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The Conceptual Framework for the Wofford College Teacher Preparation Program

The conceptual framework for Wofford College’s Teacher Education Program is the scaffold that supports and guides the development, execution, and evaluation of all aspects of our program and reflects our concept of a liberally educated teacher who provides leadership within the school community and who models a commitment to life-long learning. 

The Vision
The Unit envisions its candidates as knowledgeable and committed to providing instruction within positive learning environments that meets the needs of diverse student populations. These candidates, as leaders in their school communities, are guided by a professional code of ethical behavior and a commitment to life-long learning.

The Mission
In support of the mission of Wofford College to provide a superior liberal arts education that fosters a commitment to excellence in character, scholarly performance, leadership, and life-long learning, the mission of the Unit mirrors that of the College. The Unit is committed to preparing teacher candidates who excel in scholarly performance, demonstrate excellence in character, serve as leaders within both their professional and civic communities and model their commitment to life-long learning. Challenging pedagogical coursework supports that of the liberal arts and academic major requirements.  Field and clinical experiences provide opportunities for teacher candidates to demonstrate their initial mastery of content, skills, dispositions and ethical leadership to their educational communities. Candidates’ undergraduate experiences and those life experiences that follow provide additional opportunities to display leadership and to model ethical behaviors and commitment to life-long learning.

The Goal of the Teacher Education Program
The goal of the Teacher Education Program is to produce knowledgeable teachers who demonstrate excellence in character, provide leadership to their schools and communities and model their commitment to life-long learning.

This goal builds upon the mission statements of Wofford College and the Unit.  It was around this goal that the Unit standards for the knowledge, skills and dispositions for our teacher candidates were developed.  The following objectives support the Program’s goal:

  1. To support the broad liberal arts background of general knowledge and skills as a basis for the development of diverse cultural literacy and understanding of our cultural heritage;
  2. To support the development of a depth of knowledge and skills in at least one teaching area of specialization.
  3. To provide a sequence of professional courses and experiences that will form the philosophical, psychological, sociological, historical, and methodological bases of teaching and learning and understanding of various cultural, socio-economic, and ability levels of students in secondary schools;
  4. To present effective models, methods, materials, and resources in order that teacher candidates develop and demonstrate the required pedagogical skills and proficiencies for teaching and learning;
  5. To model those personal and professional dispositions that we expect of our teacher candidates

Teacher candidates who complete Wofford’s Teacher Education Program will know the content they teach, will know how to teach this content to students, will be successful in teaching a diverse population of students, will be reflective in their practice, will respect and care about their students, and will provide leadership to their schools and communities as they engage in life-long learning.

The Knowledge Bases

The Unit’s Philosophy of Teacher Preparation 

Only the educated are free.Epictetus (Discourses, Book II, Chapter I)

The Unit’s conceptual framework is strengthened by its firm grounding in scholarship. This section details some of the recent literature and research that support and inform the components of our conceptual framework: scholarship, ethical behavior, leadership, and life-long learning.

Working from a coherent philosophical basis provides a comprehensive point of view from which consistency of actions arises (Dewey, 1916) and enables us to think clearly about what we believe about teaching and learning. We examine critically the foundations of our program to reflect upon who we are, what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we justify these decisions. It is important that our teacher preparation program prepare candidates for what they need to know and be able to do in an information technology society that is both global and diverse.   All components of the professional education curriculum must contribute to the development of an integrated and coherent philosophical conception of teaching.

Scholarly Performance 

  • Liberal Arts Foundation
  • Academic Content Knowledge
  • Professional and Pedagogical Knowledge and Skills

The Unit’s definition of scholarly performance refers to knowledge in the Liberal Arts, the academic content, and professional education. The development of a strong knowledge base and skills from which our candidates can draw, both in the classroom and in the larger educational environment, has been a guiding principle of our teacher education program.  The idea of a liberally educated teacher has anchored teacher preparation at Wofford College for many years and also reflects the College’s commitment to liberal education. All Unit faculty are committed to the belief that well-rounded, successful teachers should be exposed to a variety of disciplines and modes of thinking. A liberal arts education is about knowledge and information that the teacher does not teach directly but which influences teaching (Murray & Porter, 1996) and  includes facts, concepts, ideas and principles that lead to deeper transferable understandings (Hamsa, 1998). “All professionals use knowledge in their work, but teaching is actually about knowledge. The reform of undergraduate education toward dedication to the tenets of liberal education is essential to improving teacher education”(The Holmes Group, 1986).

