SHARED – Student Hopes: Achievement, Research, Equity and Diversity

SHARED Research Report

The SHARED research study explored how teacher educators can prepare and support student
teachers to negotiate and engage with social justice issues, including educational disadvantage,
attainment and achievement while on their school placement.
This research project was jointly funded by the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North
and South (SCoTENS) and the Shared Island Unit of the Department of the Taoiseach. Funding was
awarded under the call for cross border research that focused specifically on enhancing educational
attainment through sharing experiences and learning on a shared island. The research was located in
initial teacher education contexts both North and South of the border in St Mary’s University College
in Belfast and in Marino Institute of Education in Dublin.
The Research Study
The SHARED research study used an action research approach. The overarching research question
guiding the research was;
 How can teacher educators support student teachers to engage with social justice,
intersectionality and interconnectedness on their school placement experiences to enhance
and benefit primary school pupils’ shared hopes, ambitions and aspirations?
This research question is further explored through seven sub-questions:
i. How do student teachers perceive/understand concepts of social justice?
ii. What do student teachers identify as social justice based pedagogical approaches?
iii. How do primary school pupils respond to concepts of social justice?
iv. How do student teachers experience the development of their teacher agency on
v. How do student teachers implement social justice-based pedagogies on placement?
vi. How does a social justice-based pedagogical approach influence student teachers’
professional learning and teaching practices?
vii. How do student teachers negotiate the lived reality of teaching for social justice?
A multi-layered project design supported the implementation of this research project.
Literature Review
O’Toole et al. (2019) drawing on the work of Alanen, Brooker and Mayell (2015) underscore the
importance of education research in ‘understanding children’s learning as embedded in the social,
cultural and family contexts in which it occurs (p.3). In keeping with the focus of this research
project, the literature reviewed for the SHARED research project centred on the key elements that
may interplay specifically in the classroom of a student teacher –
 The family, the school, community links and habitus
 Social justice pedagogy and curriculum
 Pupil agency and social justice
 Teacher identity and agency
 Educational (dis)advantage, equality and inclusion
Data Tapestry
A rich data tapestry was created through the research project and was used to generate the findings
and recommendations of the project.
The qualitative data collected included focus groups (with student teachers and with pupils in
placement schools), lesson plans/evaluations and reflections. The data generated through the focus
group interviews foregrounds the study and is contextualised by the backdrop of student teacher
lesson plans/evaluations, reflections and research team reflections data. Key findings were
extrapolated using a Braun and Clarke thematic analysis (2006, 2020). Cross tabulations of visual and
audio data are woven throughout the analysis, and contours between data sets were traversed
iteratively. Triangulation was ensured through the inclusion of the various methodological layers.
Key Findings
 Student teachers have strong perceptions and understanding of school and family but less
developed understanding of equality, equity and justice.
 Student teachers reported being facilitators of learning and experiencing enhanced pupil
agency when using focus groups and visual data as stimuli for discourse in the classroom.
Significant support was required from teacher educators at the initial stages.
 Pupils demonstrated an awareness of cultural diversity that many student teachers did not
expect and were very open to accepting the differences between individuals.
 The project challenged participants to engage in critical reflection on their teaching practices
including their underlying beliefs and values. They reported a positive mind-set shift about
social justice teaching.
 Challenges reported by student teachers included their own emotional regulation when
responding to pupils, lack of time and resources and selecting age-appropriate language and
not reinforcing existing beliefs and values when reflecting on planning and practice.
 Significant time is required to adequately prepare student teachers to plan and teach
through a social justice lens. Additional time was required for foundational exploration by
student teachers of their experiences and practices.
 Teacher educators need to work collaboratively to ensure consistency in allowing student
teachers time to reflect and take appropriate action in relation to teaching for social
Sample of Key Recommendations
Level Key Recommendation: there is a need for
teacher educators to support student teachers to achieve more congruent
alignment between their conceptual understanding of social justice and the lived
reality of teaching for social justice.
student teachers to take responsibility to ‘value their values’ in relation to issues of
social justice .
Induction induction both North and South to support NQTs/ECTs to develop the agility and
flexibility needed to deal with the rapid changes in social justice issues.
Teacher CPD cross-border CPD to be developed in order to facilitate shared learning, mirroring
the SCoTENS student teacher virtual exchange programme.
Policy a greater balance to be encouraged in teacher education policies between social
justice aspects and global teacher education accountability agendas.
Curriculum ITE providers to ensure that social justice learning outcomes are explicit, and
implemented/assessed across modules.
Shared Island further cross border research to be conducted focused on practising teachers’
perspectives and understanding of social justice education.
Project Outputs
There are four main outputs from the SHARED research project which can be used by teacher
educators, student teachers, teachers and policy makers: A pre-placement programme – research
methods, sociology, using visual data methods, social justice; a Padlet with resources to support
teaching for social justice; an eBook comprising the collection of visual artefacts and an
accompanying video.