The basic understanding of pedagogy is that it is a theory of learning as well as the act of teaching. It is also studying the process of education. It refers to how the procedures of teaching and learning influence and are influenced by external factors that affect learners, such as their social, cultural, and political environments, and internal factors such as their psychological well-being (Clarke, 2001). As a science, pedagogy focuses on how knowledge is imparted in an educational environment and the interactions that take place between the learners and the teachers. In this discipline, theories of learning form a large basis for how the teacher shapes his/her judgments and actions with regard to the classroom (Gustafsson, 1977). Through pedagogy, an understanding is made that the teacher is a facilitator of knowledge while the learner is the agent.
There have been several advancements in the pedagogical field that have expanded not only our basic understanding of what this discipline is but also the underlying rules that form its basic structure. These advancements we can refer to as pedagogical theories. A pedagogical theory focuses on how content should be imparted to learners and how these learners could be helped to understand said content (Gustafsson, 1977). These theories can also be referred to as pedagogical strategies. As a byproduct of these expansions, subgenres of pedagogy i.e., social, critical, culturally responsive, and Socratic pedology, have been developed (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002). These have expanded the pool of knowledge that was already established.
Social pedagogy views education as a critical aspect of a learner's social development and as such is seen as a means to an individual's growth throughout their life (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002). Educational and social facets must be fused into one as learners are inherently social beings. A good example of social pedagogy is a teacher teaching on lessons that emphasize compassion or lessons that dissect the society around them. Culturally responsive pedagogy, on the other hand, employs the use of three fundamental dimensions- personal, instructional, and institutional, which are used as one in the recognition and response of cultural differences in a classroom setup. This pedagogy encourages the use of different approaches to learning (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002). It is highly learner-centered and requires the teacher to create a comfortable learning environment where multiculturalism can be celebrated.
Socratic pedagogy follows a philosophical approach where learners are encouraged to question set traditional assumptions regarding knowledge. It encourages the learner to find alternatives to these assumptions and create their knowledge through their own experiences and thoughts (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002). An example of this pedagogy is the Bohm Dialogue, where a group conversations about a topic are conducted to come up with an appropriate conclusion about said topic.
Critical pedagogy, which is the last revolves around critical theories, radical philosophies, and the need to always challenge students to assess their ideas, thoughts, practices, and beliefs to think more critically and in the end achieve a deeper understanding of what they are tackling (Freire, 2002). This pedagogy has quickly changed the understanding of the teacher's role, and as it forms the focus of this paper, it is imperative we give it a proper dissection to aid in its understanding.
Critical pedagogy was conceived in 1968 by Paulo Freire in his book, The Pedagogy of The Oppressed. It focused on the liberationism approach to pedagogy, where the learner is the center of the teaching and learning process, and the teacher is the one who becomes the learner. In order to understand the revolutionary change that came with critical pedagogy, it is therefore important that we first and foremost understand what the liberationism approach was and how it gave birth to what is now critical pedagogy.
The liberationism approach, like critical pedagogy, was developed by Freire. It came into conception while he was the Director of the Department of Education in Brazil. He developed this approach by teaching illiterate adults how to read in a matter of 45 days (Freire, 2002). The man focus of his approach was negating two of the most notorious barriers of learning: hunger and poverty. He discovered that when the teacher humbles himself to the position of the learner and accepts to discover the subject together with his/her class, learning can take place effectively. He observed that the teacher could use non-standard teaching aids or let students assume the role of the teacher in order to advance the class. This approach heavily relied on the teacher giving the students platforms where they could express and showcase what they knew (Freire, 2002). This could be in the form of performances, drawing, or even writing.
The foundation laid down by liberationism gave way to critical pedagogy. As already discussed above, there was a complete shift on how to approach teaching and learning activities (Freire, 2002). The focus became less teacher-centered and more learner-centered.
As the brainchild of Paulo Freire, this iteration of pedagogy completely changes the perception of who the teacher is. Earlier understandings of the teacher's role were that he/she was a well of knowledge which was there to impart understanding to the learners, but this has shifted, and now, the teacher is a facilitator (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002). The learner is seen as a person with nothing on his/her brain but a person who can think critically and give his/her understanding of the concept being taught. This was the basis of Freire's work with critical pedagogy.