It is important to allow our teacher candidates the opportunity to develop the kind of multidisciplinary learning that a liberal arts education provides.  Therefore, we require extensive coursework in the academic disciplines outside of our program to allow for the development of a breadth of knowledge. Our program is supported in this endeavor by the comprehensive requirements of our institution for all undergraduates. (Please refer to the Wofford College Catalogue for details about these requirements).

The professional education literature base also recognizes the different kinds of knowledge that teachers should possess.  Each type of knowledge is essential for teacher preparation:  (1) content knowledge or knowledge of the subject matter to be taught (Jetton & Alexander, 1997); (2) pedagogical-content knowledge (Shulman, 1986) which enables the teacher to take the content knowledge and help others understand it; (3) professional knowledge (Borko and Putman, 1996) which is pedagogical knowledge of the general variety and (4) knowledge of learners and learning. 

We believe that all faculty are involved in the preparation of teachers, whether it be in the core, the major, or the elective curriculum, as well as those faculty who teach pedagogy and foundations courses. The institution supports this belief. The chief duty required of all faculty is to teach effectively the content of their courses. Faculty are also charged with being well-informed on current research and new teaching methodologies, developing students’ creative and critical thinking abilities, and serving as mentors to their students.  As such, we view ourselves as models who embody intellectual curiosity, independence of thought, maturity of judgment, self-discipline, and moral character. Learning occurs through several avenues, and the teacher serves as both a knowledgeable authority and a facilitator of learning. In the process of teaching the content, learning must become meaningful. College faculty help teacher candidates construct meaning of what is taught and make it a part of their own knowledge base. This happens in the classroom, in the laboratory, in the field experiences, in professional conversations, discussions and workshops.  Faculty also model scholarly performance in their respective fields. They engage in continued research and provide positive contributions to the communities they serve. Faculty are expected to model ethical behaviors both within and outside the classroom (Faculty  Handbook).

As part of their professional knowledge base, we expect our teacher candidates to understand how our educational heritage influenced our democratic way of life.  As George Counts (1946) proudly stated, “We have in our heritage the source of a great education” (p. 17).  Our teacher candidates are knowledgeable about the educational heritage of our country and the significant people, events, trends and issues that have influenced this history. In this belief we echo Boyd Bode’s concern that there is a strong connection between education and democracy as a way of life,

                        . . . if we desire to remain a democratic people we must
                        reexamine and reinterpret the meaning of democracy.
                        [Democracy] involves the whole mass of traditional beliefs
                        and attitudes and practices, so as to become the basis
                        for a distinctive way of life. (Bode, 1943, pp. vii-viii)

We expect our teacher candidates to demonstrate their commitment to the belief that all children can learn.  To meet the needs of increasingly diverse classrooms, our program provides candidates with a strong foundation in the variety and implementation of the best and most current research-based pedagogical strategies. Candidates recognize that each student learns differently and at varying rates and they must demonstrate their ability to differentiate instruction. This focus on research-based strategies is also a point of emphasis in the recent reauthorization of The Elementary andSecondary Education Act, The No Child Left Behind Act (2002). 

Our teacher candidates are  knowledgeable  in their academic content areas. The required rigorous courses of study are designed to provide depth and breadth in a specific content area. As teaching and learning models, candidates demonstrate different ways of knowing, representing and formulating their content to make it comprehensible to others (Shulman, 1986). Teacher candidates who are knowledgeable in their content area are better able to “emphasize conceptual understandings, detect student preconceptions, exploit opportunities for fruitful digressions during teaching, and to interpret insightful student comments (Dill, 1990).    Teacher candidates must have amassed a large fund of knowledge to meet the NCLB definition of a highly qualified teacher and to pass the South Carolina licensure requirements.    

Teacher candidates are held accountable on the Praxis exams for basic skills in reading, writing and mathematics as well as academic content, which includes knowledge of facts, figures, dates, and names. Therefore, we feel responsible for helping our candidates commit this type of knowledge to memory. While Freire (1970, 1985) criticized an emphasis on students as storehouses of content, or “banking education” (1970), no one expects our candidates to simply receive, memorize, and repeat information. Nor are the candidates willing to accept this level of learning from their students.

