In the most direct terms, transformative pedagogy is about creating and sustaining mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation between the home, community, and school. This tripartite system recognizes the value of learning that takes place outside the confines of the classroom walls, seeks to integrate the knowledge generated from each element of the system, and expose its validity to students in an effort to maximize the educational experience for a post-modern global society. According to McCaleb (1997), transformative pedagogy "attempts to facilitate a critical capacity within the classroom while promoting the integration of students, families, communities, and the world." She lists the following concepts by way of elaboration: Teaching and learning take place in a sociohistorical context. Education takes place within the context of community. Teaching begins with student knowledge. Skills and voices develop out of a need to know and to act. Teaching and learning are both individual and collaborative processes. Teaching and learning are transformative processes.
Teaching and learning take place in a sociohistorical context
McCaleb (1997) points out that prior to coming to the classroom, what “the” culture is to a student is whatever he or she knows from family and whatever the existing norms for his or her local society are. Transformative pedagogy builds on the diversity of students to explore the culture of our society that is not monolithic in nature, but rich in varied beliefs and traditions. Readings (1997) makes the point that the university today in America no longer has the role of acting as the model for society. That is, the university is no longer the place where the future leaders of society go to learn about what the “culture” is, as if it is a definite thing that can be given from the master to the student. Instead, Readings makes the point of saying that the university is just one more place among many where the question of what the culture is can be asked and kept open. Its primary function to support this mission is to be “just” in doing so. The university is a place for dialog, a place to share opinions and views of the role of individuals and students in relation to the rest of society. This is different than it being a place where the mode of operation is one-way, from teacher, expert, or master to pupil, student, or sycophant. This allows for the student to bring his or her culture to the foreground, giving it validity as a base for knowledge negotiation. To Giroux (1996), the issue is a matter of recognizing the “increasing hybridization of large segments of the population” and opening dialogue to the histories of these segments in an effort to provide learning conditions both in and out of the school that develop those social capacities in students in which the struggle for democracy becomes a primary narrative told not just through the „great documents of rights‟ but also through the voices of those
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groups that have constantly fought throughout history and continue to make history in the ongoing struggle to expand civil liberties (145). Once students learn about each other they can recognize similarities in each other, finding common ground and work together toward common goals. This is the same whether talking about ethnicity, learning preferences, or any differences that may crop up.
Education takes place within the context of community
Even at a university level where students and teachers may not always identify themselves with the specific geographic location of the brick-and-mortar entity that is the school, there is value in embracing the community in which the school is set. Making an effort to become a part of the local community helps create a bond and sense of trust between the student and the teacher. Exploring, studying, sharing and using local resources together helps students and teachers alike know and love themselves and each other. Transformative pedagogy does not draw or recognize clear boundaries, rhetorical or physical, between the dynamic elements of the educational system: student, teacher, school, and community. Therefore, it is necessary to discuss how these elements, particularly community, are conceptualized. Social constructionist thought places “language at the center of our understanding of knowledge and of the authority of knowledge” (Bruffee, 1986). A social constructionist relies on the metaphor of the discourse community to explain how meaning is created and negotiated socially through language. That is, what we know is determined through discourse within the social groups we associate ourselves. It is possible however that this metaphor for the observation that we often find ourselves moving between groups of greater and lesser shared contexts may be too limited to explain or support the dynamic educational system required in a post-modern era. Kent (1991), discussing Davidsonian externalism (Davidson, 1984), identifies three problems with the concept of discourse communities. The first problem is that relying on Kuhn for a basis of claiming the existence of discourse communities as “incommensurate conceptual schemes” is a self-refuting claim. Kuhn (1996) claims that social and psychological factors have profound and revolutionary effects on what scientific communities accept as truth or fact and that adherents to existing paradigms cannot adhere to contradictory paradigms at the same time. Social constructionists extrapolate from this the idea of discourse communities, but this contradicts the recognition that people can and do belong to and move between groups of greater and lesser shared contexts. That is, if discourse communities are incommensurate conceptual schemes equivalent to Kuhn‟s scientific communities then we would not be able to recognize one when belong to another, much less move effortlessly from one to another and back again. This kind of motion is hardly the series of “intellectually violent revolutions” that Kuhn describes.
