Critical Pedagogy: Education as Emancipation . . . or . . . Teach for the Sky

Table 3’s Take on Critical Pedagogy

Education is getting an overhaul. A growing appreciation of the dynamic nature of the world has led to dynamic classrooms, and we could not be more excited.

Previously, the initials CP might trigger vague thoughts of Canada’s largest international airline, or how physicists still measure luminosity (Candle Power). Not anymore! Now CP stands for one thing, and one thing only: Critical Pedagogy. But what is Critical Pedagogy?

Codified and championed by Paulo Freire, the Argentine polymath, CP is a revolutionary teaching approach that aims to challenge education’s traditionally authoritarian perspective (I teach, you learn). Whilst CP can be achieved in myriad different ways, there are several things it cannot do without.

Critical Pedagogy …


Requires dialogue between teacher and student

Teachers must know their students in order to be able to teach effectively, thus the relationship between the two, and the one that exists between the teacher and the collective group of students (class), guides and shapes the education that is given and received.


Facilitates the asking of questions   






Is political and requires teachers to be engaged in societal issues and debates


Is Centered upon the Concept of Biophily – nature is inherently dynamic, and thus can only be fully understood if we appreciate the changes and adaptations of natural systems over time.

Neither students nor teachers are static entities, and this has direct consequences for both teaching style and course content. Failure to recognize the fluid nature of a classroom will likely lead to failure. What’s more, the progress of society hangs on these shared dynamic properties, without which there would be no reason for hope. We have made it this far, but only by the skin of our teeth.

video – 4 Billion Years of Evolution in 40 Seconds

Blog post: Freire and Fromm on Necrophily


Searching to define the ‘best’ way of teaching – versus thinking that the existing way ‘works fine’.


Democratic in its approach to including all perspectives:

  • Attends to equity rather than equality   


Another illustration from a different perspective (CP in action!!)








Flexible in its construction: not proscriptive or prescriptive – utilize what makes sense, adopt practices and outcomes that align within the general framework of Frerie’s ideas, but does not need to follow them exactly


Respects students’ pre-existing knowledge and make use of it.

Learning goes beyond re-learning existing knowledge, includes the creation of new knowledge. The teaching process is more than knowledge transfer, encouraging the learners to create and recreate knowledge for themselves.


An example for this from Chang:

My previous research was focused on some new functional nanomaterials before I came to Virginia Tech. Then I joined the group at VT which the projects were mostly about environmental contaminants detection by spectrum analysis. By using this kind of analysis, substrates were employed to get the chemical compound detected. In some specific project, the nanomaterial I studied before could be used as perfect substrates in the work we are doing now. It s a great incorporation for which I could dig deeper based on my previous study and make use of it in the future research. My advisor totally respects what I have got and he said he had definitely learned something from it.  


Open to various ideas and perspectives  

Multiple perspectives are essential in order to reach various learners  and promotes students adopting various perspectives








Group Members:

Brittany Boribong, Chang Liu, Faith Skiles, Jonathan Harding, George Brooks, Kathryn Culbertson