Safeguarding Student Learning Engagement
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Social Justice Principles

Defining a set of social justice principles may serve as an important foundation for sector guidelines and assist in determining practice. When David Nicol (2007) developed a set of principles for assessment and feedback in higher education he elaborated on what he had surmised as being a quality principle: that the principle should capture the research and provide evidence to support implementation; that the principle should be broad enough and flexible to guide a practitioner. Nicol added that this indicates the principle could be implemented depending on context; that where there are several principles, there should be minimal overlap between them so that they can be defined independently; and finally, that good principles should assist in the evaluation of the practice. These guidelines can be considered within the context of the development of a set of social justice principles despite reiterating that Nicol is applying this counsel to the development of assessment principles.

Following Nichol’s work on assessment other examples of the higher education sector employing a set of principles as benchmarks for good practice can be found in Good Practice Principles for English language proficiency for international students in Australian universities (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008); the National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities (Universities Australia, 2011) which elaborates on a set of five guiding principles for Indigenous cultural competency in Australian universities; and most recently Principles to promote and protect the human rights of international students (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012).

The development of a set of principles should not only be consistent with the notions of equity and social justice but also be able to provide a strategic approach to the domain of interest but be accompanied by resources to facilitate the uptake of those principles in the sector.

The set of social justice principles that are described  were developed following a thorough examination of the existing and informing literature and refined by examining the qualitative data arising from a series of workshops and forums during 2011 and 2012. The principles are consistent with the notions of equity and social justice, embrace a sound philosophical position, provide a strategic framework and are supported by a suite of resources for enabling good practice in safeguarding student learning engagement for the higher education sector.

Social Justice Framework - conceptual model

Social Justice Framework – conceptual model

The principles, developed from a recognitive perspective and then applied to particular MSLE initiatives, are interpreted in terms of good practice and are as follows:

Self-determination
Students participate in program design, enactment and evaluation, and make informed decisions about their individual participation in the program.

Rights
MSLE initiatives should ensure that all students are treated with dignity and respect and have their individual cultural, social and knowledge systems recognised and valued.

Access
Programs are designed to serve as active and impartial conduits to the resources of the institution (e.g. curriculum, learning, academic, social, cultural, support, financial and other resources).

Equity
Programs are designed to demystify and decode dominant university cultures, processes, expectations and language for differently prepared cohorts.

Participation
MSLE programs lead to socially inclusive practices and students experience a sense of belonging and connectedness.

 

Part 2 of the Good Practice Guide defines and articulates the social justice principles with good practice examples.

References

Australian Human Rights Commission.  (2012).  Principles to promote and protect the human rights of international students.  Retrieved from http://www.humanrights.gov.au/racial_discrimination/international_students.html

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.  (2008).  Good practice principles for English language proficiency for international Students in Australian universities – Final Report.  Retrieved from http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Publications/Pages/GoodPracticePrinciples.aspx

Nicol, D.  (2007, May).  Principles of good assessment and feedback: Theory and practice. Assessment design for learner responsibility. From the REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility. Retrieved from http://www.reap.ac.uk/public/Papers/Principles_of_good_assessment_and_feedback.pdf

Universities Australia.  (2011).  Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities Project.  Retrieved from http://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/page/311/policy—advocacy/indigenous-issues/cultural-competency/