In the course of studying social reconstructionist education, I have noted the following implications for our teachers if we want to appply this perspective.
1. The first step is to understand ourselves as educators. Van Gunten & Martin (2002) maintain that our work in shools is shaped by our understanding of who we are as educators, researchers and scholars. We have our conceptual frameworks for analyzing and deriving meanings from events in our personal and work lives as a result of our collective experiences as members of a multicultural (Tagalog, Ilocano, Cebuano, Ilonggo, or Christian, Muslim) society. What we take up and what is repressed by us in class is a particular, rather than a universal truth, and is a function of our positions in society (for me, it will be as a married woman with four children, from a middle class background, with a UP education, for example). Understanding the unique ways in which positionalities influence and transform pedagogy, which in turn influences the lives and experiences of students, is essential for effective education (Martin & Koppelman, 1991, in Van Gunten & Martin, 2002).
Many teachers are unaware of their positionality as privileged, class dominant, and heterosexually oriented or as advantaged (or disadvantaged) because of gender. The task of the OBCCS teacher is to awaken his or her own awareness, and where there may be an understanding of particularized oppressions or singular awareness, to create what Rich (1980) has called “disequilibrium,” thus altering the images they have of themselves and others that have been abstracted by the culture. Teachers need to ask of their views, “Whose knowledge is this particular to in society? Who has seen this as worth teaching and who has benefited? Whose knowledge should be taught and why?”
Miller (in Morgaine, 1994) has proposed that for students to learn to understand all forms of knowledge (and not just the instrumental or technical paradigms), teachers need to “excavate, reflect on, and analyze underlying assumptions, expectations and constructions” of everyday life in order to become insightful about the complexities involved.
Critical social science is based on the belief that individuals do not need an expert (ie., the teacher) to tell them what to do; they are capable of becoming enlightened about hidden influences in their own personal and social situations. It is assumed that praxis, or emancipative action toward making change, will occur once people are enlightened.
After a heightened awareness of one’s own positionality, a teacher can proceed with a process of critical inquiry. This process is a response to the experiences, desires, and needs of oppressed people to help them further on in the process cultural transformation. It focuses on fundamental contradictions which help dispossesses people how poorly their “ideological frozen understandings” serve their interests (Morgaine, 1994). The following steps are taken from Comstock’s framework of critical inquiry, as described by Morgaine (1994).
The second step is for teachers to truly understand their students. By this is meant an effort to identify them as an oppressed social group or a group of people whose interests and actions are constrained by social ideologies. For example, if the majority of students are female, teachers can explore if they were experiencing some form of gender-related oppression. Students at the OBCCS are somehow societally oppressed in one form or another : as residents of this urban poor community, or with parents being Muslims or unemployed, what forms of oppressive beliefs are they suffering from, and how might this influence their views of themselves? Teachers simply do not teach effectively when they hold inaccurate deficit visions of children, families, and communities.
Attainment of full understanding, includes observing, asking, acting and reflecting (just as Freire, 1968, described using a process of dialogue, where power between students and teacher is equalized. The dialogue can be oral or written, and is aimed to facilitate students’ reflections of their oppressive life experiences. It is important that teachers behave in a nonelitist and nonmanipulative manner with the students about their everyday experiences. As dialogue occurs, themes common to group members’ lives gradually emerge.
The third step is to identify themes and examine their historical aspects. Freire (in Morgaine, 1994) suggests that meanings, values and motives can be consolidated into themes. The aim at this stage is not to discover causal relationships, but rather to seek explanatory understandings (Bredo & Feinberg, 1982), or explanations regarding the intersections between historical underpinnings and contemporary perspectives of societal members (Fay, 1977, in Morgaine- 1994).
The teacher establishes the descriptive and interpretive validity of the themes as group members reflect on personal experiences relevant to the themes. Conditions for facilitating enlightenment must be preceded by new, nonblaming information (not moralizing, shaming or blaming).
This will give rise to understanding of societal ideologies surrounding power.
Feminist theory claims that dominant members of society create a world that blames subordinate members. When discrepancies are approached within the context of hierarchical relationships and asocial assumptions, shame is a likely outcome (for example, in some of the games at OBCCS, “families” may end up with plenty of children, and those with large families are “shamed” because they have to spend so much in order to live).
The fourth step is to look to students for curricular content, thereby trying to be more respectful of their diverse life experiences. The teacher pursues discourses based on student needs and interests. Teachers must acknowledge the skills and capacities that children bring with them to the classroom.
Lastly, the teacher integrates interpretive forms of knowledge(personal journals, films, novels, poetry) into the information disseminated in class.
The way we are implementing experiential learning at OBCCS may fall short of the standards for critical inquiry. We implement the experiential learning cycle, and go through experience-reflection-action inputs to produce knowledge without being conscious of our frameworks or paradigms as being positioned and privileged as members of a dominant group. This is an area that we in the faculty might have to discuss and work on together.
Morgaine, C. A. (1994). Enlightenment for emancipation : a critical theory of self-formation. Family Relations , 325- 350.
Van Gunten, D. M., & Martin, R. J. (2002). Reflected identities: applying positionality and multicultural social reconstrtuction in teacher education. Journeal of Teacher Education , Vol 53 (1)
Schutz, A. (2006). Home is a prison in the global city: the tragic failure of school-based community engagement strategies. Review of Educational Research , 76:691- 7443.