Apart from being completely learner-centered, critical pedagogy also advocates for issues of democracy and social justice as it views them not to be different from teaching and learning (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002). It rejects the notion that knowledge is neutral politically, and argues that the act of teaching itself, is a political act. Its goal is mainly awakening a learner's critical mind. Critical consciousness can assist people in changing the world around them through political acts and social analysis (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002).
This political aspect which forms a large portion of critical pedagogy was later advanced by Henry Giroux, an American cultural critic and scholar, who sees critical pedagogy as a method of helping students grow a critical consciousness, connect power and knowledge, identify authoritarian predispositions and to develop the ability to take informed actions where needed (Sheets, 2005). Giroux was interested in ensuring education was enriched with developed concepts that deal with pedagogy. His field was more geared to developing a system that would cater to a transformative political and cultural dimension with regards to cultural studies and critical pedagogy (Sheets, 2005).
Bell Hooks also expanded on Freire's foundation, stating that education continues even when the learners are not in classrooms or the school at large (Sheets, 2005). As a feminist, Hooks saw literacy as a necessity for the survival of feminism. To her, the lack of writing, reading, and critical thinking could exclude a lot of people from feminism. It would also exclude them from political and labor market knowledge (White, 2005). Those who are marginalized throughout our societies would suffer more without acquiring a critical mind. Hooks also adapted Freire's notion of praxis, the know-how, and the power to act against oppression (Gustafsson, 1977). To her, teachers should know themselves fully, as human beings and practitioners if they are to impart knowledge to learners in an anti-discriminatory, non-threatening way.
Freirean teaching requires a curriculum that has been reconstructed and reimagined in favor of changing the role of the student from an object to an active subject. Through this, and as per Giroux's findings, a child can be moved to be more vision-oriented and focus more on striving for things that seemed out of reach. The role of the teacher in this process is very critical. The teacher needs to carefully evaluate the learners before helping them separate or group themselves (Gustafsson, 1977). The learners can then be introduced to the process of critical re-entry. It has been noted, though, that in such a class where Freirean ways of teaching are implemented, the learners often find themselves assuming more responsibilities than the teacher. This can be combated by equally distributing power between the role of the teacher and the learners themselves (Clarke, 2001). This can help nurture learners' intellectual growth. Lastly, it should be noted that this teaching method does not exempt the teacher from their roles in the classroom. A teacher cannot abdicate his/her authority in the classroom even if the teaching method is heavily learner-centered.
There are several ways in which Freirean pedagogy can be implemented in the classroom. Such include: Having a talk with the learners regarding their learning process (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002). The teacher can involve the learners in a discussion to be more effective. The teacher should encourage the learners to be open about new learning activities and approach them with open minds. The use of an array of strategies fluidly to tackle the learners' needs is also advised (McNamara and Mcnamara, 2002). The teacher should also avoid underestimating what the learners know and what they are capable of doing.
Education is not a practice of domination, as Freire observed. It is an exercise of freedom. The teacher should not try to control the thinking and acts of the learner; the teaching and learning process should be reciprocal and equitable (Freire, 2002). Both should learn and teach each other. The learner should also not be regarded as a passive object. The teacher should not teach reality as something unchangeable or present the oppressed of society as marginal to what he/she considers a healthy society. Society should be presented as a system of humanized oppressed and oppressors.
Conclusively, Freire's approach to teaching and learning completely overhauls what has been established in this field. The process of disseminating and absorbing knowledge is now more fluid if not engaging. With Hooks' and Giroux's additions, there have been several more layers of complexities added that have further developed this phenomenal discipline. Several applications of this form of pedagogy have been put in place with the aim of reconstructing both the school system and society. The role of the teacher has evolved to that of a guide in education; a needed evolution of humanity is to move forward in its excellence.
Clarke, P., 2001. Teaching & Learning. New Delhi: Sage Publications, p.223.
Freire, P., 2002. Pedagogy of the oppressed. 3rd ed. Continuum, p.183.
Gustafsson, C., 1977. Classroom interaction. Lund: LiberLaromedel/Gleerup, p.241.
McNamara, D., and Mcnamara, P., 2002. Classroom Pedagogy and Primary Practice. 3rd ed. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, p.176.
Sheets, R. 2005. Diversity pedagogy. 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, p.271.
White, C., 2005. The role of the teacher. Journal of Education for Teaching, [online] 31(4), pp.269-271. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02607470500280050 [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019].
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