Critical Pedagogy – And why we need it.


If you are a TESOL student, you will at some point stumble upon this topic of Critical Pedagogy. I find this a particularly relevant and important topic for ESL teachers to be conscious about.

I will provide a brief overview into the topic.


Breaking up the phrase:

Critical: very straight forward, a questioning act

Pedagogy: The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept. (Oxford Dictionary)


So what exactly is it?

Critical Pedagogy is a teaching method concerned with  “connecting the word with the world. It is About recognizing language as ideology, not just system. It is about extending the educational space to  the social, cultural, and political dynamics of language use.” (Kumaravadivelu, 2006, p. 70)

CP is concerned about being aware of the social and political elements which have influences in every educational system. It is our duty as ESL teachers to be aware of these elements.


Making your students think!

It criticises the banking concept of education. This concept criticises educational practises whereby the student is a passive learner. They hold the teacher as being all knowledgeable, and that the students are simply there to regurgitate information the teacher has bestowed upon you.

(This really remind me of my leaving cert. Hours and hours of my life were wasted transcribing and memorising my teachers ideas)

Rote memorisation is not learning!



Oppressive systems!

Critical Pedagogy is concerned about being aware of the social and political elements which have influences in every educational system. Above all, the critical pedagogy wants learners to be aware of the outside influences which effects their social and political world. This includes understanding the oppressive systematic’s which will have effect on your ESL learners, but also on learners in Ireland.

Paulo Freire, regarded my many as the father of critical pedagogy, grew up in poverty. It was this exposure to poverty which instigated his awareness of how socioeconomic’s were effecting the educational system.



   Levels of consciousness         question-mark-1236555-639x554

Freire argued that there were three different levels of consciousness:

Intransitive: The individual accepts their lives as they are. They do not try and change their circumstances.

semi transitive: Are aware of their problems. They can learn to change one thing at a time. They do not connect these problems with outside influence.

critical consciousness: These people see their problems as structural problems. They can make connections between their problems and the social context in which these problems are embedded.


I find critical pedagogy a very interesting subject. When I reflect on my primary and secondary education there was definitely instances where I can say my teacher adopted methods similar to the banking concept. If I do become a teacher once I graduate, I would like to think my teaching will push my student to become critically conscious. However, I am also aware that the institutionalised practises of education may prevent me from truly achieving this.

From attending TESOL these last few weeks, I have gained an understanding of different countries, and the cultural norms and influences which can affect the classroom.


Below is an interview Paulo Freire did with LiteracyDotOrg. This is Freires last public interview. It was conducted in 1996.



Freire is known for writing his most famous Novel ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’.

If you are interested in reading more about Critical Pedagogy, you can purchase ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ on Amazon below:



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