Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Navigating uncertainty and complexity: Learning to manage risk and indoctrination in the critical pedagogy classroom (#177)

Joanna Joseph Jeyaraj 1 , Tony Harland 2 , Rachel Spronken-Smith 2
  1. Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
  2. Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Critical pedagogy prepares students for life and work in a complex world because it addresses the instrumental and social purposes of higher education. Critical pedagogues believe that education can bring forth societal reform. Hence, these teachers nurture intellectual development as well as social activism among students. However, drawing on critical pedagogy has proven to be an uncertain and complex endeavor. Firstly, critical pedagogues are accused of indoctrination because they have overt political and social goals. Secondly, they are sometimes faced with uncertainty due to the controversial and provocative nature of critical pedagogy. To understand the challenges that critical pedagogues face, we interviewed thirteen English language teachers from around the world about their experiences with critical pedagogy. These teachers had clear social goals but wanted students to develop freedom of thought, expression and choice. They recognized that indoctrination was difficult to avoid in an ideologically contested space and so endeavored to withhold their own ideas and values from students. These teachers also described their involvement in critical pedagogy as hazardous because they encouraged students to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions and question the political and social status quo. Critical pedagogues accepted a certain degree of risk from their practice, however, the impact of exposing students to similar dangers was not fully considered. Teachers can navigate uncertainty and complexity by a)  teaching students to be critical scholars and free thinkers, and ensuring that critical pedagogy is understood as one ideological position among many, b) legitimizing their disciplinary practice by researching critical pedagogy and the teaching of their discipline, c) collaborating and sharing their teaching with peers to keep practices in check and avoid abuses of power and position and d) recognizing the possible risks to themselves and to students, and take into account the long-term impact of this form of teaching on student learning. 

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 This paper addresses the sub-theme “navigating uncertainty and complexity” by illustrating how teachers deal with uncertainty and complexity when engaging with critical pedagogy. Teachers who draw on critical pedagogy are often accused of indoctrination, and this accusation is a complex challenge that critical pedagogues need to deal with in their professional practice. Aside from that, the controversial and subversive nature of critical pedagogy also pose risks for teachers and this causes the practice of critical pedagogy to be uncertain and dangerous, especially for those from countries where freedom of speech is curtailed. The findings from this study reveal how critical pedagogues navigate the uncertain and complex arena of critical pedagogy. It also provides important implications for teachers who are interested in drawing on critical pedagogy in their respective disciplines.

Download Presentation