Tools of inaction: The impasse between teaching social issues and creating social change

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Within the field of teacher education, increased emphasis has been placed on social justice education (SJE). This qualitative study examined a group of beginning teachers who voluntarily participated in a social justice critical inquiry project (CIP). The findings indicate that while many of them were successful at teaching social issues, they provided few to no opportunities for their students to engage in social action and they themselves did not participate in activism. To explain this, the participants used the following four tools of inaction: tools of substitution, postponement, displacement, and dismissal. These tools relieved the tension of not taking action and allowed the participants to postpone, justify, or redirect the responsibility of becoming active in struggling for sustainable social change. Understanding the use of these tools can help teacher educators to understand the process of development of social justice educators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)908-922
Number of pages15
JournalTeachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice
Issue number7
StatePublished - 3 Oct 2015


  • Social justice
  • professional development
  • teacher activism
  • teacher development


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