I am a Critical Pedagogue

by Amy Aldridge Sanford, Associate Professor of Communication, Northwest Oklahoma State University

To be a critical pedagogue requires constant evaluation of the teaching and learning spaces in which one can affect change.  It means knowing the enrollees’ names in a class and caring about them beyond the classroom experience, circling up or breaking into smaller groups when the traditional rows just don’t work, encouraging students to discuss information until they get it, and offering assessment beyond Bloom’s lowest levels.  It means raising critical consciousness and seeking social justice.  It requires creativity.  It means keeping up with the pedagogical literature and listening to the students when they say something isn’t working.  It is personal and honest and reflective. Ego must be checked at the door.  There is no sage on the stage in this classroom.  Teaching and learning and learning and teaching happening in every direction.

Critical pedagogy is a commitment to getting the best from everybody in the classroom, which may translate to encouraging a student to redo an assignment until the material is mastered.  The facilitator must share successes and failures.  An assignment may need to be rewritten or completely thrown out.  Grading criteria must be transparent and may be inspired by the students.  It means admitting that the instructor/facilitator is not the only one with knowledge in the room.  It means slowing down.  It is impossible to cover as much material in a classroom committed to critical pedagogy in comparison to a class in which the professor lectures every day.

Commitment to critical pedagogy means never teaching the same class twice.  Constant evaluation requires constant change:  in the readings, the students, the assignments, the discussions, and most importantly, within the professor.

Dr. Sanford is an associate professor of communication studies at Northeastern State University.  She was named a daVinci Fellow by the daVinci Institute in 2009.  This article was originally published in NSU’s Center for Teaching & Learning newsletter in August 2012.  It is reprinted with permission.

Further reading:

Bain, K.  (2004).  What the best college teachers do.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

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