Critical Pedagogy, JST 3

Hey, guys! Writing on behalf of Jigsaw Table 3.

As a group, we worked to define critical pedagogy, then crafted three sections of responses that consider how we apply critical pedagogy in our respective fields.

Thank you for reading, & wishing you all a happy start to your week!:)

– JST3 (AKA Helen Ajao, Carter Eggleston, Qishen Huang, Leslie Jernegan, Medha Satyal and Ruixiang Xie)


Group definition: Critical pedagogy comes from a desire to foster curiosity and acknowledge the realities of student experiences through the application of relevant material. In practice, it centers around an inclusive, equity-focused environment of collective learning between teacher and student where all are able and encouraged to learn from each other. Such a space liberates and empowers learners—both teachers and students—to engage with the world outside of the classroom.


Student-Centered Learning as a type of Critical Learning

Student-Centered Learning – video.

The video is about a school and the strategies used to ensure that their teachings are student-centered. These strategies explain three main tactics which include

Collaborative group work

Student choice

Inquiry-based activities

Collaborative group work:  The lesson plan was designed  to engage students in a group work activity. These activity helps the student to learn from each other and makes them successful.

Student Choice: This strategy involves empowering to the student to decide how they want to learn. It gives the student the feeling that they have control of their learning. Part of the activities includes mind mapping exercise, role play and setting ground rules for themselves.  One of the experience while taking a class was being given an opportunity to redesign the class syllabus, the instructor gave the opportunity to choose the deadline date for our assignment and also to include our expectations for class into the syllabus.

Inquiry-based activities: This was used to encourage the student to research independently with inquiry-based activities. These activities include student given task that has to do solving real-world problems. It makes the student engage in critical thinking, teachers listening to students’ questions and inspire them to put forward further questions to deepen student’s investigations

These three strategies explain Freire ideology about laboratory action. The liberation is a social dynamics involving working with and engaging other people in a power-conscious process. The students are empowered to think critically. It brings the cultivation of both teachers and students critical consciousness. Above all, it maintains the authority of the teacher as well as respecting the being and experiences of students.


Critical Pedagogy in the Arts

Foster curiosity and acknowledge the realities of student experiences through application of relevant material. This focus is typically a key focal point for creative writing, as much of the creative work (e.g., short stories, novels, poems, essays, plays) we (students and teachers) produce tends to be influenced by what most interests and concerns us, tends to leverage writers’ experiences—or, as Paulo Freire puts it, discusses “the concrete reality of [our] lives.” Although some teachers experiment with requiring students not to write about themselves in their submitted work, these teachers are apt to encourage their students to write about people, places and ideas that, although non-autobiographical, nevertheless inspire their curiosity.

Nonetheless, as a teacher, I urge caution with limiting the subjects about which students can/cannot write. (An example: A creative writing professor told me this past week that she once asked students not to write about guns in their work, as she was sick of reading about them. This censorship, she reported, proved suffocating for her students, particularly those who genuinely felt pressed to include guns in their creative work for myriad reasons. Is the classroom not a place to play with and enhance our skills to best relay our messages?) While I acknowledge the benefits in placing constraints on writing and providing prompts, these assignments seem to best serve students in the experimentation and idea-fruition stages.

To put things more concisely, as a teacher I’m working to help my students build their toolkits for best crafting the creative work they wish to create. The strongest creative work, from my experience, has been the work that’s been honest—the work that’s been written by a writer with something to say. Who am I to muzzle that?

The students and teacher are all learners. The ability of the instructor to transcend the role of a knowledge dispenser is paramount to the concept of critical pedagogy. As stated by Joe L. Kinchloe, teaching is complex, and involves much more than serving “as deskilled messengers who uncritically pass along a canned curriculum.” This particularly resonates as a teacher in the arts. Intrinsic to any successful artist is their ability to create work that is undeniably their own. Its forms exhibit manipulation from the artist’s own hand, its aesthetics reflect choices guided by the artist’s own beliefs, and its messages are delivered through a voice molded by the artist’s own passions and experiences.

