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Article

With the emergence of critical English language teaching (CELT) in the past 25 years, primarily in the English for academic purposes domain, there have been significant implications for English language learning. ELT approaches have drawn on major premises and assumptions in second language acquisition research from the past several decades, particularly in the institutional context of intensive English language programs in North America in which the dominant conventions and traditional approaches in English language teaching have been enacted. The first incarnation of CELT occurred in the early 1990s, which eventually prompted a key debate over critical pedagogy in English language teaching during the 2000s. The second wave of CELT began in the mid-2000s and addressed the continuing challenges facing students in the context of neoliberal spaces of universities worldwide. New approaches have emerged that address the importance of CELT in the current nationalist and racist backlash against increased global mobility of job- and refuge-seeking immigrants to Australia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Article

Robert Helfenbein and Gabriel Huddleston

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, spatial terms have emerged and proliferated in academic circles, finding application in several disciplines extending beyond formal geography. Critical geography, a theoretical addition to the home discipline of geography as opposed to being a new discipline in itself, has seen application in many other disciplines, mostly represented by what is collectively called social theory (i.e., sociology, cultural studies, political science, and literature). The application of critical spatial theory to educational theory in general, and curriculum theorizing in particular, points to new trajectories for both critical geographers and curriculum theorists. The growth of these two formations have coincided with the changes in the curriculum studies field, especially as it relates to the Reconceptualization of that field during the 1970s. In terms of critical spatial theory especially, the exploration of how we conceptualize place and space differently has allowed curriculum studies scholars to think more expansively about education, schools, pedagogy, and curriculum. More specifically, it has allowed a more fluid understanding of how curriculum is formed and shaped over time by framing the spatial as something beyond a “taken-for-granted” fact of our lives. The combination of spatial theory and curriculum studies has produced a myriad of explorations to see how oppression works in everyday spaces. The hope inherent in this work is that if we can understand how space is (re)produced with inherent inequities, we can produce spaces, especially educative ones, that are more just and equitable.

Article

Multicultural education was born of racial and ethnic minority groups’ struggles to have their experiences, cultures, and ways of life recognized in dominant institutions. In schools, it means teaching the cultures, histories, values, and perspectives of different cultural groups, especially those of historically marginalized peoples. Since this approach can take perniciously shallow forms, educators have sought to incorporate the ideals of critical pedagogy and antiracism to inform a practice of “critical multicultural education.” Critical pedagogy rejects claims that knowledge is politically neutral and posits education and teaching as political acts. Informed by critical theory, critical pedagogy seeks to awaken students to the social, cultural, political, and economic milieu in which dominant forms of knowledge are constructed and through which power functions. A goal of critical pedagogy is for students to understand the way that injustice manifests and is reproduced and, ideally, to engage in praxis—critical reflection and action—toward societal transformation. Antiracist scholarship has sought to switch discussion of race and racism away from minority groups and, instead, to analyze white racism and whiteness as integral features of dominant institutions. It connects to critical theory in several ways, foremost of which is the position that racism was born of capitalist social relations. Like critical pedagogy, antiracist education seeks to understand, reveal, and counter structural forms of oppression. As such, antiracist education can be more widely presented as anti-Xist education, that is, antisexist, antiableist, antiheterosexist, and so on. In other words, the importance of antiracist education, as informed by critical race theory, lies not only in centering issues of race and racism. Black feminist scholars, for example, also point to the concern of the “intersectionality” of race, class, gender, and other sites of oppression. Lastly, unschooling also links to critical theory to the extent that traditional schooling represents and promotes the opposite of freedom and critical self-reflection. From a Marxian standpoint, unschooling understands the material reality of schools as manipulative, not convivial, and as reproductive of the status quo, not transformational. Compulsory, competitive schooling, according to this view, undermines learning and, instead, focuses on production, consumption, and spectation. Unschooling, instead, puts the power, responsibility, and, importantly, freedom for learning in the hands of the learner. Born of and informed by a number of different social movements (civil rights movements; women’s liberation, gay, and lesbian rights movements; indigenous rights movements; etc.), critical multicultural education, then, stands as multiculturalism plus both collective and individual empowerment for responsible, critical engagement against structural forms of oppression.

