Critical Pedagogy

Back when I was in college, I went through a phase when I would question everything. It began slowly with our theory class that introduced us to the Frankfurt school of thought, Gramsci, and Althusser, and as I tried to make sense of the industry and system of the mass media (for where could a Broadcast Communication graduate go?) I became disenfranchised and discouraged to join such an oppressive occupation judging by the political-economy and power relations of the system.

My last year of college was peppered with a lot of debates and disagreements with my classmates and teachers as I sought to break the silence and to assert an alternative view on media content and theory. I found myself caught up in the crossroads of accepting the status quo or challenging it, particularly since the real world awaits after graduation.  For this reason, I found solace in one theorist who would be able to give a theory on what I was experiencing. I could resonate with feminist author bell hooks (1994) when she wrote in “Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom”,  “My commitment to learning kept me attending classes. Yet, even so, because I did not conform – would not be an unquestioning, passive student – some professors treated me with contempt. I was slowly being estranged from education.” Both of us found Paolo Friere and his work, “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, as a way to understand the limitations of our education (or schooling, perhaps as what Ivan Illich would argue) and to discover alternative strategies for learning as a student.

Freire’s work can very well be considered to be aligned with constructivist theories of learning, as these theories posit that individuals are actively involved in the construct of knowledge (as cognitive constructivists like Jean Piaget would argue) and that knowledge is socially constructed and embedded within socio-cultural contexts (much like what Lev Vygotsky woud posit). However, Freire argues that the very nature of traditional education as a practice of domination, which oppresses and silences the masses, can be transformed to a practice of freedom and critical reflection that considers people in their socio-economic and political reality. The first step towards this change is through problem-solving education and critical consciousness through meaningful dialogue in the classroom.

Fast forward to the present, and I find myself entrenched in another line of work that is vastly different than expected from a graduate of Mass Communication (which wouldn’t matter anyway). Throughout the discussion about constructivism and instructional design in this week’s course, there is still the underlying assumption that the teacher is still the key source of information and guidance in the process of learning – well, Vgotsky would point out that peers or co-students can also be the More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs) in the process of learning – which brings us to examine more closely the power relations in the classroom. There is also the lack of discussion on the teacher as a learner in the discourse – how do these roles interact with one another and how does critical reflective practice play into the classroom when the MKOs can possibly be the students themselves? How do teachers, as a perceived frontliner in knowledge reproduction and ideology, be able to work within the system in order to create critical thinkers?

Hence, I end with bell hooks (1994) call for hope in the midst of the prevailing power and ideological structures within society: “The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations,
remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to
move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”

REFERENCE:

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge. Retrieved from https://academictrap.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/bell-hooks-teaching-to-transgress.pdf

Social Learning in Reality and in Distance Education

Social Learning Theory in Reality

Life never ceases to remind me that as a parent, I have obligation to be a good role model to my daughter. Just the other day, my husband pointed out that Wyona is not as friendly as often to other people as before, and he attributed this to my natural tendency to be shy around people. “Learn to smile and say ‘Hi’,” he joked. “Kaya napagkakamalan kang mataray eh (That’s why people mistake you for being snobbish).” I shrug off his suggestion and laugh, but deep inside I am reflecting. Why would I expect Wyona to be friendly if I don’t show her how to be friendly? No matter, at least her father’s friendly.

Kidding aside,  modeling behavior and observing such behavior are important aspects of the learning of a toddler. Everything she sees, she imitates from social interactions (clapping, smiling, laughing, saying goodbye, kissing) to movements that require motor skills (opening the cabinet, putting things inside and outside the box, opening the zipper of a bag, putting a phone against the ear). The ones she repeats are mostly the ones she is exposed to everyday, which she picks up from my husband and I’s habits and daily routine. She also learns new movements from the daily commercials she watches on TV. Yet she also has the agency to choose not to act, depending on her current environment and mood.

Count on Albert Bandura to put a name to what a toddler (and I) was going through. Combining cognitivist and behaviorist theories, Bandura posited that not all types of learning come from direct reinforcement or experience, but also from observation of others in person and in media (Cherry, 2017). And to me, Wyona embodies all the components in social learning theory: observation, imitation, and modeling.

Distance Learning and Social Learning Theory

Yet how does learning work if technology is factored in? Bandura’s theory on social learning was significantly used in explaining behavior among viewers (i.e. aggression) yet it did not consider yet that the forms of interaction would change through media — from face-to-face to online. So how would social learning occur if there is no one to observe?

The best thing about online learning is that it is asynchronous and independent, yet everyone is on the same page. Therefore, one particular behavior that online learners should have and is required in this type of learning environment is time management. This is to ensure that there is enough time to study the resources, participate in the discussions, and write.

The first step is to learn through a verbal instructional model, which involves descriptions and explanations of a behavior. How can you manage your time well, given the available modules and resources? How do you organize and manage knowledge? Second, internal mental states are important. Extrinsic reinforcement through interaction through the forums can help boost self-efficacy as other learners affirm or recognize opinions and thoughts. Most importantly, intrinsic reinforcement like the satisfaction of finishing a module within time and see other learners complete their own tasks contributes to better time management.

As of now, with the completion of social theories of learning, I have to go back to the reality that my toddler has managed to open the drawer in the room, empty its contents, and climb into it. Where she learned that she can do that, Bandura cannot fully explain since no one in the family climbs into a drawer to play…but I am happy to know she’s making connections among what she knows (the drawer can be opened in the way the adults open it and it is big to accommodate her), her potential behavior (she can climb into the space and can explore), and the responses from her environment (being told that she could be hurt in the process or being observed for consequences). Ah, learning is never this interesting in the classroom.

REFERENCE

Cherry, K. (2017). What is Social Learning Theory? Verywell. Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/social-learning-theory-2795074.