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The second problem Kent identifies is that of global skepticism. If we claim that a conceptual scheme such as a discourse community acts as a mediator between our minds and the minds of others or between our minds and how we know the world, how can we be sure of what we know? That is, if we let a conceptual scheme or “structure of norms” (Fish, 1980) between us and what we want to know, we are conceding to a filter that will change the meaning for us and that we accept the meaning the filter provides. Why should we accept this filtered meaning? What assurances are there that this mediated meaning is indeed all that we know about the world? Kent claims that there is no question-begging response to this skepticism. Recognizing that social norms exist and that we use them is not a satisfactory response. Relativism is the third problem Kent identifies with social constructionism. This grows from what Kent describes as the solipsism intrinsic in the view that knowledge and meaning have no essential authority outside a given discourse community. That is, there is no way presented by social constructionism to provide a way of valorizing or distinguishing between one set of truths and another as they change over time or other circumstances. For example, how does a person know what set of practices or beliefs to adopt if all that matters is that he or she be situated somewhere within some discourse community with some set of beliefs or practices? Kent does not suggest that social constructionists mean to say that one set is as good as another, but what he is saying is that social constructionists do not provide an answer to the question of authority in regards to one over another. Kent is not completely averse to what social constructionists have to say. He turns to Davidson (1984) for a way to support anti-foundationalism while rejecting subjectivism and to thereby address the problems of the conceptual scheme, global skepticism and relativism. Davidson‟s premise is that mental states are the result of “triangulation,” which is the interaction of a “someone who thinks, other sentient beings, and a world they know they share.” There is no mental state without all three elements involved in communicative interaction and one cannot possess knowledge of one of these elements without possessing knowledge of the other two. This “coherency theory of truth and knowledge” suggests that “the only justification we posses for a particular belief are the beliefs we already hold with others.” Therefore, there is no need for conceptual schemes such as discourse communities or social norms to mediate between our minds and the minds of others or the world around us. Accepting that making meaning takes place in a social context merely recognizes and accepts that all communicative acts require triangulation. Unlike social constructionists who rely on “negotiation” using the same language to come to meaning, Davidson relies on “interpretation” between individuals who speak differing languages. For an externalist there is no need to learn a new grammar or what we normally might think of as an interpretive framework in order to communicate. There are no pre-existing community language rules or sets of beliefs to adopt before communication can take place. Instead, all that is necessary is that each interlocutor share flexible “passing theories” to interpret the utterances of the other for the duration of the communicative event. This is not to dismiss the possibility of some shared contexts prior
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to the communicative event in question. Indeed, Davidson addresses this possibility with what he calls “prior theories.” A prior theory is the interpretive strategy a person brings to a communicative event and consists of the belief he or she has about the other‟s ability to interpret the communicative event. But the emphasis is on the passing theory because prior theories inevitably give way to passing theories with each new utterance. By relying on passing theories of interpretation rather than on adopting whole sets of pre-existing conceptual schemes to act as mediators between the minds of interlocutors and the world, Davidson externalism relieves the interlocutors of the problem of global skepticism. Once the filter between the interlocutors and the object of discussion are removed, the uncertainty is removed as well. Regarding the problem of relativism, externalists make no claim that the beliefs of one discourse community are relative to another‟s. This is because they don‟t recognize conceptual frameworks in the first place and the split between subjective and objective this recognition carries with it. Externalists have nothing to say about universal truth, relying only on the truth of the communicative event. As stated earlier, Donaldson‟s position relies solely on coherency to support truth and knowledge. “The only justification we posses for a particular belief are the beliefs we already hold with others.” A fourth problem that Kent does not mention regards the possibility that if scholars identify themselves with distinct discourse communities that do not include other elements of the educational system dynamic (students and members not in the immediate scholarly community), that it might impede the creation of knowledge. In order to participate as an equal in the educational process, must one first adopt entire conceptual schemes that include specific discourse rules? Social constructionism as discussed earlier would seem to