Praxis, Critical Pedagogy and Critical Adult and Community Education

Connolly, Bríd (2009). Praxis, Critical Pedagogy and Critical Adult and Community Education. PhD thesis The Open University.



My motivation for undertaking this research stemmed from the fascination I had in the ways of working with adult learners and the way in which adult and community education was a powerful tool for change. The purpose of this study was to explore this interest in close detail, examining how praxis, the cycle of action and reflection, and critical pedagogy in adult and community education might work towards social transformation. Critical pedagogy, the dynamic interaction between 'really useful knowledge', the educators and the learners, in the learning environment, lacked an ingredient that I sought to uncover in the study. What do adult educators do that enables them and the learners to act upon the world?

The literature centred on critical pedagogy in mainstream education, feminist pedagogy, praxis and critical consciousness. It conceptualised the study with a brief overview of Ireland, with a particular focus on inequalities and injustice.

To gather data, I interviewed fifteen critical adult educators, policy workers and other stakeholders, asking how they developed their critical outlooks, and further, inquiring how critical pedagogy was carried out. The research endeavoured to be congruent with adult and community education, and thus, focused on the stories that the interviewees told about their lives. Their reflections revealed their aspirations to work for social justice, particularly through adult and community education.

The study found that the practice which aimed to develop critical consciousness comprised a wide variety of methods, 'really useful methods', which engaged learners, motivating them to think critically, to discuss and to question. That was a way to create the environment for acting upon the world.

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