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What is Critical Pedagogy?

Critical Pedagogy is provoking thought by engaging with each other, which promotes a collaborative and problem-solving learning environment and encourages a critical reflection of one’s own learning experience.

Group 3, engaging in critical pedagogy in class this week (thank you Dr. Ewing for the photo!)

To our group, critical pedagogy means:

  • Learning is based in the learners’ own being — how they interact with the world, their thinking, and their belief of what they will become. The teacher is a political tool, and the process of learning is related to individual empowerment and social change. [Khaled]
  • Researching and understanding a student’s background and using that information to enhance their learning. When teaching, we must take into consideration the complex ways individual minds process information so we may break past the archaic limitations of the current education system. [Mike]
  • Moving from “narration” to “collaboration”, where knowledge is allowed to be a process of inquiry instead of a transfer of information. Through dialogue, teachers and students become “teacher-students” and “student-teachers”. [Meredith]
  • Having critical reflection, which is the relationship between theory and practice.  Otherwise theory becomes simply “blah blah blah” and practice, pure activism. Teaching is not the transfer of knowledge, but creating the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge. [Nayara]
  • Learning is a pleasurable activity, which teaches people not only how to read the word but also read the world. It is intuitive for children, but is suppressed through the high school and undergraduate experiences. Once these people take the next step, they are taught critical thinking (thinking outside the box) again — essentially deeming critical pedagogy as a learned behavior. [Vibhav]
  • Creating a positive environment begins with the teacher engaging with students beyond a surface level which builds a community in your class. [Deb]

How does this apply to our specific fields and educational settings?

  • Encouraging critical reflection of student’s learning experience and how he/she could apply that in the lifestyle. [Khaled]
  • In order to teach students using complex critical pedagogy, we as educators must provide the information in a context that is relatable and digestible to each student.  In addition, we have to give students the necessary time and resources to grasp concepts. Many students learn at different paces; by allowing students to grasp the concepts at their own speed, they are more confident and even inspired to learn more about the subject.   [Mike]
  • We invite students to be problem-solvers — co-investigators in the creative process. To do this, we must pose problems instead of solely conveying information. Encouraging creativity in our engineering classes by asking students to engage with design problems allows them to critically approach the question and apply their own experiences in order to solve the problem. [Meredith]
  • Creating an environment in which students can have the knowledge presented to them, then knowledge  is shaped through understanding, discussion and reflection. This means students should understand basic concepts and then be able to shape them into practical applications. For example, when teaching “Lean principles” to industrial engineering students, a hands-on project could make students to critically think about concepts and connections between what they have read and what is happening in the real job environment. A critical perspective can not truly be developed in a mechanical memorization or the rhythmic repetition of phrases and ideas. A creative challenge is needed in the classrooms! [Nayara]

  • Creating cutting edge and creative technology to enable differently-abled people to interact with the world in a “normal” way.  [Vibhav]
  • Allowing students to engage with the material and each other in a way that interests them most at some point in the semester. [Deb]

For more of our thoughts, check out our blogs:

21 Responses so far.

  1. glupton says:

    Wonderful post. Very thoughtful and insightful. It forms a great base for the next discussion, which I think is going to be how to use specific teaching methodologies to make this a reality. I also really enjoyed your Leonardo DiCaprio meme. I’m going to steal that and save it to use later. It captures the idea well!

  2. Heather Kissel says:

    To echo Gary–the Leonardo DiCaprio meme is an amazing summary of your group’s excellent post. One other major strength of your group’s post is that you gave a group definition of critical pedagogy, but you also had each group member give their own definition. This both demonstrates what critical pedagogy is according to your group definition while providing an extended definition (by giving each group member’s definition–their unique connotations–you are engaging in critical pedagogy). I think this is great because it gives you insight about each member of your group, just like you would want to know how each student is understanding important concepts/definitions in your classes. My question then would be “Does your group have any ideas on how to have students agree on a definition/particular understanding of a concept that may have ambiguous meaning (like contemporary pedagogy?) that still values their unique connotations?”

