Sunday, 21 August 2016

Critical Pedagogy / Social Justice

One of my favorite list serves is Faculty Focus and while I was looking up information about Paulo Freire I came across an article about critical pedagogy the challenges of teaching it (Weimer, 2009). Some of the development of that pedagogy is often attributed to Freire. It also helped me to look at the social justice perspective of teaching, because of Freire emphasis on the practical application of reflection on social justice issues while teaching. Weimer summarizes the work of Fobes and Kaufman in this article (2008). She states, “critical pedagogy fits in with active learning, and the learner- or learning-centered approaches” (2009, para.1). In her description of the pedagogy she states one of its tenants is to promote social justice so a social justice perspective to education (2009, para.2).
Weimer summarizes the challenges in two parts, one for students and two for instructors (2009). The first is the issue of students who are used to traditional educational systems; that makes them less likely to speak up in class. When they do, how can that discussion be made more critical in nature?  The second challenge is the ability of the instructor to maintain an “authoritative air without being authoritarian” (Freire, 1990 as cited in Brookfield, 2015, p.24). Being authoritative can be hard for those instructors who are traditionally lacking in authority. Two examples are women and those with a race that is different from the dominating societal norm (Fobes & Kaufman, 2008, p.28 as cited by Weimer, 2009). Allowing the students to work in groups and produce knowledge through critical reflection of the topics is the suggestion of an answer for this issue. The instructor is the authoritative person guiding the groups.  A third issue, again for the instructor is that of evaluation of student work. The suggestion is to allow students to have a part in creating the rubrics that are used for the evaluation. I wonder if self-assessment as has been used in this PIDP course could also be an answer to this issue. Although in many of my classes I have experienced a dichotomy in the quality of assessments. The students who are most critically reflective are able to give a more honest self-assessment than the students who do no have insight into their understanding of the subject matter. The latter will give themselves an inflated or deflated mark depending on their self-confidence.
The ability of the instructor to tailor the course to the students’ experiences is important but it seems to be successful in as far as the instructor is able to promote a classroom of honest critical reflection.  It is in this critical reflection the students can see the social change that is needed to improve their situations and that of the discipline that they are learning about.

Brookfield, S. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Fobes, C., & Kaufman, P. (2008). Critical Pedagogy in the Sociology Classroom: Challenges and Concerns. Teaching Sociology, 36(1), 26-33. doi:10.1177/0092055x0803600104 Retrieved from:
Weimer, M. (2009). Critical Pedagogy Brings New Teaching and Learning Challenges - Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning. Magna Publications, Madison. Retrieved August 21, 2016, from

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