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Teaching For and About Critical Pedagogy in the Post-Secondary Classroom MARY BREUNIG Fariba Chamani, 2016

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Teaching For and About Critical Pedagogy in the Post-Secondary Classroom

Teaching For and About Critical Pedagogy in the Post-Secondary Classroom


Fariba Chamani, 2016

Purpose of Study

To explore how the professors put the theory of critical pedagogy into practice.

To present examples of effective critical classroom practices.

To explore the the justice-oriented nature of some of the reported examples of practice.

What is Critical Pedagogy?

The intent of critical pedagogy is to contribute to a more socially just world (Kanpol 1999).

Social justice is the attainment of equality in every aspect of society (Atkinson, 1982).

Critical pedagogy is based on critical social theories, liberatory education, feminist pedagogy, and post-structuralism & post-colonialism.

Historical Roots of Critical Pedagogy

Freire (1970): The inaugural Philosopher of Critical PedagogyFreires experience with the poor peasants in Brazil compelled him to develop educational ideals and practices that would serve to improve the lives of these marginalized people and to lessen their oppression.

His Problem-posing model valued the importance of student experience and a dialogical method of teaching and learning whereby the student and the teacher were mutually engaged in the process of teaching and learning.

Critical Pedagogical PraxisMere theoretical knowledge about critical pedagogy does not ensure acting upon the justice-oriented intentions of theory.

Theory needs to be connected to practical, lived experiences both outside and within the classroom (Van Manen, 1999).

Literature ReviewStudies on the relationship between theory & practice

Studies on the praxis-oriented teacher education across various contexts

Studies on critical media literacy

Theory/Practice RelationshipBeatriz Ruiz & Juan-Miguel Fernandez-Balboa (2005): examined physical education teacher educators critical pedagogical praxis and found that many of participants reverted back to transmission-based pedagogy because the professors lacked concrete examples of how to engage in critical praxis.

Macdonald & Brooker (1999): discovered that there was a need for more explicit information regarding how educators can employ critical pedagogical praxis within the post-secondary classroom.

Nancy Horan (2004): reported successes and challenges that she and her students experienced when attempting to put the theory of critical pedagogy into practice

Wink (2005): provided a critical pedagogy primer as well as a manual for practicing critical pedagogy.

Praxis-Oriented Teacher EducationShauna Butterwick & Jan Selman (2003): investigated how theatre can provided insights into issues related to social justice and the value of participatory and democratic classroom processes.

Green (2001) : Service-learning can provide students with an opportunity to engage in an experiential activity that helps them examine and modify their attitudes toward race, class and economic injustices.

Boyle-Baise & Kilbane (2000): examined the ways in which students often change their attitudes toward themselves and the community as a result of engaging in service-learning project

Critical Media LiteracyHull (1993): The intent of critical media literacy is to emancipate students worldview and engage them in transformational social action.

McLaren & Farahmandpur (1999) and Norton-Meiers (2002): examined the ways in which praxis-oriented forms of pedagogy can be used as a means to link what goes on in the classroom with what goes on in society.

Methodology Participants


Research Design

Data Analysis

Participants 17 self-identified critical pedagogues who showed interest to participate in research in an online call for research participants:

10 males & 7 females Between the ages of 50-60 10 non-tenured & 7 tenured professors 13 Caucasians & the rest were Latina, Native-American, Chicana, and Asian American.

Participants were made aware of this study and signed informed consent was obtained prior to data collection.

Materials One-hour semi standardized interviews with participants, via phone, about critical pedagogy definitions, aims and purposes:Do you believe that you engage in classroom practices that reflect the theories of critical pedagogy? What are some examples of your classroom practices that reflect the ways in which you employ critical pedagogy?

Study Design The study employed Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as the methodological framework. AI involves asking questions that strengthen either a systems or a persons capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential (Cooperrider, Whitney & Stavros, 2003). It seeks to build upon achievements, unexplored potential, innovations, strengths, competencies, stories, lived values, traditions, and visions.

Data Analysis

All 17 interviews were transcribed by a transcriber & a copy of the transcripts was sent back to each participant for his or her review.

Data analysis started with establishing some initial categories and themes related to the objectives and literature, and then reading through all transcriptions to identify other categories.

Results and Discussion

The following classroom practices emerged as central themes & the justice-oriented nature of them was examined:

Classroom community & group workDialogueCurriculum negotiation, Assessment and evaluation Experiential activities Traditional classroom practices

Classroom Community & Group Work Participants responded that building a classroom community was one of the central features of their critical praxis.

Its argued that constructivist approaches like collaborative learning may motivate students but how can it bring about a more socially just world?

However, creating a democratic space in the classroom through constructivist-oriented classroom practices can be an act of social justice itself (Dewey, 1938).


Dialogue was a central theme in participants reports about their critical pedagogical praxis.

Its argued that using dialogue to engage student voices can enhance learning (Jarvis, 1996) and impel students to reconceptualize traditional power relations (Lather, 1991; Shor, 1996).

But the results of this study did not reveal the justice-oriented nature of this praxis; rather, it was valued as a form of student-centered learning and teaching.

Assessment and Evaluation

Participants regarded their use of alternative methods of assessment and evaluation as critical in many respects.

Research provides solid evidence of the value of student-centered and constructivist classroom practices but point less conclusively toward anything that could be identified as justice-oriented per se.

Experiential Activities Experiential activities are utilized as a means to linking what goes on in classroom with what goes on in society:

In class experiential activities: students are asked to role play people in various positions of privilege within schools and those people in positions of less privilege.

Community service-learning: combines academic study with community and requires students to apply theoretical knowledge to real world situations. Action research projects: teaching about action research and the action research project itself can be dually oriented toward social change and toward improving teacher practice.


Critical practices and activities alone do not automatically or necessarily incite social justice and action, so critical pedagogue need:

To develop strategies that explicitly and overtly address the justice-oriented nature of critical pedagogy.

To consider the facilitation of classroom activities and design them based on the theory of critical pedagogy.

Limitations of StudyIt did not conduct follow-up interviews to explore some of these practices and facilitation techniques in more depth.

It was unable to further query participants about the potential gap between students knowledge about critical theory and direct social action.

Suggestions for Future Studies

Future studies should explore the gap between knowledge and action, and continue developing a set of best practices related to critical pedagogical praxis.

The should also focus on encouraging critical pedagogues to articulate the ways in which their classroom practices attend to justice-oriented issues and should explore facilitation techniques alongside this.

Thank You For Your Patience