indicate that this is so. On the other hand, Davidson would disagree. Geertz (1983) suggests that scholars act as ethnographers within their own disciplines to help themselves learn how they construct knowledge in an effort to get them to recognize for themselves how ingrown they are and how their language, career patterns, and maturation practices define their disciplines. One result of following Geertz‟s advice might be a greater cross-disciplinary sharing between individuals. Geertz also claims that “the problem of the integration of cultural life becomes one of making it possible for people inhabiting different worlds to have a genuine, and reciprocal impact on one another.” He calls for accepting differences, understanding what the differences are, and working out a common vocabulary so that the differences can be “publicly formulated” allowing everybody to “give credible accounts of themselves to one another.” It is possible that allowing conceptual schemes such as discourse communities to determine communicative events in the educational system actually creates new barriers and perpetuates existing ones between members of otherwise complementary scholarly disciplines and interested lay people. Davidsonian externalism might provide a way to break down conceptual barriers and allow unfiltered communicative events between all potential participants in the educational dynamic by recognizing the value students and people outside the classroom hold for contributing to the educational process or the making of meaning that have not been explored widely in the past.
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For transformative pedagogists, the community is not a conceptual scheme that encompasses specific sets of rules for activities or beliefs to learn and identify with. It does not obligate the teacher to inculcate his or her students into any social norms. Rather it is a place that defies rules and beckons the teacher to explore with his or her students. Communities are dynamic places that are ever evolving and offer unlimited resources for learning if only the teacher and the school would recognize its potential as partner in the communicative event that is the educational process.
Teaching begins with student knowledge
In a 1992 study, the Institute for Education in Transformation at the Claremont Graduate School (IET) observed that most students, particularly after fifth grade feel that many of their classes require them to learn or memorize irrelevant things they perceive are not connected to their lives (p. 32). All the information they learn in school, the tasks they are asked to perform, particularly the more formal or standardized classroom activities become irrelevant to their lives. Often, they do not see the knowledge they possess that pre-dates or is generated outside the school environment represented in school. This causes many students to doubt or even dismiss the validity of the content of what is being taught in school. For some students, it leads to invalidation of non-school-generated knowledge and consequently of self worth as knowledge is irrevocably bound with their senses of identity. For some students, this means abandoning non-school-generated knowledge in order to achieve success in school; for others, the choice is too difficult to make and they drop; still others learn to straddle precariously between the two types of knowledge, the two types of culture. Further, teachers often share their students‟ frustration as they experience the pressure to teach mandated curricula and focus on preparing students to score well on important exams. Freinet (1993) uses the device of a fictional dialogue between Matthew, a farmer living in a small village in France shortly after World War II, and Mr. Long, a teacher from the local schoolhouse, to discuss his positions on science, progress, and pedagogy. This dialogue begins with a lengthy discussion about the value of non-school-generated knowledge, the dangers of ignoring it, and the need to incorporate it into school curricula. The dialogue begins after an argument between Mr. Long and Mrs. Long, also a schoolteacher, after the latter took the advice of the local villagers to see Matthew about a pain in her foot that the doctor could not heal. Mrs. Long, playing on her husband‟s pride in being a logical and scientific man, suggests the he speak to Matthew about his ability to effect healing when physicians cannot. The discussion moves quickly from Matthew‟s abilities as a healer to Matthew‟s (Freinet‟s) position regarding why it is so hard to accept the possibility that someone without a medical degree can possess an ability to heal when a physician cannot, or for that matter why anyone lacking officially sanctioned credentials, can possess an ability to
