Dr. Parkhouse, Massaro explore social justice teaching methods

Spotlight on SOE faculty and doctoral student research

From left: headshots of Dr. Hillary Parkhouse, assistant professor, Department of Teaching and Learning, and doctoral student Virginia Massaro.
From left: Dr. Hillary Parkhouse and doctoral student Virginia Massaro.

The amount of knowledge being generated by VCU School of Education faculty in published research goes beyond merely enhancing the school’s reputation – it is helping to shape the future of education itself. One recent example of this is the study below, co-authored by Dr. Hillary Parkhouse and doctoral student Virginia Massaro, which looks at two distinct social justice teaching methods in a pair of 11th grade U.S. History classes.


Dr. Hillary Parkhouse and doctoral student Virginia Massaro explored the impact of two different social justice teaching methods on a pair of 11th grade U.S. History classes in urban, predominantly African-American high schools. Teachers in both classes had been working toward raising their students’ social and political awareness. The classes were selected specifically because they contained the most outspoken and opinionated group of students for each teacher.

The teachers used two distinct social justice teaching methods to elevate their students’ sociopolitical awareness: an explicit method in which the teacher pointed out social justice issues, and a facilitation method in which the teacher worked to incite students to point out those issues. The explicit approach was intended to raise students’ critical thinking and empower them to both recognize and call out injustices. On the other hand, the facilitation approach had the teacher promote questioning of common practices and encouraging students to raise each other’s critical consciousness. Regardless of the teaching approach used, students from both classrooms appeared mostly comfortable openly speaking out about sensitive social issues, calling out injustices, and arguing from different viewpoints. During lessons, students would point out racism and inequity in both historical and current contexts, and many cited these examples as reasons why they believe the United States does not equally protect all of its citizens.

The teachers’ primary reason for using the explicit and facilitation methods was to provide information to their students and empower them to become active citizens who will help create social change. This study demonstrated how teaching critical thinking about social justice issues can give students the confidence to get involved in their communities and enact positive change.

Link to full article: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0885985X1730222X?via%3Dihub


Parkhouse, H., & Massaro, V.R. (2019). “Calling Out” in class: Degrees of candor in addressing social injustices in racially homogenous and heterogeneous US history classrooms. The Journal of Social Studies Research, 43(1), 17-31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jssr.2018.01.004