Article

The work known as critical geography, a distinct yet varied subfield of spatial analysis, seeks to understand how the social construction of both space and place interact with, resist, and reinforce structures of power and the work of individual and collective identity. A critical geography approach to qualitative educational research privileges inquiry that includes how the lived experiences of schools (i.e., students, teachers, schools, communities) are defined, constrained, and potentially liberated by spatial relationships in both discursive and material ways. That is, a critical geography approach includes how such understandings may be used, for example, to critically examine how spaces are used, by whom, when, and how in the process of learning and not learning; what spaces mean (and mean differently) for different people inhabiting the spaces of education; how spaces are used to construct identities, allegiances, and bodies; how they act pedagogically to position bodies to know and be known; and the kind of pedagogies they help make possible and intelligible for both teachers and students in classrooms.

Article

Allison Daniel Anders

Committed to research as an ethical and political practice, post-critical ethnographers work to center emic perspectives, local knowledges, and critiques in everyday languages in order to illuminate the exercise of power in the re/production of systemic inequities (e.g., economic, cultural, geographic, linguistic, political, racial, and social). Post-critical ethnographers underscore the importance of positionality and reflexivity in the practice of ethnography and pursue multiple, complicated understandings and complex representations, often experimental, in the writing and production of research. Informed by critical, interpretivist, and postmodern theories, post-critical ethnographers critique dominance, oppression, and inequity. In educational research, they choose schools, student, teacher, administrator experiences, and often local contexts to frame their research. Addressing both the particularities of experience and historical geopolitical contexts, post-critical ethnographers offer incisive analyses and ask their audiences to challenge systemic inequities and consider what could be otherwise in inequitable relations but is not yet.

Article

The field of educational administration has a long and embedded history of taking a critical approach to practice, research, and theory. While there are a range of reviews from within and external to the field, there is no comprehensive contemporary historical overview of the meaning and actuality of critical approaches. A novel mapping and codification project aims to fill this gap by providing six approaches to criticality in the field. Three are professional self–focused—biographical, hierarchical, and entrepreneurial—and three are focused on professional and policy issues as primary research projects—functional, realistic, and activist. An overview is provided for each with examples of field projects/outputs, followed by an examination of the trends in the field. The state of the field is identified as a site for intervention from non-education interests (e.g., business), where non-research forms of criticality, often allied with functional research, tend to be dominant.

Article

Racial literacy includes understanding of the ways in which race and racism influences the social, economic, political, and educational experiences of individuals and groups. It includes being able to engage in competent and comfortable discussions about race and racism. Critical racial literacy focuses on understanding how systemic racism works. Systemic racism is embedded in institutions such as education, employment, housing, health services, religion, media, government and laws, and the legal systems. Critical racial literacy involves praxis (reflection and action) in order to interrupt racism in educational and familial contexts. An important premise of critical racial literacy is that racism can be intentional or unintentional. Racism is complex and occurs on different levels including individual, institutional, and societal and cultural forms. Educators who engage in critical racial literacy reject colorblind and race-neutral approaches. Likewise, reflecting on one’s racial identity is an important part of the process of becoming racially literate. In school settings, critical racial literacy can be used to detect and dismantle five types of racial violence in schools (physical, symbolic, linguistic, curricular or instructional, and systemic) as well as ways to interrupt them. A key focus is on developing racial literacy among educators and students at all levels from preschool through college. Critical racial literacy is important in families. Even young children can be engaged in the teaching and learning process about race and racism. African American and other families of color often have to teach children about racism because it is likely that children will encounter it in schools and society in general. A key part of racial literacy that families of color stress is how to straddle two cultures—their own and mainstream culture.