  3. Shannon Roosma says:

    Thanks for sharing your post! What most stood out to me was your mention of enjoying learning and connecting with the student’s interests. I know that these elements have been so important to me as a student throughout my educational career. I’m unsure how much of this was by happenstance and how much might have come through deliberate and mindful effort on the behalf of my teachers. I wonder how a classroom might change if the focus shifted completely from transmitting information and instead seeking to help students understand what they find interesting, enjoyable, and applicable about any particular topic and then encouraging them to explore appropriate as a result of that interest. Thoughts on that idea?

    • Ray Thomas says:

      I wanted to piggyback off this comment to comment on the blog and the excellent question put forward by Shannon. Its interesting that students do have opportunities to pursue their own interest some of the time (independent studies or undergraduate research) but often times that is still confined by the interests of the advisor or instructor even when it is mostly up to the student. Professors tend not to really provide help and direction or spend their time on topics they don’t have an interest in themselves. I can think of several points in my own career where I’ve fostered undergraduate research, I, as the instructor, was still setting the agenda and guiding research on a particular topic. I’m not sure how we could get away from that.

  4. Dami says:

    Thanks for your post. This here – “Moving from “narration” to “collaboration”, where knowledge is allowed to be a process of inquiry instead of a transfer of information. Through dialogue, teachers and students become teacher-students and student-teachers” – really resonates with me. I really like the idea of teachers becoming students too. It is written in the first few lines of my teaching philosophy that I learn from all my students. While we may have a better understanding of course concepts than students, students’ unique backgrounds make them offer unique insights about course concepts, which we may learn from.

  5. Corrie says:

    Thanks for the collective post! Particularly, “Teaching is not the transfer of knowledge, but creating the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge.” So often I find in the classroom where I TA it’s difficult to get the students to think beyond the logistics and take that next leap into wanting to understand the “why”. Recently I was having a conversation with one in particular as he was struggling to find a way to approach a writing assignment about a recent theatrical production we had all seen. I encouraged the student to write about themes and concepts that resonated him. Hopefully this tactic will help engage him with the work on a deeper level than simply writing a summary of the show.

  6. schen518 says:

    Creative post! I like how each of you had a different approach to incorporating critical pedagogy in the classroom. What if students are reluctant to share examples from their lives? How can you foster an environment where marginalized students in the class feel comfortable talking about their experiences?

  7. timstelter says:

    Awesome post. When reading the “How does this apply to our specific fields and educational settings?” section I could get a feel for how critical pedagogy could be utilized for both theory and lecture courses, but also project oriented courses. This seemed to pop for me when the metaphorical learning environment is molded into a safe place for a student to express their critical thinking and problem solving abilities and receive feedback. As for the Leonardo DiCaprio meme, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

  8. mfb106 says:

    Nice picture and nice post! I enjoyed that each of your group members presented their individual perspectives on critical pedagogy and what its application means to them, in their space. I think it really epitomizes the fact that critical pedagogy can manifest itself and be given meaning in a number of different ways. I also really liked that you used the ‘not what to think, but how to think’ idea – it’s been my personal favorite idea when approaching to concept of pedagogy.

  9. Cindy Klimaitis says:

    The group picture says it all – collaborating and learning from one another. The meme of ‘teaching children how to think rather than what to think is a great tie-in for this post. I thought of the old proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Students definitely need to be encouraged to think for themselves.

  10. Maha says:

    Great picture and great post guys. I liked how you each of you stated his definition of critical pedagogy. I related them to the collaborative definition. I like the applications on your own fields part too.

  11. Kyunghee says:

    Thank you for your post and wonderful insights. I think it is not easy to define the complex concept of critical pedagogy with one sentence, but the group thoughts really well described various elements of critical pedagogy. As Vibhav pointed out, it would be also important to develop the physical environment to support complex critical teaching and learning, in addition to creating an inclusive atmosphere.