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perform a task that someone with credentials in the same field cannot. In so many words, Matthew‟s claim is that majority beliefs prevent individuals from exploring alternatives and presenting ideas that conflict with prevailing opinion. For example, the likely reaction by the professional society of chemists to one of its members who spoke up publicly about the dangers of a particular chemical would be quite negative indeed. The same would be true of a doctor who espoused an alternative medical technique that was not recognized by the medical society. Continuing along those lines, he suggests that Mr. Long would face similar a reaction if he were to attempt pointing out “widespread follies and to oppose them vigorously” and that he would likely be thrown out of the school system for trying to reform it. Interviews of teachers, students, administrators, parents, and even classified staff members in the IET study mentioned in the beginning of this section may support Matthew‟s position. Indeed, these interviews revealed that while members of these groups all agreed that reform was necessary, no action was being taken first because nobody felt anyone would listen to them. That is, (1) dialogue was never initiated because of false assumptions regarding assumed opposition that did not exist among their own group members and (2) that members of the other groups would not listen to their ideas. These assumptions were based on misconceptions gleaned from popular media reports and what was being published by experts that had never asked them for their opinions on the subject. Matthew goes on to criticize science in general and “pseudo-scientific” pedagogy in particular, that work very much like politics because each changes with the fashion of the day, “laying claim to every scientific quality needed to inspire [the] confidence.” Then, when fashion changes, all the errors committed in the name of the previous fashion are disclosed in order to discredit it and create support for the latest fashion. This leads to his claim that “leading figures are not always leaders in everything” and that they are “isolated by the environment that produced them.” Referring again to the IET study interviews, one of the conclusions by the authors was that “multiple reports about, and proposed solutions to the problems of schooling ... either missed critical issues or named problems only marginally related to those experienced inside schools.” The result of missing crucial issues is to perpetuate continued publication of more reports offering solutions that only peripherally address issues of most concern to educational practitioners. This pattern of pedagogy changing like politics or fashion from vogue to vogue, suggests Matthew, is a result of researchers taking too narrow a view of the issues they study, and building curricula that are based on continued practice of this kind of activity. The result is a habit of valorizing forward-looking progress that neglects to consider the value or use of past successes borne from practices that they or their colleagues did not have a hand in. Here Matthew is suggesting that scientific research and the practices that develop from that research are only valuable when a subject is considered within the context of its environment. That is, a human is not something that can be studied in isolation in a laboratory, but must be considered within a social context. That social context does not begin when the researcher enters the scene nor does it end when he or she leaves. He is complaining about arrogance and distortion of reality that comes about as a result of
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isolating oneself from the dynamic subject, the subject that is a living organism in a living environment. This is what the authors of the IET study are referring to when they conclude that there exists “a tremendous gulf between life inside schools and the perceptions of that life by academicians, policy makers, media, and community leaders.” The reason that the research that resulted in the IET report took more than a year and involved interviewing teachers, students, parents, and others who are part of the educational dynamic was because the researchers wanted to take a look at the issue of “problems of public education” from the perspective of those directly involved in the process as they went about their activities. Researchers identified the following issues as inextricably bound up in the educational dynamic: Human relationships. Race, culture and class. Values (honesty, hard work, beauty, justice, democracy, freedom, decency, and the need and desire for a good education). Teaching and learning. Safety. Physical environment. Despair, hope, and the process of change.
This led the IET researchers to conclude that if there is going to be worthwhile change in the educational system in this country, three things must occur: 1. The national conversation about educational reform must change from a discussion of consequences (underachievement, discipline, and shortcomings in teacher education) to a discussion of problems, listed above. 2. The voices of students and other members of the school community must be involved in the process of reshaping individual schools. 3. Problematic policies and practices that sap the energy and attention away from allowing teachers to focus on students must be dismantled. An in-depth discussion of these issues is not the goal of the current document. Instead, they are presented to illustrate that the educational dynamic goes far beyond any myth that might suggest that education is simply a matter of inculcating children into the ranks of those with minimally equivalent abilities in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Rather, all these issues play significant roles in the process because each has its own part to play in the education of students. Further, each of these issues already has a history, a preexisting knowledge, attached to it in the mind of each student before he or she ever enters the system. That pre-school and non-school knowledge must be recognized and used as an integral part of the educational process. Any suggested changes in the educational system that ignores this by addressing consequences rather than causes will result in no effective change.