Article

Queer pedagogy can be considered a kind of critical pedagogy, which questions the neutrality of knowledge and renders teaching a political act. Drawing upon queer studies, it remains strategically poised on a series of important contradictions between constructing and deconstructing, defining and undoing. In the very impossibility of resolving such issues it challenges the basic premise of the institution of schooling—instead of providing clear and definitive answers to questions, it keeps them open. Its productivity lies in unsettling oppressive certainties. Can we both understand that bodies, by their very nature, exceed their discursive construction, and at the same time recognize people’s own identifications and the very real social and historical repressions they have experienced and continue to experience as a result of these? Discourse analysis in the field of education provides the potential for questioning the limits of discourse and the knowledge it creates, while creating spaces for recognition and the production of alternative understandings. Instead of simply replacing older knowledge regimes with newer (and supposedly better) ones—a traditional didactic approach—we might critically analyze how knowledge has been constructed and how people’s lived experiences challenge these constructions, and then begin to imagine a queer pedagogy based on this analysis.

Article

Curriculum studies is a field that addresses the sociopolitical, historical, and cultural norms and values that impact the classrooms and corridors of schools and their interrelated systems of schooling. Questions of curricula, the formal (what is meant to be taught), the null (what is not taught), the enacted (what is learned through interactions), and the hidden (what is learned through cultural norms) are significant to curriculum studies and are entangled with local and less local histories, politics, and cultures. Sociocultural precepts such as race, gender, and sexual orientation are therefore enmeshed with these forms of curriculum. The study of how race, gender, and sexual orientation are related is therefore at once historical and contemporary in its significance. To understand the relationship between these ideas is to follow lines from Title IX, the Meriam Report, the exclusion of certain terms from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, redlining, and other significant national policies and practices that impact schools and the curriculum. Finally, while it may be easy to falsely split questions of race from questions of gender or sexual orientation, an attention to how intersectional identities impact the curriculum becomes especially significant to disrupting colonial, sexist, racist, homophobic, and transphobic norms and values that often render the fe-male body as property of the cis-hetero patriarchy. Within these intersectional dialogues, curriculum studies scholars often find the important tools for dismantling and discussing normalized marginalization in schools and across systems of schooling as they touch and are touched by local and less local communities.

Article

Sonia Janis and Joy Howard

Multiraciality is a historical reality that has existed as long as the racializing of any group, community, tribe, nation, or continent. Multiraciality is a silenced reality that has been informed by history, politics, geography, law, research, scholarship, media, popular culture, and education. In turn, the same fields have been informed by multiraciality. Multiracial curriculum perspectives provide key historical understandings to contextualize the present multiracial scholarship around curriculum. The work within multiracial studies is research addressing the implications of people identifying as two or more races. The study of multiraciality outside psychology is methodologically nonlinear, qualitative, storied, personal, and operating “in-between” multiple theoretical orientations. This type of research is not acknowledged in academia as influential enough to garner considerable attention and value. Prior to 2014, the research and scholarship associated with multiraciality was often dispersed across disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, and public policy. Historically, the two prominent fields that orientate to the cross-/interdisciplinary field of multiracial studies are psychology, where multiracial identity development is explored, and policies studies with the multiracial movement and the addition of “mark-all-that-apply” in the U.S. Census. Understanding multiracial curriculum perspectives requires a historical perspective to contextualize 21st-century discourse and scholarship around the multiracial curriculum. The use of 21st-century figures brings to the surface historical understandings germane to synthesizing what it might mean to theorize multiraciality in the curriculum. An analysis of multiracial encounters in P-12 schools, universities, and educational institutions exemplify how generations living in the 21st century are making sense of multiracial identities and curriculums.

