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University of Massachusetts
College of Education
Graduate School


Contact Information:

159 Hills South
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

Student Development Department Office:
413-545-2231, 413-545-3610

Ximena Zúñiga, Concentration Chair


College of Education
Department of Student Development (SD)
Social Justice Education Concentration



Social Justice Education is an interdisciplinary program of study with a focus on social diversity and social justice education particularly as they apply to formal educational systems, kindergarten through higher education. The master’s program of study prepares reflexive practitioners in Social Justice Education who are capable of applying social justice education practices in a variety of educational settings. The doctoral program of study prepares educators, counselors and school leaders to study, interrogate, and further theorize conceptual, empirical and applied knowledge in Social Justice Education. Our goals are to generate knowledge about social justice educational theory and practice and to apply new knowledge to the design, delivery and evaluation of effective social justice educational practices in a variety of educational settings.

Social Justice Education’s central focus is the preparation of professional educators, counselors, and change agents who are able to understand and work effectively with social justice issues in formal and non-formal educational settings. It provides graduate degree programs of study for educational professionals who teach and practice at all levels of the educational system, kindergarten through college as well as in after-school programs, youth development programs and other community based organizations working with students of all ages. We hope to attract educational professionals whose primary responsibilities include teaching, school guidance and counseling, the supervision or professional development of teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, education administrators, student affairs programmers, special educators or college residential educators.


The field of Social Justice Education evolved in part from struggles of various civil right movements over the past fifty years within which concepts such as social justice, liberation and oppression are central categories for analyzing, investigating, evaluating and transforming interlocking systems of discriminatory institutional structures and cultural practices and social behavior (Adams, Bell & Griffin, 2007.) Students in social justice education study the inequities that people experience on the basis of their social group memberships, through systems of constraint and advantage reproduced through the social processes of exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence (Young, 1990). Social justice education pays attention to the resources that individuals, families, social groups and communities bring to personal and social change and to the transformation of educational institutions and practices.
Social justice education also pays careful attention to process in educational and structural interventions and practices. This attention to process includes balancing the emotional with the cognitive; acknowledging and supporting the personal while analyzing and intervening in social systems; attending to social relations within and among families, schools and communities; developing competencies in collaboration and interpersonal and intergroup relationships as well as education and advocacy. Social justice practitioners evaluate and acknowledge the shifting contexts of human interaction and the need for social and personal equity.

The bodies of knowledge, research and practice that inform social justice education are interdisciplinary, drawn from education; anthropology; Black and ethnic studies; cognitive developmental and social psychology; gay, lesbian bisexual, transgender and queer studies; history; literature; Judaic and Middle Eastern studies; sociology and women’s studies. It includes the following areas:

a. Theories and research on socialization that inform the development of social identity and social group affiliations within families, schools, communities and other social institutions;

b. The formation, maintenance, and interaction among in-groups and out-groups, and interventions that foster positive inter-group relations;

c. Prejudice and discrimination, the dynamics of power and privilege, and intersecting systems of oppression;

d. Theories and practices of social change; resistance and empowerment; liberation and social justice movements.

e. Socio-cultural and historical contexts for, and dynamics within and among the specific manifestations of oppression (adultism, religious oppression, ableism, classism, ethnocentrism, heterosexism, racism, sexism, transgender oppression) in educational and other social systems;

f. socio-cultural and historical contexts for the Civil Rights Movement and other social liberation movements that found inspiration in it (such as the women’s liberation movement, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights movements, the disability rights movement, and liberation movements for communities of color);

g. The interaction of students and families within multicultural schools and communities;

h. Models for designing, delivering and evaluating curriculum-based social justice education;

I. Models for designing, delivering and evaluating system-based social justice interventions within or among schools, school systems, youth serving organizations and communities

j. Social justice intervention strategies methods such as critical pedagogy, anti-bias education, popular education, youth empowerment, dialogue across differences, participatory action research, alliance building, collaboration, or advocacy.

These bodies of knowledge provide the basis for the core competencies included in the master's, Ed.S. and doctoral program.

For further discussion of the conceptual approaches and practices informing this program, please refer to Adams, M., Bell, L.A., & Griffin, P. (Eds.) (2007). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (Second Edition). New York: Routledge.
Young, I.M. (1990). Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.



For additional information about our graduate programs of study and application process please click on the corresponding link on the left pane.

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