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Relational Pedagogy  

Mary Jo Hinsdale and Ann-Louise Ljungblad

One could easily argue that the pedagogy of relation is not new: a genealogy of the approach would send us back to the ancient Greek philosophers. However, in recent years relational pedagogy has been taken up in novel and ever-deepening ways. It is a response to ongoing efforts at school reform that center on teacher and administrator accountability, based on a constraining view of education as the effective teaching of content. In this view, methods, curricula, and high-stakes testing overshadow the human relationship between teacher and student that relational pedagogy theorists place at the center of educational exchanges. When relationships are secondary to content, the result can be disinterested or alienated students and teachers who feel powerless to step outside the mandated curriculum of their school district. Contemporary relational theorists offer an alternative vision of pedagogy in a concerning era of teacher accountability. Internationally, teachers experience challenging educational environments that reflect troubled social histories across differences of socioeconomic class, race and ethnicity, gender, and ability status. Climate change, civil and economic instability, and war add global pressures that bring immigrant and refugee students into classrooms around the world. In the United States, histories of slavery, genocide, and indigenous removal continue to resound through all levels of education. Putting the teacher-student relationship at the heart of education offers a way to serve all students, allowing them to flourish in spite of the many challenges we face in the 21st century. Relational pedagogy is inspired by a range of philosophical writings: this article focuses on theorists whose work is informed by the concept of caring, as developed by Nel Noddings, with the critical perspective of Paulo Freire, or the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas. Although these approaches to ethical educational relations do not necessarily mesh together easily, the tensions among them can bear fruit that informs our pedagogy. After outlining the theoretical contours of relational pedagogy, we will turn to more recent empirical work in the field. New studies help us understand how to turn theory into classroom practices that will benefit all students.

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Restorative Justice in Education  

Kristin Elaine Reimer and Crystena Parker-Shandal

Restorative justice in education (RJE) is a philosophical framework that centers relationships in schools, calls attention to issues of justice and equity, and provides processes to heal harm and transform conflict. The use of restorative justice (RJ) in schools gained large-scale attention from teachers and school boards since the 2010s. In the 1990s and early 2000s many school boards around the world took up what was generally known as “zero tolerance” approaches. It meant that punitive responses, such as suspension, expulsion, and exclusionary practices, were used by administrators and teachers more readily and frequently. Research continues to show that exclusionary punishments are harmful—especially to Indigenous students, students of color, and other marginalized students—in many ways, for example, increasing dropout rates, decreasing overall student achievement, and strengthening the school-to-prison pipeline. Gaining more momentum in the 2010s (although practiced by many teachers and communities before this), RJ approaches became a way to challenge a system that was simply not working and further harming students. Many educators and school boards saw RJE as a means to reduce suspensions and expulsions and to increase their graduation rates. Others have seen RJE as a critical process for facilitating school equity and racial justice. This continuum of approaches to RJE impacts how research is conducted, what research questions are asked, who is included in the research process, and how it is disseminated. While some researchers still position RJE as solely an alternative to punitive disciplinary models, an increasing number of researchers view RJE as a paradigm shift for how people relate to one another in the context of schools, including through relational approaches to pedagogy. This relational way of being centers people’s humanity and promotes shared accountability within learning communities.