Response to Pedagogy

While removing the work of Paulo Friere from a cultural and historical context is an oversight that the author himself would likely condemn, I think many of the ideas expressed in the first two chapters of “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” still resonant within the current setting, and so will not attempt to venture into the historical significance of his work. Friere (1970) writes describing the concept of co-intentional education “Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality, and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge.” This method of education stands in contrast with the more transmission or “banking” model of education, where the student is treated as an empty receptacle where information is transmitted directly to the student who passively receives it. In such a model, emphasis rests on the recitation of learned facts rather than the personal development of individual thought structures to support a more meaningful process of learning.

Given that the title of these certificate courses includes the word “interactive,” it likely represents some central aspect of an ideology of pedagogy in which we have vested some interest. What is the significance of interactivity in teaching and learning? What elements of education can either hinder or facilitate such interaction and the co-construction of knowledge between “student” and “teacher”?

While the namesake may not be translated into a concise English equivalent, how would you attempt to define to concept of conscientização?

How can technology be used to resolve the “teacher student contradiction (Friere, p. 72-73)? Consider the ten attitudes and practices that are provided as examples.

Borrowing from the tradition of de Beauvoir, Friere advocates for changing the situations of those who are oppressed rather than the consciousness of that which oppresses them. Do you agree that this is an admirable goal? Why or why not? If we change the nature of a social consciousness, by equivocating the teacher and the student, is it possible that we have changed nature of knowledge acquisition itself?



Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed (Rev. ed.). New York: Continuum,1970.

2 thoughts on “Response to Pedagogy

  1. Sara Vogel

    Earlier this semester, I had to read Freire as part of a research methods course in the Urban Ed department, and some of the insights I was able to glean back then seem relevant to your question about the significance of interactivity in teaching and learning. We looked at Freire not just with an eye towards his “problem-solving education” method, but for what kind of epistemology he uses to undergird his pedagogy, and the implications that epistemology might have for educational research. Unlike some of the other epistemologies (naturalistic, postpositivistic), which view reality as something perceived in the mind, interaction is at the heart of Freire’s educational method. He believes that reality (knowledge, truth) is revealed when a revolutionary (the “radical” liberated person) comes into dialogue with oppressed people for the purpose of liberation — a restoration of humanity denied to them due to historical systems of colonial oppression. Those who engage in this dialogue come to realize that reality is not static, it can be transformed, and that transformation is the central work of liberated people.

    Freire’s notion of interaction, therefore, is something very specific. It’s certainly not the “banking” model, which treats students as passive vessels to be filled. Interaction in his form of education involves a non-hierarchical stance imbued with faith and love, the “posing of the problems of human beings in their relations with the world,” and then reflection from all parties which results in consciousness about the nature of their oppression, and a desire to change society.

    As Teresa pointed out, Freire’s method was embedded in a post-colonial context. Transferring his ideas, let’s say, to the modern day CUNY campuses, seems to involve defining our students as “oppressed”, and the professors as “liberated” radicals. I’m uncomfortable with that, especially given CUNY’s changing demographics and history, and the fact that I as a professor feel constrained by the system I’m in — not so radical all the time.

    But to the extent that I can transfer his notion ofinteraction over to my context, I wonder: Can educators who are responsible for specific content areas that may be more distant from student experiences have a liberatory classroom? Can his interactive problem-posing method be applied to the study of anything? Freire generally began his programs by showing the oppressed photographs and other artifacts taken from their community and world, so they would start making observations and asking critical questions. Is that the same as activating students’ prior knowledge about solids, liquids and gases in a chemistry class, or about teenage love stories in a class about to read Romeo and Juliet? I believe every class can weave in a project that gets students engaged in social justice, or at the very least, community service — but these days, when people say that courses provide “real-world experiences,” they mean students practice the 21st century skills they’d need for the work force. How liberatory is that?

    Maybe, as Waltzer might argue, figuring out answers to these questions should be part of the domain of Digital Humanities scholars and teachers as the discipline takes on the new social role he recommends moving forward.

  2. Jojo Karlin

    Teresa! Thanks, as ever, for your careful and thoughtful provocations. I am excited to talk about interactivity on Monday– the possibilities for new spaces of learning seem available in new technologies but the entrenchment of ideology is difficult to supersede. In my attempts to grasp the possible interventions, I have bee thinking about mixed media in the classroom. I recall feeling cheated by students in elementary school who used flashy interactive presentations to mask what I perceived as laziness (I made these projections but I didn’t finish the book, eg). This residual resentment may derive from a inculcated sense of value. Then I consider what that sense of valuable work has to do with work at higher levels of education. How do we value the introduction of new sites of interactive potential? What rubric guides our progress? I appreciate Mona Shaugnessy’s efforts to clarify active measures to take.

    Friere’s cointentional learning seems rooted in a notion of creativity and productivity (not simply received humanitarian rewards so much as co-created humanist advances) and I am hopeful that digital humanities approaches may open new avenues for this sort of humanism.

Comments are closed.