Towards a practice of critical teaching about teachers' work

Year: 1996

Author: Hattam, Rob, Smyth, John, Shacklock, Geoff

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Being criticalist academics teaching about teachers' work in post-graduate degrees in education, in an era in which teachers' voices are increasing silenced in the development of educational policy and curriculum design, means grappling both theoretically and practically with the political and ideological nature of education. In this paper we argue for the increasing need for critical teaching about teachers' work at a time when the possibilities of engaging in a curriculum making practice capable of delivering on commitments to social justice seem less likely. We describe the struggle to develop a practice which opens up opportunities for our students (experienced teachers) to connect the life-worlds of their classrooms with the relentlessly changing surrounding socio-cultural milieu. On this nexus teachers have an opportunity to investigate the possibilities for developing agency as the makers of culture as opposed to the deliverers of somebody else's curriculum. Critical teaching in this context is a struggle to develop a practice which has these characteristics: dialogic, in that it involves challenging dominant myths, assumptions and practices; situated, and hence focuses on the significant existential themes from the classrooms of the students; participatory and involves students being active in the process from the outset; interdisciplinary, in the use of material from many perspectives; problem-posing, as opposed to problem-solving, and; activist-oriented in that it is open about a commitment to effect change so that education contributes to making a more socially just society.