There is no “canned curriculum” for this. As a teacher, I must expect to learn from my students, just as they expect to learn from me. I can certainly share with them the knowledge that I have gained from my own experiences, but I must be aware that their experiences are different from my own. Establishing a relationship where I’m comfortable learning from my students broadens all of our perspectives and enables all of us to further develop as artists in way that is honest to our individuality.

Trust yourself. All great teachers are able to inspire self-confidence in their students, and students who believe in themselves and the work that they do are almost always more successful than those who don’t. In the arts, a lack of self-confidence can be more difficult to conceal, as there aren’t as many facts, figures, or formulas to hide behind. Assessment is typically done through the creation of art, not through testing, and an unavoidable component of this is evaluating student creativity. How can I adequately gauge creativity if my students don’t feel confident and comfortable enough to infuse their work with their own fears, passions, and ideas? Every aspect of my role as an instructor must be mindful towards instilling confidence in students. This empowers them to create more successful work, and also carries with it benefits for life outside the classroom. Creating environments that build self-confidence during sensitive moments like critique or other periods of feedback are particularly important.

Feedback. Just as teachers teach students and students teach teachers, students serve the purpose of teaching each other in the classroom. Much of my academic world spins around the creative-writing workshop—classes in which students turn in their creative work to their peers, and peers return the next week with thorough feedback, both written and to be discussed as a class, with other students and/or the instructor as the discussion facilitator.

In such classes, students are in a constant cycle of collective learning via critical thinking, as those responding to a piece are learning from the process of giving feedback, and the person receiving the feedback, after having first learned from the process of producing the work, is now learning from the process of actively listening to responses regarding the next steps to take with that work. Such a space exemplifies self-directed, democratic education; each student in the group should and must be heard, and should and must actively listen. The antipode of passive learning, workshops, when facilitated properly, exemplify the practice of critical pedagogy, and serve not to tear apart peers’ work. Rather, the questions, collectively addressed, are: What does this work, on its own terms, seek to do? What have we discovered and appreciated with respect to the sensibility particular to this work? How can we work to make this even better?


Critical Pedagogy in Science and Engineering

The traditional lecture, with teachers as deliverers of information and students as passive receivers, is very popular in undergraduate courses in the sciences. These lectures tend to focus almost exclusively on information transfer—which is certainly important, but should not be the only goal. There are key facts and concepts that are important to know in every discipline, but in today’s world where information is constantly readily accessible, it isn’t important to have every fact or reaction or equation memorized. Instructors should place greater focus on how students might apply concepts in different contexts rather than focusing on memorization of concepts.

What differs the critical pedagogy from traditional lectures is that critical pedagogy emphasize on active thinking and learning of students. The education system right now is more like a screening system, which can provide all the information students want, in order to put students into places that he/she is comfortable to stay at. It focus on the input and output of the system regardless of the processing method of it. However, an ideal critical pedagogy would encourage the students to actively find out the direction they want to go by learning and thinking about what information they can get from the system. Thus the students will no long just be inputs of the system, but become variables of the system. The final output will change with them interactively.

Table – Comparison between traditional lecture and ideal critical pedagogy.

Typical Situation Ideal Critical Pedagogy
Information Delivery Lecture, passive learning Active, student-centered learning
Assessment Standard tests Applied question (not of the purpose of testing, regurgitation of information)
Student-teacher interaction Authoritarian Interactive
Class activities None Group work
Class size Huge Small
Priority Knowledge (facts) Curiosity, skills


It is well-established that passive learning strategies are not as effective as active learning strategies. In my view, the traditional lecture style likely persists for two main reasons. The first being that professors tend to teach the same way they were taught. As future educators, it is our responsibility to not fall into this trap. The second reason, and perhaps the greatest challenge, is large class sizes; at some large universities, introductory classes can have hundreds of students. Having large class sizes is economically effective for universities, but makes courses impersonal for both instructors and students. It can be difficult to design engaging activities that can be scaled up to such a large group of students, and lecture halls don’t provide an appropriate physical environment for collaborative group work. Smaller class sizes would allow for more personal and interactive relationships between instructor and student as well as among students. With technological advances, one strategy to encourage engagement that has become popular is presenting quiz questions during lectures which students respond to using clickers. This is a good way to check that students are present and absorbing information; however it falls short in that it doesn’t require students to apply or manipulate or synthesize the information they have learned.