Lessons Learned in the Pursuit of Social Justice in Education: Finding a Path and Making the Road

Living reference work entry


The chapter uses lessons learned from the design, development, implementation, and improvement of a collective action network to focus on theory and practice at the nexus of educational leadership and social justice. A brief introduction honors those who came before in this work and operationalizes a challenge to reimagine the discourse and the practice of educational leadership for social justice. The challenge is then addressed in two sections.

The first section “A Collective Action Network and Its Working Space,” addresses how and why a collective action network was formed to pursue social justice in education. In this section, the conceptual frameworks that underlie the cross-sector partnerships constituting the network are explicated. Additionally, the nature of the work space created by the diverse experiences and expertise of partners is examined, including how three theoretical frames – public scholarship, improvement inquiry, and restorative justice – inform educational leadership for social justice.

In the second section “Nodes in the Network: Grassroots Efforts in Pursuit of Social Justice,” examples of projects that have been undertaken across seven nodes in the network are provided as illustrations of the diversity of discourses and practices that can contribute to the synergy that exists at the nexus of educational leadership and social justice. Each node in the network represents not only discrete cross-sector partnerships, but also discrete efforts to improve systems of practice, address harm, and authentic practices of social justice. The grassroots work includes improvement efforts that range from school improvement to principal preparation to violence prevention to police training to prison education to Community Learning Exchanges to elementary math instruction to holistic African American male achievement.

A brief concluding statement indicates why the reimagining the discourse and the practice of educational leadership for social justice is a challenge worth pursuing.


Collective action network Educational leadership Public scholarship Improvement inquiry Restorative justice Cross-sector teams Collaborative teams Grassroots work School improvement Principal preparation Violence prevention Police training Prison education Community learning Black male achievement Educational systems Cross-sector partnerships Conceptual frameworks System capacity Design thinking Research-practice partnerships Networked improvement Networked learning Democratic design Implementation space Improvement research Implementation science Positive deviance Implementation science Anti-deficit efforts Educational professionals Signature pedagogy Scholar practitioners Marginalized learners Prison industrial complex Improvement principle Restorative practice Black Activist Mothering Fugitive principal preparation Black Feminist Thought White supremacy Cultural racism Constructivist learning Inside-out prison exchange program Violence prevention Political activism Human-centered design methods InQuiry methodology Masculinity development Racial socialization Twenty-first century skills Self-efficacy Global marketplace skills Leadership development Professional branding Culturally sustaining pedagogy Culturally responsive teaching Culturally relevant pedagogy Prophetic social justice SAC partnerships 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Fenwick W. English
    • 1
  1. 1.Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA

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