Pedagogy of Freire Research Papers
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Critical pedagogy, Freire claims, is a method of education meant to empower students to promote social justice. As one of the most important theorists behind the concept, Paulo Freire was influenced by neo-Marxist philosophies portraying education as a necessarily political act. The teacher, he believed, could not educate students in a truly neutral manner. Most traditional education passes along biases in favor of existing power structures in government and society, implicitly supporting the frequently oppressive existing order.
Freire asserted the following two basic premises regarding childhood education:
- It is the task of the pedagogue to help students achieve an underlying meaning behind everything they are exposed to
- Then, a pedagogue must instruction on how to be able to criticize and reject or accept what they have been exposed to
The first task of the critical pedagogue is to help students achieve an understanding of the underlying meaning behind anything to which they are exposed. In books, movies and television, official announcements, and even in music, students should seek to comprehend how information is presented and what function it aims to serve, whether explicitly or implicitly. Anything that deals with current power structures in society without engaging and critically analyzing those structures is, by default, lending them legitimacy.
Once students learn to reveal how other people are trying to influence them, they can consciously criticize and reject that influence. By freeing themselves from the unconscious biases they would otherwise develop, students can actively join in efforts for social change. As an advocate of critical pedagogy, Freire hoped eventually to promote radical political reform.
Paulo Freire would applaud the recent trend in pop psychology which recognizes a person’s various emotional intelligences. Freire’s particular excitement about emotional intelligences would be in their application to the education field in recognizing each student’s own emotional intelligences and how these aspects of a student’s personality intertwines with their ability to learn and process knowledge. The interaction between the instructor and the student in recognizing various “intelligences” is the key to successful learning. Just as Freire stressed that the banking concept of education was counter productive to learning, emotional intelligence theory in the classroom is opening new doors to productive, interactive learning for both instructors and students.
Emotional intelligence is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one's thinking and actions (Mayer & Salovey, 1993 p.433). In his 1983 book, Frames of Mind, Howard Gardner identified seven unique areas of intelligence in which students can be classified, going beyond identifying them with simple IQ tests. The theory of multiple intelligence proposes additional intelligences besides the traditional notion of intelligence based on the universal IQ testing. By focusing on other areas of intelligence a broader range of human potential can be found.
The recognition of emotional intelligences by educators leads to the fostering of independent thinking due the basis of emotional intelligence teaching in allowing the student to cultivate his or her particular strong points. By recognizing and fostering individuality in the educational setting, critical thinking skills are applied to the individual in ways in which they are most likely to turn concepts and ideas into full understanding. In order to bring about the recognition of emotional intelligences, communication is key. Communication is quintessential to Freire’s movement way from the banking concept of education and towards the problem posing method of education.
The importance of emotional intelligence theory can be witnessed in the fact that 17 years after its first introduction, it is still used and debated in educational systems around the world. Linda Campbell (1997) states that it provides “infinite variety” in interdisciplinary curriculums within schools as all levels. Rebecca Novick (1996) echoed Campbell’s assertion and argues that it is best for a child to construct his or her own knowledge through interactions with the social and physical environment. Because the child is viewed as intrinsically motivated and self-directed, effective teaching capitalizes on the child's motivation to explore, experiment, and to make sense of his or her experience. Gardner’s theory asserts that children learn and exhibit talents and intelligences via their own experience and are motivated by their experiences. This is relative to Freire’s assertion that men are not truly human except through their experiences and inquiry into these experiences, as demonstrated in the opening quote. Thus particular intelligence is nurtured by their experience and must be tapped into with recognition of its individuality. Freire would support this since he holds a great deal of trust and confidence in a child’s ability to direct their educational path and he calls for “a profound trust” in the experiences and self-awareness of the student.
Over a period of five years, a Trappe, Maryland elementary school put Gardner’s theory to test and concentrated on emotional intelligence in the classroom and the individuality of each child’s abilities (Greenhawk, 1997). Through assistance by specialists, the children at the Maryland school demonstrated significant advancement in overall achievement and confidence.
Education is a laboratory. There is a constant search for what works and what does not. Through experimentation in this laboratory, educators have found a new method of teaching, one that focuses on an interactive education, as espoused by Freire. Recognizing emotional intelligences in the classroom opens up the student to be a full person, to be “truly human”. This approach emphasizes sensitivity to multicultural diversity, hands-on learning, and the validity of authentic experiences in teaching children. At the root of this pedagogy is the concept of student engagement in educational activities that fosters a genuine interest in what is to be learned. From the perspective of the teacher, not only are they expected to find a way for students to learn; now they must also engage students in the learning process. Is this asking asking too much of teachers that are frequently overworked and underpaid as it is? While this may be a greater challenge to teaching than the banking concept of education, an emotionally intelligent classroom has been shown to be a far more conducive environment for learning. Thus we must look at “invent[ing] and reinvention”, of the educational system to find out what serves the community, our schools and our children best.