Tomy Ward Education
Education for Critical Times
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Thursday, 28 November 2013 16:32

Beyond Method: A Pedagogy to Save the World

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This paper is a sequel to an earlier invited presentation given on the 9th August 2012 at the Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua, New Zealand, titled" Critical Theory in a Bicultural Tertiary Environment and available as a freely downloadable PDF. That paper took a broad view of both Education, Critical Theory and their combination as Critical Pedagogy (as well as offering a critical analysis of Biculturalism). In response, several people contacted me asking for a more detailed accounting of what a critical theory application to teaching/learning might look like in the classroom. This paper  is a response to those requests. It has a much narrower focus. It suggests that our schools are in a state of chronic failure that has been the cause of many of the global crises we now face. It points out that we all tend unconsciously to reproduce the pedagogies by which we were taught and suggests that these are no longer viable in the face of impending global crises. It maps out the kinds of classroom practices and interactions that we need to develop if we are to develop  citizens who have  not only the technical skills, but also the critical awareness, the sensitivity, the capacity for compassion and relationship building if they and their children are to survive with dignity into a peaceful future. And finally it calls for a concerted programme of teacher professional development to assist teachers to make the necessary transition to a more viable pedagogical practice. 

In laying out the rationale, I refer back to July 2008, when I received a draft copy of an article being considered for publication by the British journal Psychotherapy Research. To my utter surprise the article dealt with the work I had been doing in critical pedagogy at the University of Auckland for twenty years, and specifically the methodology (what the authors called “The Ward Method”) I had been using to have my student develop consensus in co-creation projects in the Maori community. I had never had the time to write up the methodology, so the fact that the authors had been using it successfully for fifteen years without my knowledge came as a complete surprise. It was clear that it was time to make the methodology public and at the same time to address the concerns about methodology in general expressed by many critical education theorists.
 working on model (kids)   freda model smaLL
Much of the theoretical premise behind this so-called Ward Method has been part of the discourse of Critical Pedagogy for the last thirty years. Others have articulated the issues much better than I ever could – John Dewey, Paulo Freire, A. S. Neill,Ivan Illich,Michael Apple, Henry Giroux, Peter Mclaren, Stanley Aronowitz, Ira Shor, Joan Wink, Antonia Darder, Sandy Grande,  the list goes on. For the most part, however, their theorizing, while immensely useful and insightful, has failed to articulate any systematic methodology for critical pedagogical practice. Indeed, it has become the norm for critical pedagogues to eschew methodology and to attribute it to the forces of repressive conservatism and reductive thinking. Here I challenge this view and make a reasoned and concerted argument for the adoption of methodology into the armourment of the critical education struggle.

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