This week, we learned a different approach for teaching and learning in the classroom. This blog entry is the story of that experience.
Two weeks ago at the end of class, each student was given a number which corresponded to a short reading assignment, and we were all told to return to class last week ready to go on our sections. With that, class was dismissed and we were all on our way.
As we trickled back into the classroom last week, we were greeted at the door by our Teaching Assistant (TA) team, Jyotsana, Greg, & Amy who directed us to tables in the classroom that were numbered like our readings were assigned the previous week.
Our seating assignment put students together who all had been given the same reading assignment. This created Expert Tables and we took the first 15 minutes or so of class to discuss with each other what we had read and to develop our list of high points and takeaways that came from our readings.
The TA’s then revealed a whiteboard that had us grouped in a new way, which separated us from expert tables into Jigsaw Tables where each of the 7 individuals in the new group was an expert on a different assigned reading.
During Jigsaw Tables, we were given 40 minutes to teach each other about our readings and to come up with a definition of Critical Pedagogy from what we had just learned (from each other).
And so here is what happened:
The following lists each group member and the takeaway points from each of their assigned readings.
Joe L. Kinchloe, “Paulo Friere (1921-1997)” The Critical Pedagogy Primer (2004), Pp 69-75
- Paulo Freire: teaching philosophy is to take different perspectives
- Challenge institutionalized ways of teaching; critical consciousness, extra awareness of thinking
- Education should be available to people of all class, including marginalized populations
Joe L. Kinchloe “Moving to Critical Complexity” The Critical Pedagogy Primer (2004), Pp 108-110
- Current education system is simplified by “standardization”
- Students are unique in background and in ways of constructing meaning
- Students have experiences that could teach others, including the teacher
- Students have agency to find meaning on their own, rather than have information delivered to them
- In what ways can we negotiate a “reductionist” space to accommodate complexity?
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”
- Teaching is not knowledge transfer, but for teachers to guide students to construct meaning based on their personal identity and understanding
- Students should also learn from each other, build confidence in their own abilities
- Paulo Freire analysis the relationship between teacher and student at any level. He considers that education is suffering from narration sickness, in which the student is the depositories, and the teacher is the depositor. In the class, the teacher makes deposits and the students receive, memorize, and repeat. It is his Banking concept.
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom, “There is no Teaching without Learning, Methodological Rigor, Research, Respect for What Students Know”
- There is no teaching without learning: teachers and students learn from each other (reciprocity)
- Methodological rigor:
- both teachers and learners are active subjects
- students should not be treated in “bulk” as if they are identical
- Learning comes from curiosity: ask questions, think from different perspectives
- Create an environment to enable development of critical thinking/learning/consciousness
- The teaching process is more than knowledge transfer, encouraging the learners to create and recreate knowledge for themselves
- There is no teaching without research: teachers have to be updated
- Need to respect pre-existing knowledge students may come with and make use of it
- Connect what’s taught to practice
Bell Hooks. (2010). “Critical Thinking” Teaching Critical Thinking, Routledge.
- Conformity and obedience in school interrupted the kids’ nature as critical thinkers
- The role of the teacher is to free students from obedience and conformity, restore and polish their thinking skills, provide an interactive space for students to freely inquiry knowledge rooted in what they know
- Critical pedagogy or engaged pedagogy is meant to help restore the students’ will to think and self-actualization
- Critical thinking is interactive as it is the evolution of views through analysis, evaluation, self-direction, self-discipline, self-observation and self-correction
- Critical thinking is deep and requires discernment. It is work for knowledge
- Critical thinking is proactive and passionate
- Another role of the teacher is to serve as a role model of critical thinking and development of discernment
- Critical thinking is both unique for each individual and collaborative for a learning community.
- The center of “critical” is be able to decide what is important and what is trivial
Bell Hooks. (2010). “Democratic Education” Teaching Critical Thinking, Routledge.
- Democratic education: each successive generation needs to fight for democracy
- Connect theory to practice in teaching
- Equality vs. equity: standard ways of teaching does not address student uniqueness; we need equity in our way of responding to students
Bell Hooks. (2010). “Engaged Pedagogy” Teaching Critical Thinking, Routledge.
- Engaged pedagogy: teacher and student mutually exchange knowledge
- Sharing openness and honesty as an educator, to create an environment where students could feel like an equal
How do we define Critical Pedagogy ?
- There is mutual exchange of knowledge and experience between students and teachers
- Students are individuals with unique experiences and there is no single right way to deliver the lesson/material/knowledge
- There should be equity in the classroom
- Connecting theory to practice (or, connecting to real-world) and providing context for the theory
- Take what we learn and critically apply it to enact change and further society in a positive direction; to challenge social & political structure, to help the marginalized and fight injustice
How do we apply Critical Pedagogy to our own fields and educational settings?
