I’m writing this post to clarify my thinking on critical pedagogy after a discussion based PGCERT session on critical digital pedagogy at Goldsmiths. The session was OK but I felt like I needed to discuss some key concepts like the banking model of education at the beginning of the session with the participants and have a more focused small group discussion. We had quotes from some articles on critical digital pedagogy as prompts for the discussion but I quickly realized that I had too many quotes (about 7-8) and they weren’t easy to relate to perhaps because all of them were posing questions/making statements in the abstract. This made me question the content I have chosen for this session and my overall approach to introducing folks to critical pedagogy.
So where to start if you don’t know much about critical pedagogy? I guess most of us, well at least me, turn to the works of seminal scholars like Henry Giroux, bell hooks, Paulo Freire, Ira Shor, Michael Apple, etc. to learn about the approach. (It is, by the way, interesting to see that Shor and Freire refer to the approach as transformative pedagogy, experimental pedagogy, radical pedagogy, or even democratic pedagogy in a spoken book, and I counted only two mentions of critical pedagogy.) Anyway, going back to the heart of critical pedagogy, working in collaboration with students for social justice, means that you first recognize that there is a good deal of injustice, inequality, and simply ugliness happening in educational spaces. Understanding how power plays out in the society in terms of color of skin, ethnicity, gender, class and so on is a never ending process and recognizing that this is actually happening everywhere on a daily basis is transformative – you can never look at the world in the same way after you start seeing the power structures in the society.
But I believe we need more contemporary scholars who are able to bridge the gap between theory, personal experience and the current conditions of education, which of course may not be the same for everyone. The language of critical pedagogy is heavy and discussions in this arena are full of jargon that are difficult for a lot people to understand, as some participants rightly commented in the session. We don’t just need theory, the theorization of education, we need examples from real-life practice, and lots! We need teachers who openly share their experiences doing critical pedagogy, in online or face-to-face spaces. Something as simple as: this is what we did in class, this is what happened, this is why I think it didn’t/did work. Maha says,
“It is one thing to read about critical pedagogy in the abstract, but I believe there is much more to learn from contextual understandings of how the philosophy of critical pedagogy works in practice.”
This is a view I now fully embrace. Shor and Freire’s talking book the Pedagogy of Liberation is great because critical pedagogy is contextualized as they both give examples from their practice. bell hooks also gives plenty of examples from her practice in her books. But still, it’s not like hearing from a colleague about what works and what doesn’t, what worked and what didn’t. We don’t even have enough examples to decide if this is something that actually works in class (I mean in formal learning spaces online and face-to-face) across different disciplines.
So what I’d like to ask is, what is your experience of critical pedagogy? How do you go about it in class? What works and what doesn’t? If you could share a comment here or send me a link to a blog post, I would love to collect some examples from practice and perhaps turn them into an edited book in the future, of course with your permission and in collaboration with you!
6 thoughts on “Critical (Digital) Pedagogy”
I run different education programs . I am responsible for hiring teachers , choosing textbooks,…) . I will focus on one point , manifested through English language programs ; still, the concepts may extend to other subjects.
Textbooks: English language textbooks are sometimes biased to represent western and/or mainstream cultures ( for example representing the culture of London rather than other cities in England or other world cultures ; thus, different cultural manifestations are affected:food , drinks, …etc). You may also find a tendency towards representing the interests of youth more than different age groups , which affect student engagement.
Since we provide language programs to corporate employees (white/blue/gray collars) , sometimes teachers come to me complaining that the students are not engaged, demotivated,..etc. What I do: first , I liberate the teachers by enforcing the fact that they should not be slaves to the textbook , trying to liberate them from the colonized mentality( it is western and from a native speaker , then it is perfect). I ask them to construct the social/ cultural aspect of the curriculum with their students. I tell them if your students do not eat burger , why would you teach them a foreign language through it. Keep the language learning outcome , but change the context (let it be the falafel vendor in the street) Still, I do not mind introducing them to different contexts… Actually, this works very well.
I hope this helps 🙂
I am staying in London till Sept. 29 as I have started my EdD in case you would like to meet in person.
Thanks for your comment Mohamed. I like how you advise teachers to change the context of language learning so that learners can better relate to the curriculum. When I was learning English at school we had Cambridge and Oxford textbooks, which like you mention in your post mostly focused on mainstream (or even stereotypical) culture in England. I’m not sure if we can liberate another person though (one problem I have with the language of critical pedagogy)… Perhaps raise awareness?
Thank you for your comment, Suzan !!
I always prefer to use ” power exploration” or “exchange of powers” rather than “empowerment” , but you drew my attention that I am using ” liberate” 🙂 Yeah, awareness is a better term. I need to reflect more on my beliefs, perceptions, and the way I phrase them.
You lovely and courageous women!! This post is an enactment, an embodiment of critical pedagogy. I’m not an expert, I’m also starting to use the underlying principles for my UG teaching and I’m anxious thinking, will it work? But I will go for it because I truly believe in the fact that the uneven distribution of power in the classroom refrains student’s agency. I’m sure it won’t mean that making changes in how I approach to he session will bring immediate changes but it is a starting point. Shor and Freire Talk about the time it took them to get it right and the many things that didn’t work. So don’t think this is an easy thing to do. If I may suggest something, you could start the session not with your slides and thoughts but asking them about what do they think makes them feel disempowered, or what scares them, and if there is room for ‘theourising’ in the Shorian or Freirean sense, they will find solidarity and a way into fiñding how theory (which ever you or they choose then) will support them in thinking about them. They must be the starting point instead of your slides…they could come later, once they have been an important part and aspect of the session. But again, this needs various attempts and I’m not sure about anything. But what I do know is that we have to start by recognising the need to change the teaching/learning dynamic…and it seems to me you have started the journey🙌👏👏🙌
We can support eachother in the process of becoming critical pedagogs🙏
Thanks for your comment and encouragement Caroline! What you are saying about not expecting immediate changes is important.. Understanding how power plays out in the society takes years to understand, and why should we expect students to see the world as we do? So starting the session with the participants’ experiences is a spot on suggestion! You have given me lots to think about this morning:)
You are superb! Open to critically explore your self and what you do, and they I think is where criticality starts 🤗