The Power of Critical Theory for Adult Learning and Teaching

By Stephen D. Brookfield | Go to book overview

Chapter Twelve
I Teaching Critically

One of the most frequent assertions of the critical tradition is that separating our practice from our theorizing, as if these existed in two wholly separate domains, is untenable. The tradition sees these two processes as conjoined; on the one hand, all practice is theoretically informed, on the other hand, theory always contains practical implications. So although this book is "officially" about critical theory, it is also, implicitly, about critical practice. In this final chapter, then, it seems fitting to review and integrate the pedagogical suggestions made by the theorists reviewed in the previous eleven chapters. I do this in three ways. First, I explore what it means to teach critically, arguing that doing this is a matter of focus as much as method. Teaching critically is not just a question of how we teach. It is also about what we teach. Second, I examine some of the methodological approaches that emerge in critical theory's analyses. These in no way comprise a unified stance. The previous chapters will have made it clear that there is a considerable eclecticism in the methodological injunctions of critical theory. Indeed, sometimes these injunctions seem directly in contradiction. As an example, consider how Marcuse's emphasis on the need for privacy, isolation, and cultural detachment stands against Fromm's or Habermas' insistence on dialogic teaching, collaborative learning, or the collective creation of knowledge. Finally, I reflect on the pedagogic lessons I have learned in my own experience teaching critical theory within graduate education.

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