What lessons does Holocaust education hold for preservice teachers and how does Holocaust education aid their growth as social justice educators? In this qualitative teacher research study we attempt to answer these questions by analyzing the coursework and reflections of 16 social studies preservice teachers (PSTs) as they completed an in-depth study of the Holocaust through historical research, field trips, and reading young adult literature, and designed creative and engaging lessons to teach the Holocaust to secondary social studies students (grades 6-12).
Findings reveal “blind spots” in the PSTs Holocaust-related content knowledge, pedagogy, ability to make connections between the historical event and their students’ lives, and their acceptance the role of social justice education (Bazerman & Tenbrunsel, 2011). Over the course of the study, the PSTs improved their content and pedagogical knowledge, and took their first steps towards becoming social justice educators. We also found that for PSTs, taking on the role of Holocaust educators and social justice educators takes time and practice This study broadens scholarship on many common concerns in teacher education, such as dispositions, multicultural education, and teaching for social justice. The findings inform teacher educators, teacher candidates, and practicing teachers on the connections between Holocaust and social justice education, and provide a model for teaching social studies for social justice.