How To Be a Teacher and an Advocate

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If you have not already, you should sit down and strongly consider what your role as a teacher is. When doing so, be sure to include the role of community leader. Consider two important theories which drive the conversation of activism in education: Critical Pedagogy and Dialogic Pedagogy.

The essence of Critical Pedagogy is that students learn to connect knowledge with power, ultimately using what is taught in the classroom to disrupt power imbalances. Simply put, students are shown how to use what they learned in the classroom to improve their lives or the lives of those marginalized in society.

Dialogic Pedagogy is linked very closely to Critical Pedagogy. Under the principles of Dialogic Pedagogy, material for classroom discussion is based on what is happening in the students’ lives, rather than what is imposed by those in power. In other words, the students determine course content.

How does this play a role in language instruction? Not only do students have a say in the language that is taught, but they are also shown how this language can be used to transform their lives and the lives of others.

One way to approach this style of instruction is by engaging the students in the act of problematization. This means having a discussion with the students about what they feel needs changing in their community. With the students, make a plan on how to improve these conditions, along with identifying the language that will be needed in the process.

These new course goals will be motivating to the students since they are directing their own learning and taking ownership of the course. Also, the material is based on real world situations, rather than examples found in textbooks which have no relation to the students’ lives. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, students will be motivated by seeing improvements their lives and in their communities.

This post was written by Matthew Clark.

April 21, 2011