Critical Pedagogy, Social Justice, and Prosocial Identities in the Italian Classroom (Part II)

By Fabbian, Chiara; Carney, Emanuela Zanotti | Italica, Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Critical Pedagogy, Social Justice, and Prosocial Identities in the Italian Classroom (Part II)


Fabbian, Chiara, Carney, Emanuela Zanotti, Italica


Abstract: Responding to the conflicting public perspectives about pedagogical approaches to, and purposes for, language teaching and learning, the authors argue that foreign language education is at the core of a multicultural citizenship and suggest ways to reconceptualize FL teaching and learning as a springboard towards social justice education. The authors offer suggestions on how to tweak FL and culture instruction through a social justice perspective by applying new teaching strategies designed to foster students' critical appreciation of the complexity of the target culture, to reflect on the ideological and concrete realities of their own world, and to empower them to become agents of social change in their own communities. In Appendix 3, as in the appendices included in Part I of the article, the authors offer concrete examples of best practices and strategies that foster literacy, intercultural awareness, and pro-social identities within the framework of a cohesive and well-articulated curriculum. The ultimate goal of this paper is to encourage FL teachers to reflect on the ontology of the profession and devise new and creative ways to make the teaching of FL relevant to collegiate education and at the core of the university mission. [This article is the second part of an essay which appeared in issue 95.2 Summer 2018 of Italica. The first two appendices are included in the first part.]

Keywords: Social justice in foreign language pedagogy, critical pedagogy in foreign language education, prosocial identities, Italian curriculum development.

Social Justice, Emotional and Material Resources

Social justice in FL education can also be approached through a variety of curricular activities and extracurricular projects that provide students with the emotional and material resources to learn to their full potential. These include, according to Nieto, "material resources such as books, curriculum, financial support, and so on. Equally vital are emotional resources such as belief in all students' ability and worth; care for them as individuals and learners; high expectations and rigorous demands of them; and the necessary social and cultural capital to negotiate the world" (6). One example of curricular and extracurricular initiatives that embrace Nieto's holistic approach to the teaching and learning of a foreign language is in our approach to the teaching of a traditional topic in Italian curricula, that of food and eating habits in Italy. In one of our advanced courses (Literary and Cinematic Kitchens. Decoding Food in Italian Culture, taught in Italian) we study and discuss the significance of food and eating habits as complex and multilayered symbols of Italian cultural identities, i.e. realistic, symbolic, erotic, and political functions surrounding the preparation and consumption of food in Italian cinema, literary texts, and other cultural products such as cookbooks and historical records. Students explore a variety of themes, including taste as a cultural product, written and oral traditions, the relationship between "local" and "global" models of consumption in contemporary societies, the role of food preparation and consumption in the construction of gendered and ethnic identities, the transition from a society of hunger to one of abundance, and the historical evolution of the Italian tables. They also learn to identify social class differences in food consumption and alimentary orders imposed by dominant ruling groups, often to the detriment of the subject classes. Students unveil conflicts of antithetical interests which characterize past societies as well as contemporary ones, and reflect on the relationship between class, tastes, and lifestyles. At the intermediate level, we expanded the traditional treatment of the topic of food to include the politics and economic impact of food production, preparation, and consumption in order to provide students with the social and cultural awareness which allows them to problematize the subject. …

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