Can Technologies Advance the Integration of Restorative Pedagogy into Teacher Education Curricula?

Can Technologies Advance the Integration of Restorative Pedagogy into Teacher Education Curricula?

Martha A. Brown (Florida Atlantic University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch021


Educators across the globe familiar with the principles and practices of restorative justice have been changing the relational ecology in their schools by embracing restorative pedagogy and praxis that address power and status imbalances caused by authoritarianism and punitive discipline policies. This chapter introduces teacher educators and teachers to the philosophy and practices of restorative justice as implemented in school settings and projects an image of how teaching and learning technologies might facilitate the incorporation of restorative justice modules into a variety of teacher education course curricula. The chapter conceptualizes how technologies can provide a continuous source for professional growth and community-building in teacher education for teachers willing to explore and adopt restorative approaches and relational pedagogy.
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Behind every curriculum is a rationale that “establishes the parameters and directions for all other curriculum components” (Gay, 2001, p. 31), and the social curriculum is no exception. The social curriculum refers to social relationships within the school, such as the nature of teacher-student relationships, student-student relationships, and the organization of classes (Smith, 2000). Vygotsky's zone of proximal development demonstrates the extent to which modeling and adult assistance can influence the cognitive abilities of a learner, and was a forerunner to the curriculum movement now centered on creating a more collaborative and cooperative classroom aimed at improving students' higher order thinking skills (Henniger, 2002). The social curriculum contributes to the relational ecology of a school (Morrison & Vaandering, 2012), which calls even greater attention to the important role that relationships play in teaching and learning. Technologies, such as texting and email, have changed the way people relate to one another, and have certainly affected the nature of communications within the school.

Although theories emphasizing the importance of caring relationships and the social curriculum are introduced in teacher preparation programs (Gay, 2000; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Noddings, 2005), the pedagogy and praxis of caring remain elusive, and therefore, sometimes undetectable in schools and classrooms where data-driven instruction, assessments, and teacher accountability measures dominate the learning environment. Teacher education courses espousing outdated modes of classroom management that emphasize social control contribute little to the praxis of relational pedagogy, as they typically fail to equip teachers with the relational skills needed to create and sustain classrooms where students from all backgrounds can develop, learn, and coexist peacefully (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Raible & Irizarry, 2010). The rising popularity of online courses presents an additional challenge to teacher educators; they must now create an empathetic community of care in a virtual environment, yet are rarely equipped to do so (Fuller, 2012).

The efforts of caring teachers to model pro-social relationships with their students are eroded by zero tolerance school discipline policies. In the 1990s, schools began implementing such policies in response to the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1994, and were further encouraged after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre (Simon, 2007). The reactionary policies imposed upon schools in the past three decades have replaced the power of social control (Dewey, 1938) with repressive and oppressive disciplinary measures that alienate both students and teachers. The punitive rationale eschewed in political, educational, and criminal justice discourse, and implemented in the form of zero tolerance policies, is detrimental both to child development (American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force, 2008) and to the creation of positive school climates. Zero tolerance policies emphasize rule-breaking and exclusion based on authoritative control and fear (Morrison, 2002), and are now standard in schools where little thought is devoted to individual student responsibility and care; as a result, schools now more resemble correctional institutions than institutions of learning (Bazemore & Schiff, 2010). Schools that ignore the heart, mind, and spirit of a student (Montessori, 2009) are frequently plagued with discipline problems and disruptive students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Restorative Justice: A philosophy and practice that sees crime not as offenses against the state, or as rule violation, but as an action that harms relationships. The offender, through committing a harm, creates an obligation to repair the harm. Particular attention is given to victims, or person's who have been harmed. The goal of restorative justice is to repair the harm to the satisfaction of the victim and community in a way that does not stigmatize the person who committed the harm, allowing all stakeholders to heal and move forward.

School Accountability Board (SAB): A restorative approach that resembles a peer court, yet still gives voice to the victim and focuses on reparation rather than punishment.

Mediation: A restorative approach used in the school setting when there is conflict between two or more students. Similar to a conference, a mediation is an intensive or targeted intervention often facilitated by an authority figure, and reparation agreements that satisfy the needs of the person(s) harmed are usually developed.

Relational Ecology: A framework for understanding how school culture, school climate, and pedagogies interact to define and build relationships between staff, students, parents, and community.

Relational Pedagogy: Instructional practices which focus on building relationships, including collaborative groups and circles for dialogue.

Restorative Approaches/Practices: Processes used to achieve the goals of restorative justice. The four main approaches or practices are circles, conferences, mediations, and accountability boards.

Circle: A restorative approach that draws from the tradition of the Talking Circle common among indigenous peoples. Circles are used in a wide variety of circumstances, many of which simply facilitate conversation and relationship-building and involve no prior conflict or harm.

Virtual Circle: A circle conducted using technologies, such as videoconferencing or Skype, which allow persons not physically present in the room to still participate in the circle.

Restorative ethos: The philosophy that permeates a school that has adopted restorative practices and relational pedagogy; an overall feeling or way of being built upon the foundational principals of restorative justice.

Conference: A restorative approach that occurs when an intensive or targeted intervention is needed due to the seriousness of the harm. Parents and outside community members may be present, and a conference may be conducted in a circle. A conference is often facilitated by an authority figure, and reparation agreements that satisfy the needs of the person(s) harmed are usually developed.

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