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An approach to critical pedagogy in an English language teaching context: a Case Study in Iran

An approach to critical pedagogy in an English language teaching context: a Case Study in Iran
An approach to critical pedagogy in an English language teaching context: a Case Study in Iran
Critical pedagogy (CP) as a philosophy of education and social movement has been debated for nearly five decades now and inspired many educators and researchers in various fields including English language teaching. Although the original scope of CP was to develop both theory and practice (Freire, 1970; Giroux, 1997; Osborne, 1990; Sweet, 1998), discussions have been mostly focussing on the former and not much work has been done to implement CP in actual classroom practice (Akbari, 2008; Christensen & Aldridge, 2013; Davari, 2011; Gore, 1993, 2003). Moreover, research on classroom practice that is situated within this framework only rarely provides a comprehensive, empirically based analysis thus would not lay the groundwork for further discussion and a deeper understanding of pedagogical practice, its process and outcomes. More importantly, the research conducted within the paradigm of CP usually does not include the viewpoints of the learners despite their role assigned by CP theory to develop CP-oriented practices in collaboration with teachers (Crookes, 2012; Shor & Freire, 1987a; Wong, 2006); this has led to an important gap and the lack of a solid body of research on educational practices conducted within this framework.
This qualitative case study explores how an approach to CP was conceptualised, practised and experienced in an English language teaching context by its participants including the teacher and the learners in a higher education institution in Iran. The study stands out as important due to the fact that in the Iranian education system lecturing still prevails as the dominant teaching method, and pedagogical key concepts of CP including dialogue and critical thinking are widely ignored (Aliakbari & Allahmoradi, 2012; Sadeghi, 2008; Sedeghi & Ketab, 2009; Shakouri Masouleh & Ronaghifard Abkenar, 2012). Therefore, this case study presents and analyses a rare example in the Iranian educational context where CP is still in an initial phase (Ghaemi & Piran, 2014; Safari & Pourhashemi, 2012).
This study investigates how the teacher explains and implements his teaching philosophy and method based on his approach to CP. For this purpose, interviews, audio recordings of classroom interaction and my personal field notes were examined through thematic analysis. Moreover, considering ‘dialogue ‘as the basis of a dialogic critical approach to teaching, the study explores how‘dialogic discussion’ as the teacher’s advocated pedagogical method, in line with other dialogic critical pedagogy advocates (Bartlett, 2005, 2008; Dysthe, 2011; Freire, 1970; Giroux, 1994; Pollack & Kodikant, 2011; Roberts, 2000; Shor, 1980, 1992, 1993; Shor & Freire, 1987a, 1987b), was contextualised and practised. To this end, class discourse analysis was implemented to investigate the role and importance of dialogue in whole class discussions based on Lefstein and Snell's (2014) six approaches to dialogue. In addition to this, the study explores the learners’ viewpoints on the teacher’s main teaching method in practice. This is done through thematic analysis of two questionnaires handed to the learners at the beginning and the end of the three month fieldwork period, focus group discussions and the reflective diaries the learners developed throughout the course. These data sources are examined and triangulated to set the ground for discussing further how the teacher’s advocated theory and method align or not with his actual teaching practice and how his theory and practice align or not with positions expressed in CP literature and discussion within the field of ELT in general terms and in Iran particularly.
The findings show that beside a need for theorising and practising CP, it is also necessary to develop a comprehensive analysis of the classroom discourse within a dialogic critical framework. While indoctrination and ideological imposition have been pointed to as the great risk of applying CP in the literature, their unfolding in practice is still under-theorised (Biesta, 1998; Burbules & Berk, 1999; Darder, Baltodano, & Torres, 2003; Matusov, 2009; Matusov & Wegerif, 2014; Matusov & Lemke, 2015; Matusov & Miyazaki, 2014; McArthur, 2010a, 2010b; Mejía, 2004; Palmer & Emmons, 2004). Therefore, a comprehensive analysis enables critical pedagogues to develop a critical stance towards their own and other’s personal theories and their role in educational practice, and to raise awareness for the risk of misusing dialogue as a means of indoctrination and imposing one’s views on others while believing in one’s own strong commitment to dialogue and dialogic knowledge construction. On the one hand, such a research focus helps to conceptualise further the conditions under which CP can, or fails to, unfold its potential as a tool for empowerment and liberation. On the other, this study contributes to building a body of educational practice whose participants self-identify as participating in CP, and thereby adds to the work on how an approach to CP is implemented and carried out in class discourse, which is in need to be studied and analysed (Sarroub & Quadros, 2015).
The results of this study also highlight the significance of including the learners’ voice in order to have a more comprehensive picture of the educational process, including the dynamics of actual classroom interactions and the perceived impact of teaching on the learners in this environment. This is specifically crucial where banking education prevails and the learners are unfamiliar with and unaccustomed to the basic principles and requirements of a critical dialogic teaching. By laying open the workings and mechanisms of these dimensions, both CP theory and practice can develop in parallel and the further shortcomings and risks can be noticed and avoided.
University of Southampton
Abdi, Zahra
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Abdi, Zahra
ae689f6f-3f78-4e5e-b678-104dcc41723e
Zotzmann, Karin
83cb3ab3-c9cd-43c5-946e-cc48462ac234
Budach, Gabriele
0ef7057b-886a-4821-bf3d-50b2ca84e1b1

