Social justice reasoning when students learn about social issues using multiple texts

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In this paper, I apply the Multiple Documents Text-Based Relevance Assessment and Content Extraction (MD-TRACE) model, to describe the types of cognitive processes that students engage to critically reason about social issues, as they are portrayed through mass media. In addition to examining such processes, I further consider the extent to which these are reflective of social justice reasoning, or students’ critical reasoning about social issues in ways that recognize and analyze inequities in society. Three studies are introduced to provide empirical examples of how cognitive processes, identified in the MD-TRACE, may function within the context of students’ reasoning about mass media. The processes examined include selection (Study 1), processing (Study 2), and integration (Study 3). Study 1 examines the types of perspectives that students propose seeking out in association with various social issues and the extent to which these perspectives may belong to marginalized groups (i.e., selection). Study 2 examines students’ critical reasoning about or abilities to critique two deliberately constructed texts during processing. Study 3 investigates students’ specific abilities to identify and critique narrative frames, or common reporting tropes, introduced across texts (i.e., integration). Together, these three studies serve as exemplars of students’ engagement in reasoning about mass media and social justice reasoning. They suggest that social justice reasoning involves, in part, students’ engagement in perspective taking, their application of prior knowledge to contextualize information in texts, and their recognition of common narrative frames across texts and the values that these uphold. Additional social justice reasoning strategies are suggested and directions for future research proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-272
Number of pages29
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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