Safeguarding Student Learning Engagement

Philosopical Stance

Contemporary discussion of social justice focus on three perspectives and this has most recently has been discussed in an educational context by Gale (see Gale,2000; Gale and Densmore, 2000; and Gale and Tranter, 2011). Gale and colleagues have considered the role of social justice in education and classify explanations of social justice as: distributive – fairness around the distribution of basic resources; retributive – fairness in the competition for social goods and materials; and recognitive – fairness recognises differences between and commonality amongst cultural groups.

In the specific context of the project – Good practice for safeguarding student learning engagement in higher education institutions – a recognitive approach to social justice has been adopted for developing the social justice framework and the Good Practice Guide.  A recognitive social justice stance suggests that everyone is able to participate and contribute within a democratic society. A recognitive perspective includes a positive consideration for social difference and also focuses on the centrality of socially democratic processes in working towards its attainment. In essence a recognitive perspective on social justice emphasises process and action over state and form. In this context, the social justice framework is designed to challenge thinking about dominant cultures and ways of knowing in higher education institutions. It provides a set of principles that enable the reconstruction of existing relationships which are based on power, identity, assumed rights and needs.

From this recognitive stance, therefore, the intent of the social justice principles are essentially to:

  • guide monitoring student learning engagement initiatives and innovations;
  • inform students and staff in the areas of policy, procedure and communication;
  • foster a sense of connection and partnership between academic and professional areas;
  • realise or instantiate programs and innovations; offer a mechanism for reconciling value conflicts; and finally
  • provide filters by which programs and processes can be evaluated.



Gale, T.  (2000).  Rethinking social justice in schools:  How will we recognise it when we see it? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 4(3), 253-269.  doi:  10.1080/13603110050059178

Gale, T., & Densmore, K. (2000). Just schooling: Exploration in the cultural politics of teaching. Birmingham, UK: Open University Press.

Gale, T., & Tranter, D.  (2011).  Social justice in Australian higher education policy:  an historical and conceptual account of student participation.  Critical Studies in Education, 52(1), 29 – 46.  doi:  10.1080/17508487.2011.536511