The What and the How of Critical Pedagogy
This blog post was a conjoined effort among group members. Table 2 consisted of: Nicole, Kaisen, Alex, Sofia, Amy, Anurag, and Robert
What does Critical Pedagogy mean to you and your group?
Our table discussed the different approaches to critical pedagogy, and arrived on a series of terms that captured the essence of our articles. Each of these terms related to the significance of empowering students to “take ownership” over their learning process.
Empowerment is essential to critical pedagogy, given that the students are meant to play an engaged role in the learning process. A few of the articles mentioned the limits in top-down teaching, but the goal should be to facilitate student learning rather than merely teaching content. This space for student engagement enables students to personalize the learning experience and to connect the topics or themes in the course to their lived experience. This breaks down the boundaries between inside and outside of the classroom, and fosters student agency in the learning process.
The notion ofcomplexity was essential to the Kinchloe. He argued that complexity was often removed from the classroom, and therefore complexity was to be embraced as a productive tool for learning for each individual.
The classroom cannot be a one-way transfer of knowledge. The transmission model dehumanizes the students, limits creativity, and destroys their self-worth. Instead, we must engage with them as peers, fully capable of contributing to the classroom, and worthy of respect and empowerment.
Acknowledging that people have individual needs and that “one size fits all” is not always effective. Students may have different learning styles, backgrounds, previous schooling/experiences, etc.
Seeing one’s position and others’ positions through multiples lenses, gaining new vantage points, acknowledging how something came to be. Reflexivity is essential to the classroom setting as learning and being cannot be separated from one another (ontology).
cooperative and decentralized
Where the teachers act as facilitators and relinquish their authoritative position to a more engaged and inclusive classroom. By decentralizing learning, the door is opened to learning from each other.
Have you ever think that it is impossible to apply critical pedagogical practices with your learners/students? Watch this video to get inspired:
And how may you apply it to your specific fields and educational settings?
Each of the table members hailed from different disciplines and will be teaching different types of courses. This section outlines the different ways critical pedagogy was or could be applied in each of our specific fields.
Robert: For someone teaching a political science or history course, the ambiguity of core terms can see frustrating, but are actually quite productive for critical pedagogical practice. One example of this productivity was in the international security course I taught last spring. In the first session, I gave students the space to define precisely what “security” meant for them and to explain how it was achieved. The diverse array of answers was particularly eye-opening. Some students explained that security related to the state and the role it plays in the security it provides for them to live a life free from encountering violence. For these students, security was about protection by a threat of violence. Other students explained that they defined security as something related to living in the that their family provided. That feeling of security came from other family members able to fulfill different functions essential to life. These different definitions demonstrated that students have very different interpretations of a foundational term, and it prompted reflections on the limits of dictionary definition of terms as space for a deeper student engagement.
Pyrros: In simplest terms, we can apply it by treating the students as humans, rather than automatons ready to receive their programming. We cut them down, treating them as ignorant and worthless, dependant upon the professor, and force them to accept delivery of our knowledge deliveries. Instead, we recognize their prior skills and strengths, and empower them to solve their own problems. — In my specific field of spatial epidemiology, this would involve switching from lecture dominated classes to problem-based learning. Allowing the students to realize that they can critically solve their own problems. We can offer them tools, and a bit of guidance, but not dictate to them or guide them to specific solutions. It is a daunting prospect though, our existing “transmission system of education” has so much momentum, and most of us were trained in this system, breaking free of it will have to be done piecemeal. Still simply recognizing the students have their own agency and should be encouraged to embrace it, will go a long way.
Nicole: I am a student in the field of Food Science and Technology. I would facilitate a discussion about the scientific method. This could first begin with providing information/ a refreshing about what the scientific method is and its specific steps. Then, in a discussion-based format, I would ask students to reflect on who created this/how it came to be. Why is this the standard? Does the scientific method work for all types of scientific research? What are the requirements for journals students in our field would submit to? Who created these standards? Do they work for all types of research? These questions set up a platform to talk about the construction and deconstruction of knowledge, gatekeepers, and how it is healthy to question the “norm.”
Kaisen: I am a student in Environmental Engineering and would like to teach an Intro class in the future. In the syllabus I wrote couple weeks ago, I have a group project arranged, aiming to let the students apply the knowledge they learn from my class and help them think actively. After our discussion today, I think a good “tailored” approach is instead of assigning one same project to each group, I can let the students determine the topic of their projects. In this way, they are given freedom in learning the topics that they are interested in further by spending time on it and working together. As the instructor, I will have additional office hours for each group to help them on their group projects. I think that is something that I can do to make my class a little bit “customized” by students.
Amy: I am in Engineering Education, and my background is in Mechanical Engineering. I would love to engage students in thinking critically about engineering design. In engineering, we often talk a lot about the design process and incorporate design classes and design projects. However, at least in my own education, I rarely thought about the broader impact of engineering design. I didn’t really think about who was deciding what problems engineers solve and the implications of having a small group of people finding “solutions” to these problems. Therefore, in these engineering design contexts, I want to engage students in thinking critically about which problems are being focused on and the perspective from which these problems are being approached. I just want to end with this short clip:
Anurag: I am in Civil Engineering, and have not had any teaching experience until this point, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about the way my classes have been taught and what I would want to change. Engaging students starts on the first day and I completely agree with my reading that we should not assign anything that we are not prepared to do ourselves. Small exercises in the beginning of the class to help students get to know each other will go a long way in getting them engaged in class. It helps humanize us and develop respect for each other as we know something about them.
Sofi: I am a PhD student at the Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise department. For me equity in education is very important. I would try to design the lectures with different types of materials and sections (e.g. power point, video, discussion, reading and writing). These materials would help visual learners, auditory learners, reading/writing-preference learners, and kinesthetic learners. Specifically, in food policy is necessary to understand the different stakeholders and their role. Readings before the class are always very helpful to take the class discussion to the next level. A power point can be used to map the different stakeholders in order to visualize them. Then a video with the stand position of policy makers regarding an initiative can be showed. Finally, writing a blog, tweet, commentary with the take away point of the class and final conclusion.