3 6 9

3 6 9

For me, Critical Pedagogy can be summarised as 3, 6 and 9 words:

3 Nothing is neutral

6 Education is a consciousness-raising undertaking

9 Reshaping the power structures in our classrooms remodels everything

Critical pedagogy is gaining momentum in ELT. We ask increasingly bold questions about our practice. There is a shift in voices of authority from the native-speaker model to the digital-native example. We use our conferences as springboards for new methodologies and the birth of ideas that shake and shape. We care less and less about teaching the present perfect within four-walled definitions of classrooms and more and more about whether our learners stay motivated when our lives encounter theirs. And we’re ripe to ask difficult questions that shift us from a methods-based approach to our practice to an education-based understanding of who we are and why we’re here as teachers.

Alaistair Pennycook uses the delightful analogy of the ostrich who is aware that there are political vibes to education yet avoids seeing a link between politics and the language of, in and about the classroom. That said, I don’t think too many of us have our heads hidden with our butts blithely in the air though when it comes to our classrooms and our teaching. Similarly, I think that the days of policed lesson plans are changing. Even in teaching contexts that perpetuate them, teachers talk about how and why things work and when they don’t. These voices are gaining space and they don’t need titles to speak. Just like Freire‘s (almost excessively quoted) banking model will always provide us with a map of understanding power structures in the classroom, the online, arisen and awake generation of classrooms make the empty vessels that need filling different to what they used to be. The content that fills the vessel may not match the syllabus but these are very full vessels we’re dealing with these days.

For me, reshaping the power structures is not about giving the students the chalk / marker pen / clicker nor is it about labelling a classroom as learner-centred. It’s above all about the space in the teacher’s head. For example, it’s about asking ourselves for an honest response as to why our students using their mobile phones might bother us (cf. an earlier post on this blog) and what sort of an image we paint of ourselves as teachers online and on our feet…these are the questions that reshape because they don’t pass dispassionate judgement, the just ask and allow for a response…

more to come πŸ™‚

Freire, P. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin

Pennycook, A. (2001) Critical Applied Linguistics: a critical introduction, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

(c) Divya Madhavan

5 thoughts on “3 6 9

  1. This is such a great post. Thanks very much.
    You wrote that, “Critical pedagogy is gaining momentum in ELT” and gave some clear examples of this. I am hopeful about these things you mentioned but also a bit pessimistic as well I guess.

    I loved this sentence, “For me, reshaping the power structures is not about giving the students the chalk / marker pen / clicker nor is it about labelling a classroom as learner-centred” and I think this is an extremely important point.

    One thing I was thinking about as I re-read this was this line, “We use our conferences as springboards for new methodologies and the birth of ideas that shake and shape.” I am not totally sure this is happening in Korea but that is not really my point. I guess my question here relates to conferences as a place for this sort of development. I recently participated in an online session related to “NNS” and there was a lot of talk related to TESOL and IATEFL but someone pointed out that these conferences are very unlikely to be possibly attended by the vast majority of teachers around the world. I am not trying to pick out one small line from your great post and be nit–picky about it . I am really just wondering about the place of conferences in a critical world.

    In my (very soon to hit publish on) new blog post I mention some blog posts that I wish I’d left comments on in 2013. This (among other posts of yours) was on my list. Please don’t feel the need to respond unless you feel like it. Thanks again for the thought provoking post(s)!

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    1. Dear Mike,

      Thank you so much for your thought-provoking reply. I think pessimism is a very natural tendency when ask critical questions and the hope that’s woven into that just speaks of the essence of the human condition, and the potential we always have to change things.

      Mike Harrison wrote a what is really important post to my mind post recently, ‘On not conferencing’. He asks similar questions of how the paywalled access of big conferences, coupled with the hype and gloss actually raises questions of what the benefit for the individual teacher is. I’ve just paid up all my IATEFL fees and unless I find a sponsor, there’s no way IATEFL can be an annual event for me, which is the reality for so many of us in this industry. So I couldn’t agree with you more that we need to ask the right questions along the way of what’s beyond the hype and whose (and not just how much) teaching practices actually benefit directly from it. This is where I think that organisations like iTDi have huge potential for the future of professional development.

      Anyway thanks for the dialogue, I look forward to reading your post in my lunch break later πŸ™‚

      Divya

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      1. Hi Divya,
        Thanks very much for the thoughtful response. I am glad you mentioned (places like) iTDi and i think you make a great point. about the potential there.

        Regarding conferences, you wrote, “I couldn’t agree with you more that we need to ask the right questions along the way of what’s beyond the hype and whose (and not just how much) teaching practices actually benefit directly from it” and I think that is a great starting point. It is surely something I will be thinking about soon when IATEFL and TESOL roll around.

        On a personal note, I was thinking recently about conferences being more of a personal and social event for me, and I think that is fine as long as I don’t make the assumption that attending such conferences is the most beneficial for my teaching or that this is the only way to improve things or that such opportunities are available to all.

        I also thank you for the link to Mike’s post, which I hadn’t seen though I am a big follower of his stuff. I think it touches on a lot.of things I have been thinking about. It will also help me feel better about my choice not to go to TESOL Arabia this year! πŸ˜‰

        Thanks for the exchange and excellent post!

        Take care,
        Mike

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