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Words and Actions

Words and Actions: Teaching Languages Through the Lens of Social Justice
By: Cassandra Glynn, Pamela Wesely, and Beth Wassell
Publisher: ACTFL, 2014

Print member price: $22.95
Print non-member price: $26.95
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eBook non-member price: FREE


According to the authors, a social justice curriculum positively influences all students. Social justice, critical pedagogy, and culturally relevant teaching are becoming essential as more and more language educators teach in increasingly diverse world language classrooms. This new publication supports in-service and pre-service teachers in recognizing their students' diverse backgrounds while also supporting students' ability to think critically about the world around them. Questioning mainstream approaches to language and culture learning is vital. An emphasis on social justice is, in part, a way to expand the definition and scope of language education, leading to further innovation in the profession.

What Is Social Justice Education?
Scholars, activists, educators, and others who work to support human rights and fairness have suggested many different definitions of social justice. In this book, we use the definition of social justice articulated by Sonia Nieto, one of the foremost scholars in multicultural education. She defines social justice as “a philosophy, an approach, and actions that embody treating all people with fairness, respect, dignity, and generosity” (Nieto, 2010, p. 46). She suggests that social justice education includes the following four components:

  1. It challenges, confronts, and disrupts misconceptions, untruths, and stereotypes that lead to structural inequality and discrimination based on social and human differences.
  2. It provides all students with the resources necessary to learn to their full potential, including both material and emotional resources.
  3. It draws on the talents and strengths that students bring to their education.
  4. It creates a learning environment that promotes critical thinking and agency for social change.

According to this conceptualization, all teachers and students are beneficiaries of social justice education. It is not targeted to benefit a certain group or set of groups; it benefits all.

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