Abdi, Zahra (2017) An approach to critical pedagogy in an English language teaching context: a Case Study in Iran. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 313pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Critical pedagogy (CP) as a philosophy of education and social movement has been debated for nearly five decades now and inspired many educators and researchers in various fields including English language teaching. Although the original scope of CP was to develop both theory and practice (Freire, 1970; Giroux, 1997; Osborne, 1990; Sweet, 1998), discussions have been mostly focussing on the former and not much work has been done to implement CP in actual classroom practice (Akbari, 2008; Christensen & Aldridge, 2013; Davari, 2011; Gore, 1993, 2003). Moreover, research on classroom practice that is situated within this framework only rarely provides a comprehensive, empirically based analysis thus would not lay the groundwork for further discussion and a deeper understanding of pedagogical practice, its process and outcomes. More importantly, the research conducted within the paradigm of CP usually does not include the viewpoints of the learners despite their role assigned by CP theory to develop CP-oriented practices in collaboration with teachers (Crookes, 2012; Shor & Freire, 1987a; Wong, 2006); this has led to an important gap and the lack of a solid body of research on educational practices conducted within this framework.
This qualitative case study explores how an approach to CP was conceptualised, practised and experienced in an English language teaching context by its participants including the teacher and the learners in a higher education institution in Iran. The study stands out as important due to the fact that in the Iranian education system lecturing still prevails as the dominant teaching method, and pedagogical key concepts of CP including dialogue and critical thinking are widely ignored (Aliakbari & Allahmoradi, 2012; Sadeghi, 2008; Sedeghi & Ketab, 2009; Shakouri Masouleh & Ronaghifard Abkenar, 2012). Therefore, this case study presents and analyses a rare example in the Iranian educational context where CP is still in an initial phase (Ghaemi & Piran, 2014; Safari & Pourhashemi, 2012).
This study investigates how the teacher explains and implements his teaching philosophy and method based on his approach to CP. For this purpose, interviews, audio recordings of classroom interaction and my personal field notes were examined through thematic analysis. Moreover, considering ‘dialogue ‘as the basis of a dialogic critical approach to teaching, the study explores how‘dialogic discussion’ as the teacher’s advocated pedagogical method, in line with other dialogic critical pedagogy advocates (Bartlett, 2005, 2008; Dysthe, 2011; Freire, 1970; Giroux, 1994; Pollack & Kodikant, 2011; Roberts, 2000; Shor, 1980, 1992, 1993; Shor & Freire, 1987a, 1987b), was contextualised and practised. To this end, class discourse analysis was implemented to investigate the role and importance of dialogue in whole class discussions based on Lefstein and Snell's (2014) six approaches to dialogue. In addition to this, the study explores the learners’ viewpoints on the teacher’s main teaching method in practice. This is done through thematic analysis of two questionnaires handed to the learners at the beginning and the end of the three month fieldwork period, focus group discussions and the reflective diaries the learners developed throughout the course. These data sources are examined and triangulated to set the ground for discussing further how the teacher’s advocated theory and method align or not with his actual teaching practice and how his theory and practice align or not with positions expressed in CP literature and discussion within the field of ELT in general terms and in Iran particularly.
The findings show that beside a need for theorising and practising CP, it is also necessary to develop a comprehensive analysis of the classroom discourse within a dialogic critical framework. While indoctrination and ideological imposition have been pointed to as the great risk of applying CP in the literature, their unfolding in practice is still under-theorised (Biesta, 1998; Burbules & Berk, 1999; Darder, Baltodano, & Torres, 2003; Matusov, 2009; Matusov & Wegerif, 2014; Matusov & Lemke, 2015; Matusov & Miyazaki, 2014; McArthur, 2010a, 2010b; Mejía, 2004; Palmer & Emmons, 2004). Therefore, a comprehensive analysis enables critical pedagogues to develop a critical stance towards their own and other’s personal theories and their role in educational practice, and to raise awareness for the risk of misusing dialogue as a means of indoctrination and imposing one’s views on others while believing in one’s own strong commitment to dialogue and dialogic knowledge construction. On the one hand, such a research focus helps to conceptualise further the conditions under which CP can, or fails to, unfold its potential as a tool for empowerment and liberation. On the other, this study contributes to building a body of educational practice whose participants self-identify as participating in CP, and thereby adds to the work on how an approach to CP is implemented and carried out in class discourse, which is in need to be studied and analysed (Sarroub & Quadros, 2015).
The results of this study also highlight the significance of including the learners’ voice in order to have a more comprehensive picture of the educational process, including the dynamics of actual classroom interactions and the perceived impact of teaching on the learners in this environment. This is specifically crucial where banking education prevails and the learners are unfamiliar with and unaccustomed to the basic principles and requirements of a critical dialogic teaching. By laying open the workings and mechanisms of these dimensions, both CP theory and practice can develop in parallel and the further shortcomings and risks can be noticed and avoided.

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Published date: September 2017

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Local EPrints ID: 422143
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/422143
PURE UUID: d305a45a-1d18-45e5-b8ab-a1f2be8667ec

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Date deposited: 17 Jul 2018 16:31
Last modified: 13 Mar 2019 18:24

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