(I’m writing this in preparation for the #KELTChat on Critical Pedagogy I’ve been asked to moderate next weekend)
I always sum up Critical Pedagogy into 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.
Try not to equate Critical Pedagogy with Critical Thinking Tools – or the diagrams and techniques that go with such tools. It’s not that one has nothing to do with the other, but Critical Pedagogy is less about practical techniques and more about deeper understanding, the kind of understanding that changes who you are as a teacher and not just how you teach a specific lesson.
What does a tool do?
It takes a complex idea,
It breaks it down into smaller parts, and
It finds a technique for understanding that can be used in other places (if it’s a good enough tool)
What does pedagogy do?
It takes a complex idea,
It finds its key(s), and
It renders it meaningful and accessible in its context – revealing other things that are meaningful and accessible.
So Critical Pedagogy is
-not (just) about pros and cons
-not (just) about problems and solutions
-not (just) about interpreting information and drawing conclusions
Critical Pedagogy is, in the words of Henry Giroux;
“a project that stresses the need for teachers and students to actively transform knowledge rather than simply consume it”
“it is crucial for educators to not only connect classroom knowledge to the experiences, histories and resources that students bring…but to link such knowledge to the goal of furthering their capacities to be critical agents who are responsive to moral and political problems of their time”
Giroux, H. (2011) On Critical Pedagogy. London. Continuum.
Critical pedagogy is a a deeply social phenomenon in education and you can’t really isolate it as a tool for analysis without embedding it in the lives of the people under discussion. So this is a good starting point- understanding who we are talking about and not just what we are talking about.
Before we chat, I suggest you read a little about Critical Pedagogy here:
I suggest that we start the chat by talking about what is embedded in your lives as teachers and in the lives of the students who impact your practice and your growth. A first step do doing this is to think about cultural capital.
Cultural capital refers to all the non-financial social assets that aid social mobility: someone’s education, their intellect, the way they speak, sometimes even their physical appearance.
This is particularly pertinent when it comes to English and our role in facilitating its acquisition. We witness every day how learning English gives access to better jobs, better education, better income in some cases…and while this is perhaps a necessary phenomenon, it isn’t necessarily a neutral phenomenon.
Cultural capital isn’t just something that one has, but something that assumes different value in different contexts. Value systems change not just across generations but through education.
So think about your cultural capital as an ELT teacher, and about the cultural capital your students may or may not bring to the learning situation and let’s take the conversation from there….
This concept is something that the philosopher Pierre Bourdieu talked about a lot. If you’d like to read more, look here:
(The next post in this series is on The Hidden Curriculum)