We proceed from a constructivist point of view. The concept can be traced back to Plato’s belief that knowledge is formed within the learner. Effective teachers facilitate the construction of meaning through careful questioning, inquiry and social interactions. As educators we must empower students to critically examine their world through discussions with others equally equipped for the task and develop an understanding of the relevance of the information to their lives. The school, then, becomes a community of learners, a paradigm based on a synthesis of contemporary research, best practice, and assumptions resulting from the emphasis on reflective practice (Lambert, 1995). It is through this process of critical examination and praxis, defined by Freire (1970) as “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it “ (p.33), that positive change can be developed, considered, and acted upon. Our teacher candidates understand the significance of such critical examination and praxis as they empower students to participate in the crucial processes that are mandatory if our democratic way of life is to be maintained and guaranteed. 

Research by Marzano (2003) and Darling-Hammond (2000, 2001) indicates that a teacher’s pedagogical knowledge is associated with higher student achievement. Teachers must be able to interpret learners’ statements and actions and shape productive experiences for them. To do this requires knowledge of adolescent development and an understanding of how to support growth in various domains—cognitive, social, physical, and emotional. Teaching in ways that connect with students also requires an understanding of differences that may arise from culture, family experiences, developed intelligences and approaches to learning. Our teacher candidates must be able to work effectively with diverse student populations, colleagues, and the larger community.  Effective teachers facilitate learning and realize the power inherent in this pursuit as they help others cross the bridges that link their present realities to future possibilities.  Such facilitation demands far more of teachers than their traditional roles were defined. 

Regarding the demands placed on teachers as facilitators, Ayers (1993) writes,

                         Teaching is instructing, advising, counseling, organizing,
                         assessing, guiding, goading, showing, managing, modeling,
                         coaching, disciplining, prodding, preaching, persuading
                         proselytizing, listening, interacting, nursing, and inspiring.
                         Teachers must be experts, generalists, psychologists and cops,
                         rabbis and priests, judges, and gurus. (pp. 4-5)

Our teacher candidates understand that learning is a highly individualistic endeavor. Facilitating the learning process requires that teachers empower students to connect and accommodate new ideas with previous paradigms and mental constructions.  Attempting to simplify the teaching-learning dynamic destroys its essence and renders it an absurd reduction and oversimplification. Excellence in performance is evidenced when our teacher candidates plan, select, execute and assess content that helps students develop intellectual insights they can use to make better decisions. Our candidates serve as effective models who promote critical thinking and independent problem solving. They understand the role that intrinsic motivation plays in learning and plan instruction that actively involves students in the learning process. They recognize, however, that students must assume the role of self-regulated learners who take responsibility for their own learning.  

According to Brooks and Brooks (1999) the effective teacher searches for students’ understandings of concepts, and then structures opportunities for students to refine or revise these understandings by posing contradictions, presenting new information, asking questions, encouraging research, and/or engaging students in inquiries designed to challenge current concepts. (p. ix). Teachers should appreciate the multiple perspectives that their students bring to learning. As facilitators of learning, the message of teachers who seek to empower their students is this: You can change your life. The empowering teacher has a vision of what could be, but is not yet. Social justice requires the heightening of awareness of both teachers and students. In making a difference in students, in the ways they construct their paradigms for change, democracy, justice and equal opportunity, our teacher candidates become facilitators who help their students navigate their own search for empowerment. 

Excellence in Character 

  • Professional and Ethical Conduct
  • Respect for Others and the Profession

In addition to providing candidates with the knowledge and skills to teach their content, preparing them for the interactions that will define their professional lives is also an important aspect of their professional preparation. The Unit has identified characteristics of the professional behaviors and ethical principles and respect for others and the profession as the hallmarks of excellence in character that the program helps candidates to master. Goodlad and others posit that teaching is a moral endeavor (Goodlad, 1990; DeRoche 1990). Teachers must serve as role models of good character.  They must acknowledge, accept and welcome the diversity of their student populations. They do not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.

