Human flourishing versus failure to thrive: Higher education and child protection

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)


The chapter examines an example of “forwarding the notion of social justice into our engagements with higher education” (Case, 2015, p. 1). If, as Case suggests, “we start with a conception of human flourishing” of social justice, then teacher preparation programs have clear social justice responsibilities for child protection. Indeed, “child abuse continually raises itself as a most important factor influencing young children’s ability to thrive” (Fenton, 2013) and yet pre-service teachers feel under-prepared in higher education courses to take action in child protection (McCallum, 2003). The chapter discusses this issue in the context of a ‘close up’ research project (Australian University Innovation Grant). The project enabled the development and evaluation of interactive scenario-based, child protection materials for higher education courses at a regional Australian University.

The primary aim was to use a strengths approach (McCashen, 2005) to enhance the child protection preparation of student teachers. The ongoing goal focuses on making a positive difference for teachers working with families and children at risk of, or experiencing, the social injustice of child abuse and neglect. The case study research describes and analyses stakeholder (pre-service teachers’) engagement with the project online pilot website. Responses to the site from student participants were gathered by online surveys, in-depth email interviews and quantitative website statistics.

The chapter explores the hypothesis that the extended, interactive strengths approach to child protection preparation assisted pre-service teachers to connect with, understand, develop strategies and act on child protection issues with confidence. Positive student engagement to the site and resources were a key element in the responses of the participants, encouragingly evident in both “numbers and words” (McArthur, 2015). However, student engagement is a complex, multifaceted construct (Zepke, 2014) and further analysis is applied to identify particular elements of this project that contributed to enhanced knowledge and preparation for the complex social justice practice of child protection.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLocating social justice in higher education research
EditorsPaul Ashwin, Jan McArthur
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
ISBN (Print)9781350086760
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2020

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Human flourishing versus failure to thrive: Higher education and child protection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Fenton, A. (2020). Human flourishing versus failure to thrive: Higher education and child protection. In P. Ashwin, & J. McArthur (Eds.), Locating social justice in higher education research Bloomsbury Academic.