Teaching Through Ethical Tensions: Between Social Justice, Authority and Professional Codes

  • Daniella J. ForsterEmail author


This chapter focusses on how preservice teachers in particular can develop an ethical sensitivity to situations they find themselves in while at the same time responding critically to their unexamined assumptions and intuitions to ensure that their responses may be socially just. As the author argues, making moral decisions is not easy at the best of times and ethical dilemmas are strange things, not amenable to easy description or formulaic construction or resolution. The pedagogical value of a dilemma for teacher professional development is not necessarily to be found in sensational confrontation. Instead, every day and often very subtle or complex tensions and situations that can be easily overlooked, may provide instructive ethical stimuli. This chapter identifies key tensions that occur between teachers’ sense of moral agency and values with a focus on questions of justice. Teachers struggle with questions of distributive justice and educational disadvantage including deficit thinking, resource allocation, streaming, stereotyping, dehumanising ‘behaviour management’ of student bodies, and encounters with power inequities and school hierarchies. Examples and analysis of preservice teachers are presented in order to explore different ways of understanding justice and modes of ethical authority. Forster argues that social justice is the ‘bottom line’ for teacher education and this chapter raises questions about justice and who is most deserving to explore different conceptualisations arising in preservice teacher ethical reflections.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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