Striving for a Pedagogy of Empowerment


Reposted from the Digital Is Blog:

In the Introduction to Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes, “any radical pedagogy must insist that everyone’s presence is acknowledged.”(8) She describes the process through which we become self-actualized in the classroom. “Teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students.”(15) And, it isn’t just that students should be empowered to show up as full selves, but that teachers must as well, in order to model, but also to show the kind of care for the work that only comes when we make ourselves at least somewhat vulnerable.

Connected learning boils down to risk taking in the end. To quote colleague Jade Davis from her recent DML blog post, “I think the biggest risk in connected learning is Not Trying.” Mostly, I find that co-learning is somehow linked to a kind of “life attitude.” When I became a mother, I realized quickly that everyday my children teach me myriad vital things. These brand new people, who have so little experience, are in many ways masters of what is significant in life. A truly wise person learns from every person he or she connects with in the most unforeseen moments. This is of course the soul of co-learning. And, perhaps it is also the seed of equity and justice. But, it is not necessarily easy to maintain this outlook, especially as we continue to navigate institutional demands, programmatic expectations, and expected outcomes.

So why all this talk of leaps and risks? I truly believe there is much at stake in what is considered here. Institutional change that matters must generate first from the heart of the learning communities we design. These co-learning steps we are taking together are indeed the seeds of a kind of personal growth that can play an important role in contributing to a healthy citizenry. The transformative force for equity and justice in society lies first in the way we come together to learn. In the ways we are educated lies a foundation for how we meet the world. Striving for equity in the classroom context will set a course for collaborating and negotiating — a habit that will certainly yield fair-minded moments in unforeseen futures. A connected co-learning model is essential not just for reimagining education, but more importantly, for realizing our democratic aspirations.

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