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A “rootless child” is Matthew‟s way of describing a student who is a product of an educational system that does not recognize the past as a starting point for the present and future. The complaint is that the current educational system uproots children from the nourishing soil of their non-school culture and attempts to replace it with an artificial culture that is manufactured by school policy makers who do not take into consideration the complexity of the educational dynamic, a complaint that is corroborated by the IET report. The result is that students are educated only to desire and appreciate the artificial culture. This includes students who eventually become policy makers themselves, policymakers who in their attempts at educational reform suggest changes based on research into observed consequences of problems rather than their causes. Transformative pedagogists act to involve students with the creation of curriculum, asking students to share what they already know about a subject and how they came to know it. Through sharing the answers to these questions, students find that their answers are not always the same as those of their peers, which leads to further reflection and generating of more questions. These sessions of validation, inquiry, and reflection are the foundation for a process of collaborative curriculum development that helps give students validation for what they already know and what they have already learned before entering the class. These sessions also lead to research topics or paths of inquiry that generate course content and helps students develop a sense of the value of dialogue, strengthening their commitment and belonging to that part of their community that is the school as well as encouraging a belief in the value of active participation in a democratic society.
Skills and voices develop out of a need to know and to act
Placed within the context of the need to know, students learn more readily. This is true for any human. As mentioned earlier, students who are adults or becoming adults resist or at least resent learning or schooling that does not seem relevant to their lives. Transformative pedagogists listen to their students in order to find out what matters to them and what they want to learn. Once students can find common ground, they can see common problems or goals. This will lead to student-defined projects and activities where what was play becomes work (Dewey, 1997). This is not to say there is no place for play in the classroom, but the coherency of actions to goals that leads to satisfaction has to be the result of the students discovering for themselves what they need to learn and working together to create ways of achieving those goals. The dominant theme that runs throughout Doll‟s A Post-Modern Perspective on Curriculum (1993) is the complexity theory concept of self-organizing systems, or a selforganizing process. Doll suggests how students, teachers, and “curriculum theorists” might participate in a self-organizing process that is the “key ingredient in a post-modern, transformative pedagogy” (p. 149). Doll cites a number of scholars and works from premodern, modern, and post-modern times to make his case but relies mostly on the works of Piaget, Prigogene, Bruner, Dewey, and Whitehead to construct a post-modern “curriculum matrix” as an heuristic for others to consider. Piaget‟s most important contribution to Doll‟s curriculum is the position that interaction is necessary for growth. Doll begins his discussion regarding Piaget in relation to Piaget‟s
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world view as a biologist. Piaget recognizes that living systems “assimilate and accommodate” in an attempt to maintain balance within their environment. This leads to discussion of Piaget‟s model of equilibrium (equilibrium-disequilibrium-reequilibration). Doll makes the point that a biological model for human development is a more appropriate model than that provided by Newtonian physics because the unique characteristic of living systems is that they interact, that the parts that make up a living system cannot be discussed in isolation from one another. They exist only in relation to each other and in relation to the system as a whole. Doll discusses Prigogene in the context of Prigogene‟s positions on chaos, selforganizing systems, and his theory of dissipative structures. Prigogene challenges both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, though he challenges the Second Law most directly. Whitehead, discussed later in this section, challenges the First Law more directly. The First Law of Thermodynamics (that the total energy in the universe is constant) is what makes the Second Law (that all processes manifest a tendency toward decay and disintegration, with a net increase in what is called the entropy, or state of randomness or disorder, of the system) possible. Both assume a closed system, one at equilibrium, constant. Prigogene‟s theory of dissipative structures challenges the Second Law because it states that transformative change cannot take place in a closed system, one at or near equilibrium. A closed