Jason (Sociology): embracing perspectives different from your own in a classroom setting
As a sociologist, critical pedagogy fits the mold of so many aspects of the discipline. Paulo Freire spoke of critical consciousness which we can incorporate into learning in the classroom to challenge the status quo and encourage students take the knowledge they obtain and put it to use. This signifies that education isn’t just a “thing” that you earn after four years with a diploma but is defined with how you use it. Paulo Freire uses the metaphor of a mind bank which under authoritarian teaching methods, the instructor uses his or her role to present information in deterministic fashion. This conjures up a discussion I presented in an earlier blog which highlights the idea of being lectures AT rather than TO. Under these circumstances, Freire accounts for students being able to demonstrate they absorbed themes important to the instructor without thinking for themselves whether this is true knowledge, or whether this “knowledge” is accurate and meaningful. This promotes the idea that knowledge has an end-goal or a finite level of achievement. To counter this notion of the authoritarian teacher, we should embrace as teachers, that we too are still learning.
In the field of sociology, my areas of concentration are criminology and social inequality. The courses in this program encourage students to critically evaluate intuitional systems in place. As Freire noted, teaching is a political act. Especially on the topics of social inequality in which gender, racial, and social discrimination are associated with various social institutions, politics will always come under scrutiny. When topics of this nature are discussed, it’s really the job of the instructor to illuminate different perspectives that may be different from our own. We have all been told on the road to knowledge, there is no wrong answer. I challenge that notion, in light of discussing inequalities and injustice, that in the vein of critical pedagogy, the only real wrong answer is the one that perpetuates these inequalities. College students by and large are a privileged group of individuals. They are given the opportunity to benefit from an education that isn’t available to everyone. We should be preparing them to make a positive impact on the social, cultural, economic, political, and philosophical facets of the world. After all, this is at the heart of Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy: “the possibility for positive change.” This is also the crux of the sociological discipline.
Grace & Sneha & Greg (Engineering): We’re too used to the traditional blackboard and chalk lectures, where we learn fundamentals and equations. But in addition to understanding the fundamentals is to understand the context in which these fundamentals were realized. What do they mean in a diverse setting with different people? Is there a way to enhance problem-based learning with greater consideration for environmental and social impacts? Can we learn more about human factors? Can we learn from other disciplines and different ways of thinking?
Let’s talk about learning by thinking from different perspectives.
Engineering education could be quite monotonous. We cover content, the so called “fundamentals.” We go through equations like daily meals that we may or may not talk about. We discuss professional ethics. We touch on social, environmental, and economic impacts. We write in one style. Very briefly we venture outside our building to be introduced to a non-engineering subject. Then we graduate, because we are considered to have “depth and breadth” in knowledge.
The irony is that engineering is not monotonous. Problems come in all scope and size. There is diversity in partnership, audience, and stakeholder. Project impact could be intangible yet far reaching. Enough said.
Let’s strive for greater interdisciplinary learning. Let’s collaborate on open-ended problems with diverse student populations. Let’s step out of our comfort zones and tackle foreign subjects. Let’s balance technical skills with soft skills.
Let’s connect theory to practice.
The engineering world is advancing at a very fast pace-something that is novel today may be outdated tomorrow. However, the curriculum and syllabus in engineering education have remained the same for a very long time (or, at least that is how it has been in civil engineering education). The students today still learn the outdated techniques from many years ago. Even after four years of undergraduate engineering degree, a student may not be prepared enough to go out and work in the real world. It seems to me that there is a huge gap between the education that is being taught and what the real world demands. Hence, the curriculum that is being used in engineering should be updated often enough to reduce the “gap”. For this, the teachers, in first place, should update themselves and also create an environment that facilitates the learners to keep up with the advancements.
Furthermore, engineering has so much to do with problem solving. This is where innovation takes place. Students should be encouraged to think of a problem from different perspectives and to bring in ideas for solving the problem. Moreover, the theories that are taught in classes should provide meaning in terms of real world applications.
The engineering classroom can be a place where emphasis is placed on a “just the facts/theory/formulas” mentality. An environment muted from current events to focus on the important fundamentals which, in some cases, are unchanged for decades if not centuries. I would argue this philosophy is flawed. To educate the future generations of engineers, we must provide context to the ideas of the past and the implications of our work.
Engaging students in conversations about the societal, political, ethical, and cultural significance of what they study pushes our students towards a better understanding of how to use the knowledge we create together. Isolating problems to a single subject, topic area, or siloed educational discipline does a disservice to our students. This is not how problems are solved in the “real world”. Instead we work together, across our traditional educational boundaries to tackle the truly challenging problems facing our world. Showing students the context of how these difficult problems have been solved in the past and modeling the importance of working together in the future will generate more thoughtful and mindful contributors to our society. Engineers who don’t just ask “How can I apply what has been done”, but those who challenge “What can we do and who should we involve to create the best and most thoughtful solution together?”