Schools are the primary institution in our nation charged with providing access to knowledge and the enculturation of our youth. Effective teachers build positive human connections with their students (Goodlad, pp. 49-50). They help them become caring, principled, and responsible individuals (DeRoche, p. vi). We expect our candidates to conduct themselves in an ethical manner worthy of trust and to exhibit honesty, responsibility, and personal self-discipline. Greenfield, referring to school principals, notes that school leaders face a unique set of ethical demands (Greenfield, 1991). We believe that the same holds true of teachers. In their classrooms teachers have a responsibility to exercise their authority in an ethical manner. They take responsibility for establishing a positive classroom climate and are committed to employing democratic values. Candidates must be willing to examine and reflect on their choices from different perspectives and must anticipate the consequences of their choices. In accordance with the NEA Code of Ethics of the Education Profession our teacher candidates must demonstrate a commitment to helping each student realize his/her potential as a worthy and effective member of society (NEA, Principle I). Teacher candidates are observed during their field experiences and clinical practice for evidence that they support the well-being of their students. Their reflective journal entries are also evaluated as to their support of the well-being of their students. 

Candidates  are evaluated on their  ethical behaviors. They are expected to model a professional code of ethics –they must be truthful, they must accept responsibility for their choices, they  must respect student diversity and individual differences as well as the varied talents and perspectives of their students. Their teaching should help to foster student self –esteem. Candidates are expected to respect the privacy of their students and maintain confidentiality in all professional relationships.

We expect our candidates to model respect toward students and parents, colleagues, and others within their school community. They must be willing to work collaboratively with students, fellow teachers, parents and administrators of all backgrounds. During their undergraduate experiences, we evaluate candidates’ respect for their peers, the public school faculty and administration and the community at-large.


  • Personal Teaching Efficacy
  • Professional Collaboration                   
  • Clear Communication              
  • Technologically Skilled

A significant trend in educational reform has been the emergence of teachers as leaders, not only within their classrooms and the school community at large, but also at the district, state and national levels. The Unit defines educational leaders as possessing a personal teaching efficacy who willingly engage in professional collaboration, who understand the importance of clear communication and keep abreast of new ideas and understandings in the field. Educational leaders understand the need to remain current in the application of technology to instruction and model this application.  

 “Classroom teachers at all levels are assuming greater roles of responsibility and leadership” (McCay, Hamilton, & Riley, 2001).  The Unit believes that effective practitioners seek ways to become leaders in the improvement of their classrooms and the teaching profession and we have included exposure to the knowledge and skills candidates will need to develop into ethical leaders at their schools. Various courses, including the introductory foundations course, the methods courses, the clinical practice seminar and the field experiences include exposure to a broad range of educational issues (such as the historical, philosophical, sociological influences on education) and ethical questions (such as current legal and policy issues).  Kouzes and Posner (1987) define leadership as “the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations”( p. 30). Teachers who hold strong beliefs in a positive purpose and a willingness to express this conviction make effective leaders. Teachers as leaders also model a positive personal teaching efficacy—their belief that they are capable of helping all students succeed regardless of their background  knowledge or ability  (Bruning et al, 1999; Eggen, 2001). They take responsibility for the success or failure of their own instruction (Lee, 2000). High efficacy teachers use more curriculum materials and change instructional strategies to accommodate differences in students’ learning styles. (Poole, Okeafor, & Sloan, 1989). Stipek also found that teachers contribute to students’ desires to learn and to take responsibility for their learning (Stipek, 1996). Others have also found a high correlation between motivation and achievement (McDermott, Mordell, & Stoltzfus, 2001; Wang , Haertel & Walberg, 1993; Weinstein, 1998).  We expect our candidates to hold high expectations for all students and communicate these expectations by engaging and supporting students in mastering a relevant and challenging academic curriculum. We expect them to create safe classrooms and learning environments where students feel safe to express their thinking without the fear of embarrassment. We observe their praise of students for increased competence and their persistence with low achievers 

Leaders who are inclusive in their approach to instruction possess a disposition that values and supports the variety of backgrounds and special needs exhibited by our candidates’ students. “If .... children are to be effectively taught , educators must be prepared to address the substantial diversity and experiences children bring with them to school – the wide range of languages, cultures, exceptionalities, learning styles, talents, and intelligences that in turn requires an equally wide and varied repertoire of teaching strategies” (Darling-Hammond, Wise, and Klein, 1999).  To prepare candidates for inclusive classrooms, the Unit, as well as the entire college community, recognize that to meet this challenge, we must constantly review and strengthen our program’s approach to the issue of inclusion based on emerging scholarship in the field and on feedback from candidates and faculty.

