As several other bloggers wrote this week, I struggled to grasp the idea of how critical pedagogy would look in practice. I found a helpful, short piece in the Edvocate that highlighted five steps educators can take to implement critical pedagogy in their classrooms. The step that resonated most with me was number 3: present alternative views. Critical theory is focused around challenging the dominant social structures and “traditional” narratives within our society. In critical pedagogy, this could take the form of presenting “success stories” in a specific field and encouraging students to challenge their beliefs and critically assess the “success” of these stories.
This approach resonated strongly with me, because I recently listened to a conference presentation about climate justice that mirrored this sentiment. The presentation, titled- #ClimateFails: Learning from Our Mistakes to Move Forward to Justice in Seattle, didn’t follow the traditional format of providing answers and solutions to tackle climate justice. Instead, the speakers shared several stories about how the city of Seattle failed in their attempts to center equity and inclusion in their planning and development. They hoped to inspire audience members to critically assess how their own communities have failed to promote climate justice before moving forward more equitably. I found their approach refreshing but judging by the lack of engagement in the chat box afterwards, I think their message fell flat with the audience. This was very late in the day, but I suspect it wasn’t just Zoom fatigue that made for an awkward Q & A session. I suspect that audience members became lost in the conversation about failures, abundant usage of buzz words and call to do better, without any concrete examples of how to improve in the future.
I shared this example, because when I consider the critical pedagogy approach and challenging traditional narratives, I worry that the teaching could fall flat as the messaging did in this presentation. Without centering class discussions in hope and sharing some concrete ideas of how to actually improve/change these traditional narratives, I worry the conversations remain abstract, with students unsure where to go next. Or fail to equip students with the knowledge, skills, drive, passion, etc. to enact change. In addition to climate change, we are facing many complex challenges with no easy solution that require action now, but youth and students of today have a big role to play in shaping the future! As I teach about the past, present and future challenges of climate change, I believe that “critical” piece of pedagogy has a role to play, but I will place more emphasis on hope and brainstorming solutions than challenging past narratives to inspire students to take action!
Lynch, M. (2018). How to Implement Critical Pedagogy into Your Classroom. The Edvocate. Accessed from: