Pedagogical Pivoting, Emergent Curriculum, and Knowledge Production: But Just Don’t Call It Social Justice


  • Brian D. Schultz Miami University
  • Stephanie Pearson Miami University


Emergent Curriculum, Democratic Teaching, Social Justice Education, Classroom Practices


The current context of skill-based curriculum and high-stakes, outside mandates makes teaching exceedingly difficult. This educational climate creates a challenging environment in which to identify opportunities for engaging students in inquiry-based, emergent forms of curriculum centering on issues and topics they name. Through side-by-side narrative inquiry, this article focuses on the perspectives drawn from a co-teaching experience of a third-grade teacher and a university professor who worked together to adjust teaching approaches from a skill-based to an emergent, knowledge-generative pedagogy. By engaging young people around issues the students identified, the teacher engages in a pedagogical pivot. While the teacher embraced new practices related to emergent curriculum, she resisted naming it as justice-oriented teaching. This inquiry raises issues around curriculum and student agency, framing curriculum as social justice, and pedagogical agility.

Author Biography

Brian D. Schultz, Miami University

Brian D. Schultz is Professor and Chair of the Department of Teacher Education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Prior to joining the faculty at Miami, Brian was the Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Inquiry & Curriculum Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. Brian's research focuses on students and teachers theorizing together, developing integrated curriculum based on the students' interests and priority concerns, and curriculum as social action and public pedagogy. He is particularly interested in encouraging pre-service and practicing teachers to create democratic and progressive educational spaces in their classrooms. His recent books include the 10th Anniversary edition of Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom (Teachers College Press, 2018) and Teaching in the Cracks: Openings and Opportunities for Student-Centered, Action-Focused Curriculum (Teachers College Press, 2017).