Translating and Mobilizing ‘A New Social Contract for Education:’ Illuminating and supporting teachers’ worldly and critical pedagogies

Co-Applicants: Tarc, P., & Ng-A-Fook, N., Mishra-Tarc, A.

Research Team:

Duration: 2023-2027

Funding: Social Science and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant


Demands have intensified for education to be relevant in our present moment of heightened global inter-dependencies, inequality, violent conflict, social hatred and ecological precarity. The aspiration that education is key to making a better world, has been advocated by multiple stakeholders in Canada and globally, and across all levels of schooling. With these hopes and demands, come theorizations of educational ideals and models as well as prescriptions for teachers. However, too little is known about what teachers are already doing, and could potentially do, in their day-to-day institutional contexts. Without substantive understanding of what teachers are doing and of the complex pedagogical conditions in which they teach, proposals and prescriptions for reform and improvement risk inconsequential impacts. Further, theory construction on critical, worldly, and transformative pedagogical possibilities, too far abstracted from the conditions of schooling and the mindsets of educators, also has limited explanatory power to inform educational reform imperatives.

Our proposed research study seeks to illuminate what teachers are already doing in the domain of making education relevant (worldly and critical) in response to calls for educational responsiveness to global crises. Our research study aims to translate and mobilize the recently published report from UNESCO (2021), Reimagining our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education, to ground research with school teachers in a shared set of notions, to include: (1) global challenges facing humanity, (2) the importance of education in shaping our collective futures, and (3) modalities by which teacher practices can be ‘transformative.’ UNESCO’s call, formulated by international experts, is exemplary in both calling for schooling to be ‘re-imagined’ and in prioritizing collaborative teacher praxes as central to this task. As the report states:

[It] begins with the work teachers perform, and indeed, many of the elements of a new social contract for education may already exist in the transformative pedagogy many teachers are practising. Teachers’ work as knowledge producers and pedagogical pioneers must be recognized and supported, assisting them to document, share, and discuss relevant research and experience with their fellow educators and schools in formal and informal ways. Universities and higher education can imagine new institutional configurations that enable sustained research and professional relationships with teachers in support of their profession-wide knowledge production. (UNESCO, p. 150-151)

While strong in vision, it is up to educators and researchers to mobilize and translate this ambitious but essential call for re-imagining education and the work of teachers. Our prospective research answers this call. We seek to collaboratively illuminate, embolden, and support, the practices and emergent possibilities of teachers’ worldly and critical pedagogies—as reflective practitioners, knowledge producers, pedagogical pioneers, and co-researchers—as we develop and expand school-university-teacher education research and knowledge networks across Canada. We agree with UNESCO that this challenge facing schooling under global crises begins with the work of frontline schoolteachers and hinges on substantive partnerships.

In this four-year qualitative study, we will observe ten teachers working in secondary schools in Canada during one-week site visits. We will conduct multiple semi-structured and open-ended interviews with the teachers before, during and after the site visits. From our findings we will produce case profiles of each teacher’s worldly/critical praxis for use by educators, researchers and wider publics.

* This project is supported by Social Science and Humanities Research Council Insight Grant with Tarc, P., & Ng-A-Fook, N., Mishra-Tarc, A. as co-applicants. Click here to view more SSHRC funded projects.