The Unit monitors the personal teaching efficacy of our candidates during their field experiences and clinical practice. Candidates must believe that they can increase student learning. They must demonstrate this efficacy as they plan for diversity in learning, as they maintain high expectations for student participation, and as they monitor student learning while promoting teamwork and individual responsibility.

Emerging leaders foster collaboration to make schools better places for learning. Teachers as leaders demonstrate through their own behaviors a respect for cultural differences, for those with different skills and abilities, interests and perspectives. As they teach and work within their school community, they foster relationships that support student learning and well being. 

Collaboration requires that candidates possess skills for developing personal and interpersonal relationships. They show respect for the opinions and values of others. They encourage family, school and community relationships that support learning.  They view education as paramount to supporting our democratic way of life. In their schools, these teachers value instructional planning as a collegial activity. Their instructional plans are open to adjustment and revision based on student needs and changing circumstances. In their classrooms they demonstrate this value by structuring learning opportunities that allow their own students to practice collaboration. 

To promote the development of leadership characteristics, our candidates are provided many opportunities to collaborate with each other during course work and with their clinical experience colleagues. From coursework collaboration activities, to student organizations, to participation in clinical experiences, our candidates benefit from a number of experiences designed to help them become cooperative members of educational teams. Our goal is that when these teacher candidates graduate, they will continue in their role as a teacher leader. 

 Being able to work in a collegial environment also requires that candidates develop a disposition that values and supports the variety of backgrounds and special needs exhibited by their students. The diversity of our student populations requires that candidates recognize and value what learners bring to the learning process. The efforts of Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky support learning as an interactive process involving the students’ interests and previous experiences. The constructivist view necessitates a commitment to interdependence, group skills, sharing knowledge, and gaining valuable perspectives (Slavin, 1986 and Johnson & Johnson, 1988).  Cooperative learning strategies provide for the social construction of knowledge.  Such strategies also promote democratic values and practices. 

Effective leaders communicate clearly. They recognize the power of language to foster self-expression, identity, development and learning. Our candidates are expected to be vigilant about their own oral and written communication skills, for attention to these skills will increase the clarity of their speech and serve as the basis for their success with students and other adults within their communities.

The use of technology has become an additional resource for teachers and an integral aspect of every teacher’s life. Candidates demonstrate their ability to use technology in all program courses and in their clinical practice. The importance of technology for the classroom teacher goes well beyond the use of word processors and Internet access; mastery of a variety of technological skills can directly impact instructional approaches to materials, access to data and resources, and communication between school, home, and community. Not only must our candidates be able to master technology skills, they must also demonstrate use of these skills within the context of their teaching and for interactions with students, colleagues, and community members.

As undergraduates, opportunities abound for our teacher candidates to model and practice emerging leadership skills. Collaboration occurs in class discussions, course projects, and during field and clinical experiences. The candidate’s teaching efficacy is observed during field experiences and clinical practice. Additional leadership skills are developed as candidates participate in on-campus activities and organizations. Students who have been admitted to the Teacher Education Program are awarded a one-year membership in the College’s student chapter of SCASCD which provides an excellent opportunity for collaboration, professional development and becoming actively involved in the campus community. Other campus volunteer opportunities in which many of our candidates participate include the Twin Towers Program, the Bonner Scholars Program, and Community Service Learning. Students who are selected for the Success Initiative Program have also sought admission to our program.  Additionally, numerous student organizations involve their members in volunteer service. Our candidates serve as tutors and mentors to elementary students. Many tutor middle and high school students.

Lifelong Learning 

  • Reflective Practice                
  • Professional Growth                

The Unit considers reflective practice and commitment to professional growth as representative of our candidates emerging commitment to lifelong learning. Research recognizing the essential role of teachers’ reflective capacities of observation, analysis, interpretation, and decision making in professional practice has been advocated by many (Russell & Munby, 1992; Schon, 1983; Zeichner & Liston, 1987). Schon (1983) would call this “reflection in action” and considers reflection an essential element of all professional practice. If professional standards are to be raised through the exercise of professional judgment, teachers must make informed choices. They must stay current on research in both content and methodology and they must reflect on their practice in order to improve learning (Shulman, 1986; Darling-Hammond, 1998).

