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CATESOL Book Review with Kara McDonald Featuring Kristen Arps

Christie Sosa

Social Justice in Language Teaching (2016) Book Review

By Kara McDonald and Kristen Arps
Social Justice in Language Teaching, edited by Christopher Hastings and Laura Jacob consists of 22 chapters, divided into 7 sections that address specific topics around social justice in ELT. Part I: Social Justice and English Language Teaching: Setting the Stage, Part II: Peacebuilding and English Language Teaching, Part III: Positioning for Advocacy, Part IV: Language Rights, Privilege, and Race, Part V: Gender and Sexual Orientation Justice, Part VI: Working Across Borders/Advocating for Students. Part VII: Classroom Practices.


Part I
Part One is comprised of three chapters. Chapter 1 begins by presenting different perspectives on education and social justice with examples from history to lay the ground for readers to establish their views. Chapter 2 defines terminology and describes the mission and values of TESOL Inc. From this, the discussion examines teachers’ roles and responsibilities as educators. Chapter 3 defines critical pedagogy (CP) and its connection to critical literacy (CL) as well as English Language Teaching (ELT). It finishes with the implication of CP and CL on teacher training programs and curriculum design.
Part II
Part Two is also comprised of three chapters. Chapter 4 addresses peacebuilding -- what it is as a process and as a tool for learning, in part through the authors’ sharing of personal experiences. Chapter 5 begins by exploring why peace and social justice are not a regular part of some teachers’ regular instruction, narrowing in on the concept that we teach from how we understand ourselves (i.e. identity). The chapter then shares the author’s narrative of how peacebuilding became part of his ELT identity and closes with strategies and activities for peacebuilding in the language classroom. Chapter 6 examines the relationship between Korea and Japan as an example of peace building in ELT on a larger scale. The background to the antagonism between the two countries and the perceptions each have of the other is described, then examples of how English served and can serve as a bridge are offered.
Part III
Part Three is again comprised of three chapters. Chapter 7 addresses the notion of professionalism and highlights the NEST and NNEST constructs in ELT and the impact these have on access and legitimacy from some within the field. It closes with practical ways teacher trainers and educators can raise awareness and advocacy for all in the field. Chapter 8 examines the attachment to a prescribed, correct English and presents ways different English varieties can be addressed in the classroom to reduce inferior judgement of language use. Chapter 9 begins by presenting three accounts of teachers’ classroom practices, then uses those to discuss provincializing language varieties, translanguaging and a sociocultural practice.
Part IV
Part Four is comprised of four chapters. Chapter 10 explores language privileges in indigenous education in Australia. First, background on the indigenous population and history of language rights are presented. A case study is offered to explore the issues surrounding indigenous education and language use. Chapter 11 discusses the non-academic issues international students face on top of their studies and the need for educators and all stakeholders to consider these factors on students’ experiences. In particular, there is a focus on them experiencing discrimination and offers classroom practices to include social justice issues. Chapter 12 examines privilege in ELT and activities for teachers and students. Chapter 13 discusses the issue of double consciousness, where individuals of color understand themselves through the perspectives of white power and hegemony and presents how educators can serve as tool to later the dominance of these.
Part V
Part Five addresses issues related to Gender and Sexual Orientation Justice and is comprised of three chapters. Approaches to fostering critical literacy in the classroom as it relates to gender equity are presented in Chapter 14, including methods to integrate gender sensitization across the curriculum and make it a key learning outcome. Chapter 15 addresses gender as a topic that requires careful consideration in ELT, explores how English learners’ understanding of gender roles develop as they study English, and considers the use of authentic children’s and young adult literature as an effective means for creating gender awareness and eliminating gender bias. Chapter 16 provides the script for an “ethnodrama” that may be used to help pre-service and in-service TESOL professionals engage in critical dialogue around issues of gender and sexual identity and prepare them to navigate such challenges in the classroom, particularly if they themselves identify as LGBTQ.
Part VI
Part Six, Working Across Borders and Advocating for Students, is comprised of three chapters. Chapter 17 presents teacher preparation as a social justice issue and advocates for both increased integration of ESL content across all teacher education programs and ESL field experiences - preferably using a service-learning model - for preservice teachers. Chapter 18 explores the challenges and benefits of using interdisciplinary pedagogies, specifically collaborative service-learning models and interactive online tasks, as effective methods of developing intercultural competence and promoting social justice learning in foreign language and second language classes. Chapter 19 presents a case study to explore how teaching for social justice may both challenge and empower teachers, students, and communities, in this case when working to prepare undocumented students for higher education.
Part Seven is about classroom practices related to social justice in English Language Teaching and has three chapters. Chapter 20 recommends plays and movies for the English language classroom that not only enhance students’ language skills but also promote social justice by combating prejudice and intolerance and encouraging compassion and understanding of differences. Chapter 21 highlights the explicit and inexplicit, intentional and unintentional ways that English language teachers address environmental issues in their classes and encourages teachers to integrate environmental content into their lessons. Chapter 22 presents a case study about the successes and challenges of designing and implementing a community adult English literacy program for migrant workers in Qatar that is taught and run by university student volunteers.
This is a valuable resource for TESOL professionals -- academics, teachers of English language learners, or educators responsible for training teachers -- who want to learn more about the theory and practice of promoting social justice in English language teaching. The book is rich in case studies that provide beneficial insights and evidence-based strategies developed by practitioners in the field for whom social-justice learning outcomes are as vital as language learning outcomes.