for example, which were focused during the community of learner meetings included: How can we position ourselves to teach through and about social justice pedagogies?; How can we teach through social justice pedagogies?; How can we embed social justice knowledge/pedagogical/content in our teaching of our units?; and How can we construct a social justice pillar for the reconfiguration of the PETE programme? Data was collected through recorded Zoom meetings, prompted break-out room discussions, personal reflections, photographs/pictures, and brainstorming activities. Working through the first question, for example, we believe using and modelling democratic pedagogies as an ‘umbrella’ for the programme would best position social justice pedagogies. Within that, we emphasise the need to talk and listen to students’ social justice experiences (through, for example, autobiographical narrative) throughout the programme years, not just in one unit. We questioned if social justice pedagogies themselves are socially just or the way in which we use pedagogy that encourages social justice. This led to further question if effective pedagogy is repackaged with new language as social justice pedagogy. These discussions led to an agreement that an effective teacher educator is a socially-just teacher educator, and should have a socially-just tool in their pedagogical toolkit. Throughout our journey, we have challenged our positioning, our understanding, and our beliefs around social justice through educating ourselves through safe (and in some cases, discomforting) collaborative dialogue. This presentation will work through the above four questions and provide discussion points for the audience.