Article

Critical autism studies (CAS) is an emergent field that challenges deficit-based thinking about autism. Early scholars of autism, such as psychologists Bruno Bettelheim, Leo Kanner, or Ivar O. Lovaas, adopted a biomedical or behavioral approach to the study of autism. Rejecting such an approach, critical disability studies and by extension CAS have developed robust theoretical frameworks to account for the sociocultural and embodied experience of disability, including the social model of disability, the cultural model of disability, and poststructural models of disability. These approaches to the study of disability challenge medical models of disability that understand disability as an individual experience of impairment. Disability is framed as a problem to be solved via biomedicine and helping professionals and instead conceive of disability as a web of sociocultural entanglements. In contrast, theoretical approaches to critical autism studies include critical discourse analysis (CDA), feminist theory, and critical race theory. Scholars using CDA explore how ableism is produced and sustained through discourses, particularly public discourses within the media, scholarship, non-governmental organizations, and schools. Critical autism scholars who employ critical race theory seek to understand the intersectional identities of autistic people of color and the compounding effects of racism and ableism. Feminist approaches to the study of autism trouble gender stereotypes about autistic people, most notably Simon Baron Cohen’s extreme male brain theory.

Article

Zeus Leonardo

Education is both a racial and class project. This means that a multidimensional theory of educational stratification is necessary if an accurate appraisal of schooling’s modern appearance in capitalist, racialized states is central to the research endeavor. Critiques of capitalism are found in critical pedagogy and Marxist studies of education since the 1970s, which argue that schooling’s intellectual division of labor mirrors the material structures of a capitalist division of labor. In addition, the advent of critical race theory in education since 1995 provides compelling evidence that schooling is not only an ideological apparatus of the capitalist state but also equally of the racist state. Together, developing a critical class theory and critical race theory of education offers a more complete explanation of educational stratification in order to understand its processes and perhaps ways to intervene in them.

Article

Jeff Share, Tatevik Mamikonyan, and Eduardo Lopez

Democracy in the digital networked age of “fake news” and “alternative facts” requires new literacy skills and critical awareness to read, write, and use media and technology to empower civic participation and social transformation. Unfortunately, not many educators have been prepared to teach students how to think critically with and about the media and technology that engulf us. Across the globe there is a growing movement to develop media and information literacy curriculum (UNESCO) and train teachers in media education (e-Media Education Lab), but these attempts are limited and in danger of co-optation by the faster growing, better financed, and less critical education and information technology corporations. It is essential to develop a critical response to the new information communication technologies that are embedded in all aspects of society. The possibilities and limitations are vast for teaching educators to enter K-12 classrooms and teach their students to use various media, critically question all types of texts, challenge problematic representations, and create alternative messages. Through applying a critical media literacy framework that has evolved from cultural studies and critical pedagogy, students at all grade levels can learn to critically analyze the messages and create their own alternative media. The voices of teachers engaging in this work can provide pragmatic insight into the potential and challenges of putting the theory into practice in K-12 public schools.

Article

Derek Allen, Sharon Bailin, Mark Battersby, and James B. Freeman

There are numerous definitions of critical thinking, but the core concept has been said to be careful, reasoned, goal-directed thinking. There are also many conceptualizations of critical thinking, which are generally more detailed than brief definitions, and there are different views about what the goal(s) of critical thinking instruction should be. Whether critical thinking is a good thing is a matter of debate. Approaches to teaching critical thinking vary, partly according to whether they focus on general principles of critical thinking or on subject-matter content or on a combination of both. A meta-analysis research report published in 2015 concluded that, subject to certain qualifications, a variety of critical thinking skills and dispositions can develop in students through instruction at all educational levels. Critical thinking instruction has been influenced by research in cognitive psychology that has suggested strategies for countering factors (e.g., biases) that the research has found to produce irrational beliefs. Methods of assessing critical thinking ability include teacher-designed tests and standardized tests. A research report published in 2014 on assessing critical thinking in higher education describes challenges involved in designing standardized critical thinking tests and proposes a framework for a “next-generation” assessment. The challenges include achieving a balance between the assessment's real-world relevance and its psychometric quality, and designing an assessment useful for instructional purposes and for comparisons of programs and institutions. The proposed framework is based partly on a review of existing frameworks of critical thinking in higher education. It has two analytical dimensions and two synthetic dimensions, and a dimension on understanding causation and explanation. Surveys show that employers value employees with strong critical thinking ability; this fact has significant implications for students, teachers, and administrators at all levels of education.

