GRAD 5114 Post 5: Critical Pedagogy

Critical pedagogy is a teaching philosophy that enables students to ask questions and challenge domination and help them strengthen their beliefs and practices in that field. The ultimate objective of higher education is to enhance students’ critical thinking and form their own ideas. Actually, critical thinking is really important and essential in higher education. In universities, students should be motivated to challenge any ideas as long as this challenge is reasonable and logical. For students from middle schools and high schools, learning some knowledge is vital and following the instructions of teachers or authorities will be appropriate but for students in higher education, learn to challenge an idea should be highly encouraged.

As an instructor, the most exciting moment in my class is that students can propose some questions that require much thinking. In a university class, instructors are not the center of the class but the students. If no one asks questions in a class, this class is really a failure because the instructor either does not explain everything clearly or explain everything in a difficult way. I always encouraged my students to propose and ask questions and tell everyone in my class that the only stupid question is that you do not ask question if you have one.

In order to promote students’ critical thinking, a good start would be group discussions. In a small group, every student has the opportunity to talk and express their own ideas. The more they talk and discuss, students are more able to form their own ideas. Then, it would be great if students can bring their own ideas into the class and discuss with other students and instructor. It would be better if instructors can evaluate students’ ideas from the foundation of the subject. I always prefer to explaining everything from zero and let students understand their questions step by step. Finally, students are also encouraged to again criticize their own ideas or instructors’ evaluations. The entire logic of critical pedagogy should be “ideas-criticize by others-criticize by themselves-revise ideas” and then re-start the process again.

Published by Zhenyu

The third-year Ph.D. student from the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech.

3 thoughts on “GRAD 5114 Post 5: Critical Pedagogy

  1. Thanks Zhenyu for the post. There is a strong relationship between critical pedagogy and critical thinking. Freire recognizes the importance of teachers being critical thinkers and students in order to effectively and constructively pass along this critical way of perceiving and living in the world: “The more I learn about myself as a thinker and kind of epistemologist proposing a critical way of thinking and a critical way of teaching, of knowing [for] the teachers in order for them to work differently with the students.”



  2. Nice write up. I believe implementing critical pedagogy will look different in different subjects, and what works for one class may not work for another. For instance, a history teacher may challenge an event that is traditionally seen as progressive. A science teacher, on the other hand, may encourage students to look at the impact of scientific discoveries on marginalized groups. Most times, this will involve finding common ground between subjects as the critical approach is not confined to only one area of education and culture.


  3. Thank you for such a great response, Zhenyu! I agree that group discussions serve as an excellent method for enabling sharing all students’ ideas and perspectives on a topic in class. I think a lot of students feel a certain pressure to say the perfect comment when a professor asks for discussions involving the entire class, but using breakout rooms or actual groups when we return to in-person learning, definitely helps everyone feel heard and less stressed. I did, however, have a question about your comments on limiting challenging discussions to only higher education. Do you think high school students would be more prepared for college and the higher levels of critical thinking if they were accustomed to challenging the teacher and offering counter arguments to a class? I am not saying you are wrong, I am just curious if there are any exceptions to challenging a teacher only in college? Thanks for a great blog.


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