critical pedagogy

Why learn about learning?

paulo freire

Paulo Freire

The learning process is human, organic, and complex, in that each individual, unique in his experiences, identity, as well as socio-historical context, transforms the act of learning into an absolutely personal and self-transformational experience. However, for that process to be a truly transformational one, both of the learner and of the world surrounding him, it is necessary that the learner engages the object of study, as well as the act of studying itself, in a critical manner. For Paulo Freire, it is this critical stance facing one’s object of study, and throughout the act of studying, which propitiates the fundamental goal of education, that of creating, re-creating, and co-creating knowledge, ultimately re-creating and reinventing the world around us. This is the critical stance in face of the search for knowledge which realizes the full potential of education, which is to bring about change.

If we are to understand the act of studying, of searching for knowledge, as a process of (re)creation, then we need to admit that the process is dynamic in its nature. Critically engaging a given text is establishing a dialog with its author. It is by means of this dialog, of this questioning, and this critical vision that knowledge can be reinvented, rewritten, and recreated. For it to be so, it is necessary that the learner has a heightened sense of agency, that is, that the learner sees himself as being the agent of his education; that he acts as subject in his search for knowledge, in his learning journey. The attitude of letting oneself be domesticated or indoctrinated does not lend itself to the critical posture advocated by Freire. The subject must penetrate the text, imbued with a sense of curiosity, fearless of letting himself become problematized by his dialog with the text.

The act of letting oneself become problematized is an act of surrender to the dynamic and organic process which is learning. Being open to learning is embracing uncertainty, for the act of learning critically presupposes an engagement with the text with an open and inquisitive mind. It means to venture into the unknown. The journey of learning becomes even more revealing if we let ourselves be humbled in face of the search. Being humble is being critical, in that learning is a challenge that requires hard and systematic work, and that many times may demand more than what we are capable of responding in a given moment. We must, therefore, persist and look to become better equipped to return to the text/object of study ready to understand it, to establish a fruitful dialog with it.

It is the duty of every educator to search for self-knowledge and self-reflection as a learner. Living the experience of learning first-hand opens up a channel for important insights into the learning process which may result in disruptions necessary for the refinement of our teaching approaches, methods, and techniques, for our being/becoming educators with the full potential to foster the kind of learning experiences which will instill our learners` curiosity and critical engagement with their own education, as well as the world around them.

In the words of Paulo Freire:

“Studying is not an act of taking in ideas, but of creating and recreating them.”

FREIRE, Paulo in Considerations regarding the Act of Studying (1968)