Article

Social studies, theoretically, examines the social dynamics of different groups of people within a particular society. The subject, as defined in the US education system, incorporates different disciplines, such as history, sociology, geography, and political science. The objective of social studies is the development of students as active participants in civic society. Since 2001, however, decreased learning time for social studies in elementary school grade levels and narrow interpretations of historical events in secondary school classes due to standardization efforts have threatened the viability of social studies in US schools. A critical social studies interpretation can redirect the current path of the subject. The concept of critical social studies scrutinizes three facets of the subject: curriculum, citizenship, and teaching. Critical teachers, curriculum writers, and students utilize self-reflection, critical theories, and active engagement in critiquing dominant concepts of citizenship. The open exchange of ideas with different individuals challenge standard explanations of citizenship in the United States. Critical educators use community development, student-centered dialogue, and transdisciplinary methods in expanding the learning of social studies. Critical social studies seeks to bring social studies back to its intellectual origins while pushing it into new peripheries.

Article

Inclusive education is increasingly prioritized in legislation and policy across the globe. Historically, the concept of inclusion within educational contexts refers primarily to the placement of students with disabilities in general education classrooms. More recent descriptions of inclusive education focus on ensuring that all children can access and participate in physical, social, and academic aspects of the classroom. However, a growing body of research suggests that students continue to experience exclusion even within educational contexts that express a commitment to inclusion. In France, a growing number of private, independent schools seek to create the inclusive environments that, despite the ministry of education’s initiatives focused on inclusion, the public school system does not yet provide. One such school engaged in a participatory action research project to create an inclusive classroom that responded to the evolving needs and interests of the community, resulting in a sense of belonging for all members. As all classroom community members (students, families, and teachers) participated in the project of creating an inclusive classroom, the elements of participatory action research allowed inclusion to become a flexible, ongoing, and reflexive practice of identifying and responding to contextually specific needs of classroom members. Approaching inclusion as a participatory action research project in the classroom offers a promising approach to moving beyond interpretations of inclusion that fail to actively address pervasive inequalities and their impact on classroom experiences.

Article

Amy Stornaiuolo and T. Philip Nichols

In the opening decades of the 21st century, educators have turned toward cosmopolitanism to theorize teaching and learning in light of increasingly globalized relationships and responsibilities. While subject to extensive debates in disciplines like political science, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology, cosmopolitanism in education has primarily been explored as a moral framework resonant with educators’ efforts to cultivate people’s openness to new ideas, mutual understanding through respectful dialogue, and awareness of relationships to distant and unknown others. Scholars have recently called for more critical cosmopolitan approaches to education, in which the framing of cosmopolitanism as a neutral, essentializing form of global togetherness is subject to critique and includes analysis of systems of power, privilege, and oppression. However, while scholarly efforts to articulate critical cosmopolitanisms (in the plural) are still in nascent form in terms of educational practice, recent work in other disciplines offer promise for forwarding such a critical agenda. In sociology, for example, a focus on cosmopolitics foregrounds the labor of creating a shared world through ongoing, often conflictual negotiations that take into account the historical and contemporary political exigencies that shape that process. A framework of cosmopolitics for educators, particularly as a counterpoint to liberal understandings of cosmopolitanism as a form of ethical universalism, will be explored. Such a critical approach to educational cosmopolitanism not only foregrounds the local, everyday actions needed to build connections with others and create common worlds—but also acknowledges the historical and sociomaterial conditions under which such actions take place. A cosmopolitical approach to educational practice thus recognizes multiplicity and contingency—the mobility that locates people and ideas in new relations can just as easily lead to prejudice and bias as tolerance and solidarity—but does so in an effort to understand how social, political, and economic structures produce inequality, both in the present moment and as legacies from the past.

