Why this seminar?

Hello there,

this is a personal blog post by Gertrude Cotter, one of the organisers, along with Dr.    Stephen O Brien, of this seminar. You are welcome to contribute your thoughts and ideas to this blog and we will be happy to post them here.

I believe this seminar i16-36_H5A8048 (2)s important because it draws together scholarly work from two pedagogical traditions which are intrinsically intertwined both historically and ideologically.  They both strive for the creation of praxis through critical reflection, analysis, dialogue and action.  Yet rarely, certainly in Ireland, have those of us interested in both academic traditions, come together to more clearly identify the synergies which bind us as academics.

As a PhD candidate, but one with a long history of practical development education experience, I have always known that Development Education is, in fact, critical pedagogy.  Critical pedagogical approaches underpin Education for Development, Social Justice and Global Citizenship.  What I personally would like to explore more of, as a new-comer to the academic environment, is, what can these two academic traditions offer one another? How can we come together to excite, revolutionise and radicalise an educational agenda which does not buy into the dominant neoliberal discourse.  How can thinking and working together enhance our respective pedagogical approaches.

Development education adopts a pedagogical approach that enables learners to challenge their own assumptions and come to understand issues from diverse perspectives.  This is critical pedagogy. This critical approach draws on the work of theorists such as Paulo Freire, Bell Hooks and Henry Giroux. At the heart of Freire’s approach is an emphasis on learners’ ability to think critically about their lives and circumstances. This allows them to recognize the connections between their individual concerns and experiences and the wider social contexts in which they are embedded. Such a commitment to critical thinking has significant implications for pedagogy; it is about recognising competing views and vocabularies, and opening up new forms of knowledge and creative spaces (Giroux, 2005).

One of my, (admittedly academic newbie) questions is: “is Critical Pedagogy” an overarching framework which can be applied to any discipline (and I think it is) and is Development Education one strand which has emerged from the Critical Pedagogical tradition?  Or is it the other way around?   People  like Freire and Hooks have been deeply influential and influenced by the societal developmental context of their teaching and learning. As an academic tradition Critical Pedagogy claims them as “theirs”, so does “Development Education”.  Does this question matter? Is there an artificial “divide” in the discourse?  Where are the boundaries between one framework and the other and are there really boundaries?

I remember similar discourses in the past. I remember one academic saying “Education for Sustainable Development is the over-arching discipline”.  “Development Education comes within that but the broader concept is more important”.

However in the end I would prefer to focus on what can make us stronger together. In real terms how can we support one another to encourage a deep societal shift in how we “do” education? For me that would be an approach which is focused on learning that is open and participatory, but also deeply political, and incorporates a recognition of power. One which requires learners and teachers to actively collaborate in the learning process (Hooks, 1994).

As someone interested in Global Citizenship education and given that the post-2015 development agenda ‘is expected to broaden its scope beyond poverty reduction and economic growth to include social and political challenges, Education which incorporates these kinds of critical and reflective pedagogical approaches to learning has the potential to make a key contribution. “ These challenges include tackling environmental degradation, responding to climate change, promoting tolerance, democracy and good governance, and ensuring peace and security” (UNESCO, 2013b, 2).  Wherever the academic boundaries are, the point for me is that these are critical issues for the present and future of humanity and I feel that academics have a responsibility to collaborate in any way we can to enhance our own and our students’ engagement with these kinds of themes.


Andreotti, V. (2008) ‘Development vs. Poverty: Notions of Cultural Supremacy in Development Education Policy’ in Bourn, D. (ed.) Development Education: Debates and Dialogues, pp. 45-64 (London: Bedford Way Papers).

Andreotti, V. and de Souza, L.M. (2008) Translating Theory into Practice and Walking Mine fields: Lessons from the Project ‘Through Other Eyes’. International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning 1(1): 23-36

Freire, P. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed (London: Penguin).

Hooks, b. (1994) Teaching to Transgress. Education as the Practice of Freedom (London: Routledge).

Giroux, H. (2005) Border Crossings (New York: Routledge).

UNESCO (2013b)Teaching and Learning for Development. Concept note for the EFA Global  Monitoring Report 2013 (Paris:UNESCO) http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/ HQ/ED/pdf/gmr2013-thematic-notev2.pdf.pdf

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