system, at equilibrium, cannot participate in an energy-matter exchange and remain at equilibrium, closed (the energy-matter exchange makes the Second and First laws dependent on one another). But transformative change does take place through dissipation. A classic example is photosynthesis where the Sun, dissipating enormous amounts of energy, allows life to exist on Earth. Open systems, patterned after biological structures, grow through interaction, while closed systems do not. Bruner‟s contribution to Doll‟s discussion of self-organization stems from his models of representation. That is, intellectual growth depends on a person‟s ability to represent the world to himself or herself. To Bruner, growth is characterized six “benchmarks” (1966): 1. Intellectual growth is characterized by increasing independence of response from the immediate nature of the stimulus. 2. Intellectual growth depends upon internalizing events into a “storage system” that corresponds to the environment. 3. Intellectual growth involves an increasing capacity to say to oneself and others, by means of words or symbols, what one has done or what one will do. 4. Intellectual development depends upon a systematic and contingent interaction between a tutor and a learner, the learner already equipped with a wide range of previously invented techniques that he teaches the child. 5. Teaching is vastly facilitated by the medium of language, which ends by being not only the medium for exchange but the instrument that the learner can then use himself in bringing order into the environment.
Ortiz / Transformative Pedagogy / 10 6. Intellectual development is marked by increasing capacity to deal with several alternatives simultaneously, to tend to several sequences during the same period of time, and to allocate time and attention in a manner appropriate to these multiple demands. In each benchmark, the need for interaction is required. Bruner discusses three forms of representation to explain how a child moves from the first benchmark to the second, and beyond. Enactive representation is the first form and it is based on the learning of responses and forms of habituation. Iconic representation refers to principles of “perceptual organization” and “economic transformations in perceptual organization” such as techniques for filling in, completing, and extrapolating. Finally, symbolic representation means representation in words or language. These forms allow increasing agility in social interaction, “to go beyond the information given,” and to learn from others, what Bruner considers the “most important and unique ability” humans possess. Dewey‟s concept of process and his position on “reflective thinking” are what Doll focuses on because Doll seeks to right what he considers a misinterpretation of Dewey‟s position on the subject since it was presented at a time when modernist thinking in curriculum development was not ready to understand it. Primarily, his concern – as was Dewey‟s – is that educators focused on Dewey‟s thoughts on the importance of process to the exclusion of his thoughts on product. That is, while Dewey never made a separation between “psychological process and logical product,” curriculum implementers did. The result was emphasis in schools on process to the exclusion of product. Whitehead‟s “philosophy of organism” questions Newton‟s position that Nature is composed of particles, that there exists some “irreducible brute matter” of which the entire universe is composed. Whitehead‟s position was that instead of solid particles Nature was composed of “a structure of evolving processes.” This was aligned with quantum physics that was teaching that an electron does not follow a continuous path, but rather “appears at a series of discrete positions in space which it occupies for successive durations of time.” The implication here is that there is no physical continuity of linked atoms to hold together a stable-state universe. Doll‟s curriculum matrix consists of “four R‟s” (to replace the familiar “three R‟s” of “Readin‟, „Ritin‟, and „Rithmetic”): Richness Recursion Relations Rigor
Richness refers to what Doll refers to as the “right amount” of indeterminacy, anomaly, inefficiency, chaos, disequilibrium, dissipation, perturbations, and lived experiences. Recursion refers to the ability to organize, combine, inquire, and use something heuristically. Here Doll revisits Dewey‟s reflective thinking where a student‟s secondary
Ortiz / Transformative Pedagogy / 11 experience is a matter of reflecting back on primary experience to reconsider possible future action. Relations refers to (1) pedagogical relations, connections within the structure of a curriculum, and (2) cultural relations, connections outside the curriculum, with the community within which the curriculum is embedded. Rigor refers to indeterminacy and interpretation. Indeterminacy refers to recognizing that one can never assume that one “has it right.” One must constantly be looking for new combinations, interpretations, and patterns. Interpretation refers to recognizing that because all valuations depend on assumptions, that one must be looking constantly for these assumptions and what they mean.
