In process by being an equal participant

In this lesson, we will learn more about critical pedagogy, including its definition and theoretical uses for social transformation through education.

The School’s Role in Improving Society

In simple terms, schools are available to students so that children can learn to read, write, problem-solve, and think, but have you ever stopped to think about why those things are important to our society? Critical pedagogy emphasizes the role of educators to teach students to think about social injustices, so they can improve their world.

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Let’s learn more about critical pedagogy.

Definition of Critical Pedagogy

Critical pedagogy is based on the work by Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator, who was once imprisoned and then exiled as a traitor for his teaching methods which were used to teach illiterate adults. Critical pedagogy recognizes the influence that the lack of education has on the oppression of impoverished people.

One of the primary goals of education is to help people develop critical consciousness. Critical consciousness is the ability to assess the political and social structures that exist and to empower people to question authority and speak out against injustices.

Practical Application

In the classroom, this means that teachers and students participate in discussions in which both parties ask questions and reflect on answers. Prior to a lesson, the teacher asks participants questions that are used to create a list of topics that are relevant to that group of students. Once a list has been established, the teacher uses this list to create thematic class discussions.

Through the discussion process, participants begin to look critically at their own reality and the social structure of their community. Learners are engaged in the learning process because the discussions are based on their experiences. Using this method, hundreds of adult farm workers learned to read and write within 45 days.


The ultimate goal of critical pedagogy is for teachers to act as a model for the democratic process. As a result, students are able develop critical thinking skills while building their sense of responsibility for contributing to the common good. Consequently, social transformation occurs, thus improving the quality of life for all people.

Lesson Summary

Critical pedagogy is an educational approach that was developed by Paulo Freire.

Noticing that illiteracy contributed to the oppression of the working class, Freire created this method to teach adult farm workers to read and write within 45 days. Sounds great, right? The Brazilian government didn’t think so. He ended up being arrested and then exiled for being a traitor. What was the problem? Freire’s teaching methods promoted citizens to think about the social injustices of their world. His students were taught to question authority and expect fair treatment.This ability to analyze social constructs and demand changes is called critical consciousness.

The teacher develops talking points based on social issues that are relevant to the learners and then models the democratic process by being an equal participant in the questioning and reflection process. Using this procedure, students are engaged as they become critical thinkers and better citizens that are able to see their responsibility in working towards the common good.


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