Julin (Building Construction):
I am focused on the information technology in building construction. I have TAed a software class. There could be 60 to 100 students in the classroom. The students are required to complete one project after another based on tutorials. It is very rare for students, and even for me, to complete a project without running into any problems. The procedures and specific settings instructed in the tutorials can be very delicate. Besides, as the software manufacturer (Autodesk) publishes newer versions of software every year, the user interfaces can change from what is shown in the tutorials. There should not be treated as flaws of the class but as the reality of the building industry. All kinds of IT problems will occur. The professionals in building construction have to troubleshoot them frequently. Therefore, the intention of a software class is not just to all the settings and steps right, submit the assignments on time, and get a good grade. More important than getting things right, is getting things wrong and fixing it mindfully.
My observation from TAing the class is that the students who approach the problems critically and interact with the instructors and the TAs curiously can get the most from the class. Here I am emphasizing a curious mind and an effective interaction. These students constantly reflect on what they are doing and what the problem is, troubleshoot on their own, and then ask specifically for where they need help. In a proactive thinking and reasoning mode, they can get interactive tutoring from the instructor or TAs that is tailored towards their interest and curiosity. Not every student is learning in this most beneficial way. Therefore, the teacher’s role in the context of software teaching is to stop holding the students’ hands, to encourage them to practice more independent thinking and troubleshooting, and to feed their curiosity with tailored interaction.
Yang (Creative Technology): instructors have to dig into every student’s projects and give guidances; peer critiques
Creative and Critical Thinking
As a student in art and design department, maybe be a teacher in the future, creative and critical thinking is the core in my life whatever the role I played. It is dangerous for art and design student without the critical and creative thinking ability. I encourage myself and all students in my class to take an advantage and never afraid failed. I know it is tough. Even it is a big challenge for the students in China. Before we study at the university, we faced the high oppressed in primary, middle and high school. For example, we would not leave the class without the allow of the teacher. We need to hands up before we speak in the class. I remember in the math class in primary school. All the students keep the same posture in the 40 minutes. Otherwise, the students will face the punishment. I know in different area students have the different experience. But when I was a fine art student in China Academy of Art I feel freedom and comfort in the class. It is a challenge for the student not just listen and repeat what the teacher’s transfer in classes, but also to think about what I want to gain individually.
Critical thinking does not mean unrespected. Creative and analytical thinking method is an essential access to success. A great many of example of artist experience shows the importance of critical and creative thinking. Pablo Picasso is a talented artist as know as the pioneer of Cubist. Has anyone researched the artworks before he changes the style to cubist? Picasso’s early artworks are different than the method we familiar. Thus, for the students in art and design area, not only to understand what the knowledge and information the teachers transfer and sharing in class but also needs to ask why frequently, and also know the plan in future. Education is not the single efforts. It means not only the teachers engaging the students learning deeply. The students work hard and know the what they positive to learn. The responsibility for educator in high education level is to create an academic space to encourage and guide the students to construct the personal knowledge structure. Education is a way to find the initial concept and idea in mind.
Sara (Landscape Architecture): Typically, an instructor guides students on their projects, following the lead of the student and their individual interests. Instructors help students discover how to the research needed to answer the problem at hand and help by asking relevant questions that make the student think critically. We use problem-based learning to address real, site-specific issues in landscape design.
This semester, I get the privilege of being a Research Assistant to a cool and exciting project that is funded by the National Park Service. The Chattahoochee National Water Trail, located in Metro-Atlanta, Georgia, is a 48-mile reach that flows through the heart of one of the most densely populated regions in the United States. Using this site as a learning experience for our 5th year Landscape Architecture Students, we are guiding the teams so that they develop their own concepts and visions for the water trail in a way that reflects their ideas. At the same time, we are gently pushing them one way or another towards the research and information they need to talk about the problems they have identified as important for their project.
In this way, we are teaching our students how to think critically about their projects in a very individual way. Because each of the teams has settled on different conceptual drivers, the information that they need to plan and design varies from group to group. The teaching staff helps tease out the important questions from the students. They already know where they want to go with the project, but perhaps don’t fully understand how to get there yet. That’s where we come in: through individual desk critiques and pin-ups for the whole class, we are able to have discussions about the project that help the students continue to develop their ideas.
I’m going to go ahead and say the methodology of problem-based learning is used in landscape architecture programs everywhere. It is utilized in a way that we help our fledgling designers develop into critical thinkers who will go on to become leaders in the design disciplines.
It was my intention to link everyone to their blog the first time they were mentioned in this post. But, since I couldn’t find each contributor’s blog on the course website, there are a few people who are not linked to their own blog. If you are one of my group members and you would like your blog linked, either comment with your address below OR email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get your link added to this post.
Also, our group blog post was originally going to be sprinkled with .gifs, but it didn’t work out that they could be posted because of the way we created our joint Google-Docs file to work on the draft of this post. Sorry everyone.