  12. Andrew Barne says:

    Great post. Great picture. I wish that our group would have done the same. It seems that your group, like ours, was having a good time with this assignment. I would like to focus on the comment by Khaled that said “encouraging critical reflection of student’s learning experience and how he/she could apply that in the lifestyle.” I have always believed that reflection leads to internalization. I believe that these are the moments where true learning happens. Thanks again for the post.

  13. Sara says:

    Hello Meredith, Deb, Nayara, Mike, Khaled, & Vibhav!

    I appreciated your post this week. You’ve paired some visually compelling graphics with concise language and you get straight to the point on critical pedagogy–in its definition, in its meaning and in its application to your respective disciplines.

    I like your emphasis on how enjoyable learning is and that its important to create a positive environment for learning to occur. You bring home the collaboration and facilitation message and I think that is so important in fostering critical thinking in students. It implies a lifetime of learning and the growth mindset, both of which are instrumental to the success of students as they become engaged members of society.

  14. angelicaw says:

    The photo of your group alone is the perfect visual for critical pedagogy. In my eyes the group is not only students but also future teachers, that in return will provide additional knowledge to others. While preparing to teach us with this blog post, you were also collaborating and researching to gain additional knowledge which is in a sense the definition of critical pedagogy. I appreciated each bullet point as they hit right on the head major ideas around critical pedagogy. And my favorite was the meme related to teaching children how to think , not what to think! I agree 100%

  15. Japsimran Singh says:

    Thanks for the post. I like the approach of problem-solving mentioned by Meredith. I am sure it works in the field of engineering but not sure if it will elsewhere. But again, case studies and problem-solving is a must in the engineering profession. It not only fosters teamwork but also increases creativity and critical thinking.

  16. Rathsara Herath says:

    Great post. I like how you have two main topics in the post and everyone in the group has their own thought on it. This reflects well on critical pedagogy. Everyone thought is important. I think Collaborative learning is an effective and efficient way learning which is really important in a classroom. I like Vibhav’s thought; “Learning is a pleasurable activity, which teaches people not only how to read the word but also read the world”. I think with critical pedagogical ideas one can make learning enjoyable.

  17. Aislinn says:

    There was a lot going on in this post! You guys really did a lot of work to start unravelling what critical pedagogy is and how it can be broken down in different fields. Because I feel I cannot address all of what has been said in just one comment, I am going to focus instead on a specific contribution from above.

    Nayara, you said: “Having critical reflection, which is the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simply “blah blah blah” and practice, pure activism. Teaching is not the transfer of knowledge, but creating the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge.”

    What I got from Paulo Freire’s work looks to be in line with what you said he. The ‘creating of possibilities for the production of knowledge’ is not just about theory or practice. It is the responsibility of instructors and students to find a middle ground between the two. There is no point to theory if it cannot in some way be applied. Practice is equally problematic if there is no critical thinking to go along with it. One question that I am left with at the end of this module is *how* we can accomplish this technique that falls between worlds. I suppose the best answer we might have is that we continually strive for that ideal and be critically aware of our role as instructors and hope to open possibilities for students.

  18. Jon LLoyd says:

    Excellent post! For Khaled, what strategies would you recommend to encourage critical reflection in and outside of the classroom environment? Can critical reflection play a role in each assignment, discussion, or reading? I’d love to hear (well, read) your thoughts.

  19. sgafrouz says:

    Nice group picture 🙂
    I like the word collaboration in large in your thinking cloud! it is great that you explained solutions for critical pedagogy with examples for majors. Thank you and nice job.

  20. mohammed baaoum says:

    Nice group picture,
    I liked how your definitions clarified the reflection and action on critical pedagogy with adding the collaboration part. Education is a political and social practice!
    Thanks and nice job

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