Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Little Bit of Dewey, A Little Bit of Freire

I would like to think that I incorporate elements of both Dewey's Cycle and Freire's Critical Pedagogy in my methodology and pedagogical practice.  I certainly try.  I view myself as a teacher-learner, placed in the classroom to share my knowledge and experiences, but also to learn from my students, and gain something (an approach? a fact? a new perspective? a practice?) of value. I tell my students this, and it is not just lip-service- I genuinely feel that I learn from, and with, them.

And I try to encourage them to view their jobs, their families, their morning commutes- just about every relationship and situation they can be in- as possessing the potential for both teaching and learning. My students are future managers, lawyers and accountants. They are parents. They are citizens of the world. And they have huge responsibilities to themselves and others. So when they walk into an Intro to Business course, and expect to be drilled with vocabulary, quizzed on facts and figures, and lectured for hours on end, I try to remind them of the social, psychological, environmental, political (the list goes on and on….) implications of their actions or inactions in the business world. I do this by asking them to ask, investigating alongside them, giving them as many opportunities as I can to create something and to reflect…I have even kept Dewey's cycle on a post-it in front of me while creating assignments to inspire me to provide them with all of these opportunities. In a perfect world, each essay, case-study, and class discussion would be crafted or led in such a way that all students would feel actively involved in their learning, feel a sense of ownership in this process, feel empowered….

…but life gets in the way. Time constraints, teaching and non-teaching professional obligations and elements of my personal life all take away from my ability to create such opportunities each and every time. So, for now, I just try my very best to be conscientious of the things I do and say in class (and out), to revisit and revise assignments with my students whenever possible, to gauge student learning through a mixture of assessment approaches, and to continue to view myself as a student and not just an educator (and the CTL seminars are great ways to place me back in this mindset whenever I stray from it).


  1. Nikki,

    I think what you've written is a thoughtful reflection on your teaching and learning. I've always felt that when students engage in the learning process, without making those connections to the outside world, that they receive an incomplete understanding of its relevance and how it intertwines with many aspects of their lives.

    I also respect your final paragraph, regarding time. It seems that often good teaching gets overshadowed by other areas of our professional lives, particularly in situations where research is pushes so heavily that students become an afterthought.

  2. I was very impressed by your conscience use of Dewey's pedagogical theory (i.e., the post-it note that you keep visible while you create your assignments). As you demonstrated, these theories are not formulated to accomplish a singular objective -- such as the ubiquitous "critical thinking." Instead, these theories highlight that learning is a process that occurs in stages and when we approach material from different vantage points (e.g., exploring a generative versus a transformative approach) we allow the students to make new and perhaps surprising discoveries.

    I will be interested to see how you infuse various forms of technology to assist you in this endeavor (and hopefully web 2.0 tools will not create additional time constraints, but offer further possibilities)!

  3. Wow! I couldn't have said this better myself. I so relate to everything that you said!!! I too tell my students, repeatedly, that I learn from them and like you, truly mean it. I am very curious about the meaning that they attach to the concepts that we talk about in class. Being a professor of psychology, it is so easy to find topics that students can relate to. But more than this, I am intrigued by the different meaning that they attach to these concepts and how they connect it to their own lives. It is when students are able to draw from their own experiences and speak to the theories, concepts, issues raised in class that I feel that "this was a really good class." Because the learning goes both ways, and moves throughout the classroom.

    I totally "feel your pain" as regards the issue of time and the many constraints that we all deal with. Talk about a perpetual issue/problem. I look forward to learning more from you, and feel inspired -- believing that we can share some great ideas with one another that we can all make use of in the classroom for our students (not to mention our own) benefit!

  4. I absolutely agree with the importance of taking into account the realities of the world of your students outside of the classroom. The learning process involves incorporating the world around you allowing for meaningful connections to the ideas developed in lecture. Information is not processed the same way in everyone and being sympathetic to that in your approach can prove to be an advantage in fullfilling your class objectives and a benefit to the students.

    Have you thought of possible activities or collaborations for your students to work on?