Teaching and learning are both individual and collaborative processes
Students need to discover that they are competent as individuals within the collective, that they can contribute, but also that others can help achieve common goals. Also, since finding similarities among differences is important to sustaining a democratic society, teachers need to create or provide learning environments that allow for interactions with others in order to support responsible participation in a democratic society. Understanding and participating in this context is increasingly necessary as global interactivity increases. Gordon Wells and Gen Ling Chang-Wells (1992) conducted a three-year longitudinal study of Toronto city students from four ethnolinguistic groups (Chinese, Greek, Portuguese, and English). The researchers recognize that children from ethnilonguistic minority backgrounds are disproportionately assessed as having learning disabilities because they tend to lag behind their monolinguistic peers on criterion-based or standardized measures of achievement. They point to earlier studies (Edwards and Mercer, 1987; Cummins, 1984) that found that this lag is due primarily to the students‟ inability to communicate to teachers the problem they have in trying to adapt to the culture of the monolinguistic (English-speaking-based) classroom. That English is not the dominant language spoken in the home is not the underlying problem. The underlying problem is that these children are not adequately prepared in the home for the demands that are placed upon them in the culture of the English-speaking-based classroom. A major aim of the study therefore was To gain a better understanding of the way in which [children from ethnolinguistic minority backgrounds] experienced the opportunities and demands of the curriculum, as presented to them in classrooms in which English was the sole medium of instruction, and how their different experiences were related to their progress and achievement (p. 7). As a practical matter, as well as an ethical one, the researchers felt the need to involve the students‟ teachers in the project as much as possible. Therefore, a second aim of the study was to encourage the development of “a community of literate thinkers.” The authors suggest that a curriculum that supports such a community include five features:
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the recognition of the active nature of learning, manifested in opportunities for learners to set their own goals, plan and carry out the activities necessary to achieve them, evaluate the consequences, and present the outcomes of their work to an interested audience of peers. the recognition of the social nature of learning, manifested in the encouragement of collaboration between learners in all aspects of their work and in the guidance and assistance provided by the teacher through conferences with individuals and groups while tasks are in progress as well as when they have been completed; the recognition of the affective foundation of thinking and learning, manifested in the positive value accorded to empathy, curiosity, caring, and risk taking; the recognition of the holistic nature of learning, manifested in the spontaneous integration of information and strategies from the domains of language, science, social studies, and mathematics in the interests of action that is purposeful and meaningful; the recognition of the central role of language both as the medium through which learning takes place and as the means for collaboration and integration, manifested in the encouragement of learners‟ purposeful use of their ethnolinguistic resources, both spoken and written, as tools for thinking, cooperating, and communicating in relation to the tasks that they undertake (p. 8).
Discussion of this study is relevant here because the circumstances the project participants found themselves in can illustrate how teaching and learning are both individual and collaborative processes. For example, the researchers recognized that at least initially they were an intrusion in the routine of the teachers, particularly those teachers who were not part of the study until after the first year. The researchers developed a set of four conditions to support teacher involvement. The first condition was to invite the teachers to explore their own research questions and incorporate them into the study. The researchers even offered to videotape “episodes of interest” for the teachers to help in their inquiries. The second condition was that accepting the invitation to the first condition must be voluntary. The third condition was to take the time to develop trusting, respectful relationships and to take the time to meet to plan classroom activities that would generate the “episodes of interest,” discuss data, and share analyses. The fourth condition was that all involved had to be willing to learn. That is, the researchers had to be as willing to learn from what their teachercollaborators were showing them as the teachers were willing to learn about collaborative research itself as a means of professional development. The 1988 International Reading Association which was meeting in Toronto provided participants with an opportunity to put together a symposium, consistent with the first feature of a community of literate thinkers mentioned earlier (to “present the outcomes of their work to an interested audience of peers”). In an effort to try to “capture the essence of the occasion”, the authors recounted some of the teacher presentations at the symposium. It is useful to summarize these presentations here to illustrate how the third
Ortiz / Transformative Pedagogy / 13 party in the project, the students, faired in the experience. It also useful to illustrate how the student-teacher collaboration reflected the teacher-researcher collaboration.
