Developing socially just teaching: the role of the teaching assistant in epistemic bridging. A case study from South Africa

MARY MCATEER, Lesley Wood

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Abstract

    Social injustice has many manifestations in South Africa. This chapter explores some of the ways in which it is manifest in schools, and outlines possible ways in which the role of teaching assistants (TAs) may help to ameliorate this. The township and rural schools attended by many black children are often poorly resourced, overcrowded, and teachers struggle to provide quality educational experiences. These issues are systemic in nature and thus unlikely to be either easily or quickly changed. However, while such conditions pertain, we need to question what can be done within the present system to help. Drawing on a case study from a peri–urban community in Eastern Cape, we explain how it is possible to reduce the epistemic injustice that can result when children and teachers come from vastly differing communities and beliefs.

    Working closely with the TAs, who live in the community, and work in the school, we firstly supported the development of increased empathy by teachers for challenges facing parents, and admiration for the resilience they showed in finding ways to deal with adversities. Secondly, the increased understanding of the community knowledge base led to changed attitudes and different behaviours. The teachers began to view the TAs as a valuable support for that enabled them to adopt more inclusive practices. In effect, the TAs acted as an ‘epistemic bridge’ between the two communities, thus building the foundations for more socially just teaching.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEmbedding social justice in teacher education and development in Africa.
    EditorsCarmel McNaught, Sarah Gravett
    Place of PublicationAbingdon
    PublisherRoutledge
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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    MCATEER, MARY., & Wood, L. (Accepted/In press). Developing socially just teaching: the role of the teaching assistant in epistemic bridging. A case study from South Africa. In C. McNaught, & S. Gravett (Eds.), Embedding social justice in teacher education and development in Africa. Routledge.