Article

Barbara S. Stengel

Sex/gender and affect/emotion mutually implicate one another in any theory, research, or practice with respect to education. It is important to examine these two elements together because the emergent focus on affect since the early 1970s is not an accident of thought but tracks the interest in sex/gender as an object of study and tracks as well the increased and increasing visibility of scholars who are not male, cisgendered, and heterosexual. Two overlapping but distinguishable approaches to the study of affect and emotion—affect theory and the feminist politics of emotion—have contributed to changing conceptions of sexuality and gender with respect to educational purposes and pedagogies. Affect theory begins and ends in lived experience; a feminist politics of emotion begins and ends in the press for active response that accompanies that lived experience. Nonetheless, there is a common concern with how power circulates through feeling and how ways of being and knowing come to be through affective relations and discourses. Moreover, there is a shared commitment to understanding affects not as constraints on rationality and hurdles to ethical action, but as the potential to think, act, and live differently.

Article

The “affective turn” in the humanities and social sciences has developed some of the most innovative and productive theoretical ideas in recent years, bringing together psychoanalytically informed theories of subjectivity and subjection, theories of the body and embodiment, and political theories and critical analysis. Although there are clearly different approaches in the affective turn that range from psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, (post-)Deleuzian perspectives, theories of the body, and embodiment to affective politics, there is a substantial turn to the intersections of the social, cultural, and political with the psychic and the unconscious. The affective turn, then, marks a shift in thought in critical theory through an exploration of the complex interrelations of discursive practices, the human body, social and cultural forces, and individually experienced but historically situated affects and emotions. Work in this area has become known as “critical emotion studies” or “critical affect studies.” Just as in other disciplinary areas, there has been a huge surge of interest in education concerning the study of affect and emotion. Affect and emotion have appeared and reappeared in educational theory and practice over the past several decades through a variety of theoretical lenses. For psychologists working with theories of cognition, for example, the meaning of these terms is very different compared to that of a sociologist or philosopher using social or political theories of power. In general, psychologists investigate emotional states and their impact on the body and mind/cognition, whereas “affect” is a much broader term denoting modes of influence, movement, intensity, and change. Within these two meanings—a more psychologized notion focused on the “emotions” as these are usually understood and a more wider perspective on “affect” highlighting difference, process, and force—the affective turn in education expands our thinking and research by attempting to enrich our understanding of how teachers and students are moved, what inspires or pains them, how feelings and memories play into teaching and learning. The affective turn, then, is a particular and particularly focused set of ideas well worth considering, especially because it enables power critiques of various kinds. What the affective turn contributes to education and other disciplines is that it draws attention to the entanglement of affects and emotions with everyday life in new ways. More importantly, the affective turn creates important ethical, political, and pedagogical openings in educators’ efforts to make transformative interventions in educational spaces.

Article

Vanessa Dodo Seriki and Cory T. Brown

Racial realism, as posited by Derrick Bell, is a movement that provides a means for black Americans to have their voice and outrage about the racism that they endure heard. Critical race theorists in the United States have come to understand and accept the fact that racial equality is an elusive goal and as such studying education—teacher education in particular—requires the use of analytical tools that allow for the identification and calling out of instances of racism and institutions in which racism is entrenched. The tools for doing such work have not traditionally been a part of teacher education research. However, in 1995 Gloria Ladson-Billings and William F. Tate introduced a tool, critical race theory, to the field of education. Since that time, education scholars have used this theoretical tool to produce research that illuminates the pernicious ways in which racism impacts teacher education in the United States.