IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Understandings of social justice in secondary science education

A research project to better understand the extent to which social justice is understood among ITE students and university tutors.

This project is funded by the Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research. It started in September 2021 and will end in August 2022.


Project leader



Somewhat surprisingly, the role of ITE in the development of approaches to science education for social justice seems to have attracted little research attention either in the UK or internationally.

We therefore see this research in helping address this gap. 


The purpose of our research is to better understand the extent to which social justice is understood by those involved in science education.

We intend to explore

  • whether participants think science education should address issues to do with social justice and colonialism,
  • where and how these might best be addressed, and
  • whether in the UK or internationally there are any issues to do with social justice that are particularly relevant for people of different gender, ethnicity, religion or socio-economic status.
Research questions

Our specific research question is:

  • How do secondary science ITE students and university secondary science ITE tutors understand social justice and what do they believe should be the role of secondary science ITE in contributing to it?

We are including questions around imaginaries (imagined futures) as a way of exploring desired possibilities.

We expect that most questions will be the same for the students and for the university tutors but, in addition, we will ask university tutors about any changes that they are aware of since they trained to be teachers with regards to the affordances of secondary science ITE courses to address issues to do with social justice.


We intend to collect our data using individual, semi-structured interviews, which we have used previously in our research. 

We envisage interviewing:

  • 30 IOE secondary science ITE students, and
  • 10 IOE university tutors and other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) with secondary science PGCE cohorts within England.

The 30 students will be chosen so that 10 have a specialism in biology, 10 in chemistry and 10 in physics.

The university tutors will be chosen so that each comes from a different HEI, and a range of HEIs will be chosen with respect to location, academic standing and history, and student diversity. 

We anticipate that student interviews will typically last about 20 minutes and university tutor interviews about 30 minutes. All interviews will be undertaken on-line using Zoom / Teams / Skype / similar and, with permission, will be audio-taped and professionally transcribed.