The Unit believes that conscientious teachers recognize their professional responsibility for engaging in appropriate professional practices and practice self-reflection as a means to improve professional judgment. Candidates maintain reflective journals during all field and clinical experiences.  Dewey’s description that “learning requires trained select which elements are the causal conditions of learning, which are influential, and which are secondary or irrelevant are applicable to the leader-practitioner (Dewey, 1974, p.181).

Teachers who engage in reflective practice think critically about pedagogy, subject matter, and the needs and backgrounds of all students. They use research, theory and law and the wisdom of practice to guide decision making. The ability to think critically about their work requires that candidates systematically reflect on the learning environments they create where the importance of students working individually and cooperatively is emphasized and where the effective use of technology to enhance learning is used judiciously. Reflective practice requires that candidates analyze their practices within the classroom and the broader boundaries of the school and community. The reflective record of this ability is through journal writing and discussion. Thus, we require that our candidates develop the habit of conscious reflection through the reflective journals required for each field and clinical experience.

Learning should not stop once a teacher candidate receives licensure. Teachers as responsible professionals demonstrate that learning is valued when they model their commitment to self-directed life-long learning and seek out opportunities to improve, to grow, and to change (Fullen, 1993). Life-long learners engage in professional discourse about subject matter knowledge and students’ learning of the discipline.

Borko & Putman (1995) found that personal knowledge systems deepen as teachers engage in lifelong learning and the Unit faculty feel a strong commitment to model lifelong learning. Faculty attend and present at professional conferences and workshops, they hold memberships in various professional and civic organizations and frequently serve as officers, they use technology to improve their teaching, they engage in research and implement effective instructional and assessment strategies. Our candidates demonstrate their commitment to lifelong learning as undergraduate students who participate in various opportunities for growth.  They continue to update and improve their technology skills. They attend workshops and conferences as available, and they read professional journals to learn about curriculum changes, instructional strategies and teaching resources. During clinical practice candidates begin to work with parents to learn more about their children and to help shape supportive experiences at school and home. Candidates also engage in collaboration and professional development with their peers and college faculty. This collaboration not only happens in the teacher preparation unit, but is an integral requirement for many academic departments when students take part in the senior reading programs, when they collaborate with faculty on research papers and presentations and when they participate in summer institutes.

The Unit believes that the teaching profession can be strengthened through constant monitoring of our candidates’ commitments to lifelong learning after graduation. Therefore, program graduates are surveyed at the end of their first year of teaching requesting information on their perception of their professional preparation and their personal commitment to lifelong learning. Questionnaires regarding candidates’ knowledge, preparation and dispositions are also sent to the candidates’ employers to verify that we are preparing highly qualified teachers. Professional discourse that fosters analysis, collegiality and communication about teaching practices which extend through induction into the early years of practice will certainly exert a positive influence on the quality of our teaching force.

Our teacher candidates learn best by studying, doing, and reflecting; by collaborating with peers and teachers; by closely observing students and their work, and by sharing what they have learned. Indeed, we expect our candidates to demonstrate an enthusiastic commitment to all facets of the teaching and learning process.

 William Ayers (1993) refers to becoming an effective teacher as a “heroic quest” stating,

                        One must navigate a sea of turbulent and troubled waters,
                        overcome a seemingly endless sea of obstacles, and face danger
                        and challenge (often alone), on the way toward an uncertain
                        reward. Teaching is not for the faint-hearted; courage and
                        imagination are needed to move from myth to reality  (p. 10).

John Dewey thought of democracy, not as a set of ideological principles, but as a continuing commitment, on the part of every American, to promote the empowerment of others to realize and develop the intelligence and talents regardless of their varying levels of ability.  It is within this same spirit that the Unit operates. We willingly undertake the initial professional preparation of teacher candidates who are fully aware that teaching is far more complex, layered, and rich than the direct delivery of an imposed and static curriculum.  Our teacher candidates’ notions of the big picture of the ends and means of American education are cultivated and nurtured toward a full understanding of social justice as an essential goal of the educational initiatives and interests of the 21st century.