Critical pedagogy is scary! In its simplest form it aligns with the imperative of engaged learning – figuring out ways to have teachers and students co-operatively to engage critically with the knowledge base, the pedagogies and curricula of their disciplines, and to share power in a mutual exploration of alternative understandings that intersect with issues of social, cultural and environmental equity and
sustainability in a context of real social needs and community aspirations. Asking teachers who have had a lifetime of top-down, authority-based, teacher-centered, abstract, silo’d learning to abandon this and to instead relinquish or at least share their power to grade and judge, to work across disciplines and to risk vulnerability and all for the same salary is to ask a lot. Why would anyone want or choose to do this? The answer is, that, with support and a good methodology it is not difficult, and that it can be very rewarding. Apart from the fact that it can energize and animate students to achieve exceptional results, it can also revitalize teaching practices, enthusiasm for the material and insights into new levels of understanding, new, cross-disciplinary combinations and extensions and conceptualizations of material that had previously seemed old and stale. It can be challenging and demanding. But it can also be fun. Many teachers have heard about engaged learning or critical pedagogy and don’t know what it means. Others have an understanding of what it means and would like to try it, but don’t know what to do or where to begin. The paper that follows is an explanation of one method that works. It doesn’t presume to be the only method that works, but it does work. Critical pedagogy and engaged learning are about teachers sharing their power – democratizing the classroom and allowing students to share in the decision-making at every level – the curriculum, the pedagogy and the evaluation. This method describes a way to do this that is safe, that allows teachers to share their power while at the same time retaining some control of the process and the product. It is also a method that if followed properly, will result in high quality outcomes that are sustainable in the long term. It is based upon a process of consensus building that seeks to give voice to those who are normally silenced and to use the multiplicity of perspectives to build solutions of exceptional quality. It is inclusive, democratic and
empowering. Students who have used this method are enthusiastic about their learning experience at deep personal as well as professional levels. The method has been refined over 40 years of practice and experimentation. It works! If you are contemplating introducing critical pedagogy into your classroom, this model will help you understand some of the key issues involved and will offer guidelines about how they might be addressed in concrete ways. It offers concrete examples, in different cultural settings, with comments by the participants, so that you, the reader, may come to understand the deep learning and life-changing experience that can occur on both sides of the teaching/learning relationship when relationships of mutuality are built and sustained over the learning encounter.
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