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 🙂
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