International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 18 - 20 July 2016
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Human flourishing versus failure to thrive: Higher Education and child protection

Angela Fenton, School of Education, Charles Sturt University


As prompted by Jennifer Case in the HECU8 Think Piece, the paper examines how we might “forward the notion of social justice into our engagements with higher education” (2015, p. 1). If, as Case suggests [with reference to Nussbaum (2003), Sen (2011), Walker & Unterhalter (2007)], “we start with a conception of human flourishing” of social justice, then teacher preparation programs have clear social justice responsibilities for child protection. Indeed, the author found that child abuse continually raises itself as a most important factor influencing young children’s ability to thrive and yet pre-service teachers expressed that they feel most under prepared in their higher education courses to take action in child protection. This paper will discuss a ‘close up’ research project evaluating the development and outcomes of an Australian University Innovation Grant received by the author in 2015. The grant was awarded to develop child protection online learning materials for a suite of higher education courses in the Faculty of Education at the university. The aim of the project is to use a strengths approach (McCashen, 2005) to enhance the child protection preparation of student teachers. Foundational to the project, is the goal of making a positive difference for graduating teachers who will be working with families and children at risk of, or experiencing, the social injustice of child abuse and neglect. The research is a case study describing and evaluating stakeholder (pre-service teachers’) engagement with the grant initiative. Responses to the pilot site from a small group of (40) Bachelor of Education (birth to five) student participants were analysed. Student responses were gathered by online surveys (pre and post using the site), email interviews and quantitative statistics using Blackboard Learning Analytics to indicate student engagement and reactions to the site resources. The paper explores the hypothesis that the extended, interactive strengths approach to child protection preparation assisted pre-service teachers to connect with, understand, develop strategies and act on child protection issues with confidence. Further analysis will be required to identify the particular elements of this project in higher education that contribute to enhanced knowledge and preparation for the complex social justice practice of child protection.


Higher Education, Child Protection, Teacher Preparation, Strengths Approaches.

Link to Full Paper


Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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