Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Implementing the Principles of Critical Pedagogy in an Efl Writing Class

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Implementing the Principles of Critical Pedagogy in an Efl Writing Class

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article details a descriptive research on the implementation of the principles of critical pedagogy in an EFL university essay writing classroom which led to change in the quality of students' writing. In order to fulfill the purposes of the study, three sets of data were collected. Classroom observations were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively to determine clues to the power relations between the teacher and students, and among the students in classroom interactions. Students' journal writings were also examined both qualitatively and quantitatively in search of 1) traces of empowerment and 2) changes in the quality of writing as students continued writing. Students' essays were investigated quantitatively to explore the changes in students' perception of themselves as writers. Findings identified the success of the classroom practices and revealed substantial benefits for the students.

Key words: Critical Writing Class, Critical Pedagogy, EFL, Quality of Writing, Writing.

1. Introduction

The notion of critical pedagogy has been around for some time, perhaps with the publication of Freire's (1970) "The Pedagogy of the Oppressed". However, there has not been so much research in ELT conducted on implementing the basic tenets of critical pedagogy into the classrooms through one of the skills. Akbari (2008) explains some very basic principles of critical pedagogy that should and can best be integrated into the writing classrooms. These are centrality of "students' local culture," importance of "learners' LI as a resource," "historicity and problem posing," or students' real life concerns.

As far as writing is concerned, Momenian and Shirazizadeh (2008) cite Connor (2003), Kubota, (1999), Ramanathan and Atkinson, (1999), and Kubota and Lehner, (2004) who have argued against the claim that students should write in order to meet native speaker norms, the monolingualism and monoculturalism dimensions, instead of expressing their own cultural identities. This sense of resistance against the native speakerism can be brought about in the classroom through having students write about their own home culture or bringing it into the classroom through a variety of writing tasks.

This study aimed to inform teachers interested in implementing critical pedagogy in their own classes but who are apprehensive at the same time due to their lack of knowledge about the process of implementation itself and their lack of confidence about the unknown outcomes. Also, this study encourages students to broaden their understanding of themselves and to develop a sense of confidence and efficacy.

2. Background

In Freire's critical pedagogy, instead of transferring facts and skills from teacher to students, students are invited to think critically about the subject matter, doctrines, and learning processes. According to Canagarajah (2005), critical pedagogy is not a set of ideas, but a way of performing learning and teaching. Critical students and teachers need to situate learning in the relevant social contexts, exercise power relations equally in pedagogical activities, and hold the accountability of learning to construct equitable, and ethical educational environment.

Empowerment and critical thinking are the two basic principles of critical pedagogy that informed the practices of the present study. It was assumed that through collaboration, the students would perceive themselves not as passive receivers of knowledge but as active participants in creating knowledge. Cummins (2000) identifies coercive and collaborative powers as two types of exercise of power in classroom interaction between a teacher and students. He describes that while coercive power relations will lead students to "the subordination of their identities to the perspective of the dominant group" (p. 44), collaborative power relations will serve to affirm and extend their sense of identity, which he defines as disempowerment and empowerment, respectively. …

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