Ortiz / Transformative Pedagogy / 14 Teachers‟ Voices: The Administrator‟s Voice: The School as Center of Inquiry Note – Cooperative learning; collaborative research; schools should exist as microcosms of the world in which students can learn, live, and practice democratic principles.
Ortiz / Transformative Pedagogy / 15 Teaching and learning are transformative processes Again, according to McCaleb, “Knowledge is critiqued from social and personal perspectives, with an emphasis on taking action. What is becomes what ought to be.” How we think and act is based on how we know. How we know is inseparable from how we communicate. The nature of the conditions under which we choose to learn is crucial to how we create knowledge. Taking the previous concepts into consideration, actions we take to transform how we learn and teach must include people outside the teacher-class construct. That is, if we are who we are because of our previous dialogues, then by discontinuing these dialogues, or their proxies, we do our students and ourselves a great disservice. By inviting others from past and present dialogues into our classrooms, we can learn what the cherished values and traditions of our communities are and how we are expected to act as responsible members of those communities. Students can get involved in ongoing community activities to internalize what it is to take responsibility in a democratic society.
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Transformative Pedagogy and Knowledge Networking
A transformative pedagogy is only applicable for widescale use through technology that has only in the last decade or less become available to the general public. A transformative experience takes place when a person‟s relationship with his or her environment takes place through conscious, direct, and deliberate manipulation of that environment. This is the stuff of epiphany, and the result is learning. A transformative pedagogy is one that supports and extends these kinds of experiences for the student throughout the academic term and instills or sustains the habits of this kind of activity such that the student relies on proactive manipulation of the environment for successful interaction in the world after the academic term is finished. Distilling the theories of authors previously mentioned to the barest of principles, transformative pedagogy requires the following elements: 1. Students must manipulate or interact with their environment in such a way that they discover genuine problems and solutions on their own. 2. Students must then create, express, or display their solutions in order to appreciate the power they possess within the environmental dynamic. 3. Finally, students must share their creative interpretations with others in a process of evaluating, testing, and revising to appreciate that the power they possess within the environmental dynamic is tempered within a social context. 4. The role of the instructor must be as a facilitator, organizer, or even a leader, but not as the primary source of learning from which students drink in or soak up information. Just as transformative theories of pedagogy that have existed for over one hundred years have not automatically led to successful implementation on a wide scale, extranet technology by itself does not guarantee said implementation either. Widescale positive results will occur only when the two are joined.
Criteria for a transformative praxis combining transformative pedagogical theory and extranet technology.
1. An apparatus to replace or supplement the classroom that defines the parameters of the specific learning experience. This would be the extranet, an interactive virtual space with resources and “windows” for participants to view choices of environmental contacts and “doorways” to pass through to make that contact. 2. A wide range of environmental contacts or contact points for students to interact with their environment. 3. Workspaces where students can experiment with or manipulate their environment after choosing contact points. 4. Display spaces where students can view, share, and discuss the results of their environmental manipulations. 5. Opportunity to continue with current manipulations, build on what peers have done, or look for new environmental contact points whereby they can begin the process anew.
Ortiz / Transformative Pedagogy / 17 6. The role of the instructor must be as a facilitator, organizer, or even a leader, but not as the primary source of learning from which students drink in or soak up information. The following is an analysis of transformative praxis criteria of several Web sites. It is the goal of this analysis to further suggest to the reader that a praxis of transformative theories of pedagogy combined with extranet technology can allow for widescale implementation of the kind of educational reform that has eluded public education for over a century in this country.