Critical Pedagogy as Ethical Pedagogy

Ideally education should treat all participants equally and humanly/ humanely but it often doesn't. Often the need to monetize or highlight KPIs institutionally prevents/ erases humanization.  There is no one simple solution to bring the human back to education but I believe the first step is a focused on an acknowledgement  of lived experience. Curricula, syllabi, lessons should all incorporate (in all senses of the word) lived experience.

This would also be the first way to spark inquiry and get the participants engaged with ideas and topics. Self-reflection, mindfulness, how can I / should I question my existence and how that relates to the bigger issues at hand? What ethical practices have I /should I incorporate in my daily life in order to truly gain knowledge? (An idea I will return to later)

Sadly more and more students are becoming increasingly comfortable with the banking model and want the teacher/instructor/ professor to "just tell me what I need to know to get an A." Again it is this tendency to monetize to see education in terms of ROI that makes self-reflection unpopular. I encourage reflection at all points but it is often a struggle. One thing that does often work is to relate a topic to their lives. In essence it's like tricking students to reflect for the one thing they will know well is their lived experience, their history, and how that history may have reinforced marginalization or how their ability to voice their own experience may have been taken away from them by larger socio-political forces. It is often hard to walk the walk that we talk because communication and dialogue requires participation of all participants. You have to get the learning environment to the point where reflection is automatic not a forced assignment- reinforcement, recall, and connection of experience to the larger topic at hand is probably the easiest way to encourage this.

Further to this, reflection needs to be premised on the ethical in order to question the authentic. What do I mean by this? I mentioned in my first blog of the year that I wanted to focus on "conviction" in my pedagogical practice. Not just to forge forward with an idea but to stop be mindful of the outcomes or larger intersections of this idea and then implement with conviction. This reflection has to involve the ethical. Nothing can be advanced with conviction unless it creates community, works towards tearing down boundaries, and engages as many as possible. This is the core of authenticity in pedagogy. The participants (students and educators) can only be true and authentic to themselves by acknowledging their relation to others- an ethical creation of learning communities requires reflection and open communication. As educators we should advocate for this in every facet of our lives. I believe we all have a responsibility to be activists for the creation of communities of knowledge (which is necessarily the foundation of education).

As Freire suggests in Chapter 2 of the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, we have to change the narrative surrounding education. No longer can it be sufficient to work in some sort of subject object binary. We need to create the context to the content and that is ultimately one of the larger goals of critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy needs as well as gives necessary context. Within educational paradigms, we must share responsibility, as Freire states. Ethical educational spaces are framed by sharing experiences, grow through an acknowledgement of that experience, foster authenticity, and necessarily exist within a Bergsonian durée (i.e. if we function as though those ethical structures are always present we erase critical engagement). Education, the need for inquiry which develops knowledge, is always necessarily a work in progress and we need to approach our classes, our research, our learning communities as such. Learning and spaces for learning, should not been seen as confining (or a jail as dear Emily Dickinson suggests in her poem), but rather ever expanding and critical engagement with pedagogy allows for that expansion and hope for an always inquisitive and knowledge producing future.


  1. Thanks Ann for such a useful and thought-provoking post. It made me think of ways in which I and students managed to connect our study to our lives. Teaching at masters level to classes with home and international students was such a privilege. We had such a diversity of lived experiences to share and we all learned. I used to joke that I spent the first 6 weeks convincing them of the importance of context in implementing IT systems.
    I also like your take on ethics as a mutual responsibility, something that we have to always be striving for. It's a balance to retain one's role as the guide for educational experiences and to position oneself as someone who can make mistakes and be questioned . I am thinking of a class that occasionally pauses to ask itself 'How are we doing? Is everyone OK?
    Thanks also for introducing me to Bergson's duree. For some reason it made me think of Schon's reflection in and on practice.

    1. I am glad you liked it Frances! I completely agree that having a diversity of lived experience in a classroom is such a blessing. I also teach adult students who come from diverse backgrounds.
      Having those moments of reflection as a class are so important; we need to take stock and make sure everyone is on board and understands where we are going and where we have been.
      I am the biggest fan of the concept of duree. I use it in my teaching and in my Victorian studies research. I agree that Schon's reflection does have some connection to that and like what we spoke of in the #rhizo14 all of this does seem interconnected and concepts build on each other.

    2. Bergson's duree is definitely going in my theory back pack so I can bring it out later to test on ideas and practice.

  2. I loved this, Ann "we all have a responsibility to be activists for the creation of communities of knowledge" - I tweeted it out but linked to your entire blog; oops ;) I look forward to reading the next couple of posts that are brewing :)

  3. Thank you so much, Maha! I hope you like the rest, certainly has given me a lot to think about!

  4. Informative article
    I was searching for this information on google


Post a Comment

Popular Posts