Engaged pedagogy and critical awareness

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In Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994), bell hooks writes a chapter on ‘engaged pedagogy’. This chapter is a reflection on the work of Freire and hooks’ thoughts on ‘critical awareness and engagement’. These terms are best explained when hooks comes to the realisation that the best learning will take place when entering ‘classrooms with the conviction that it was crucial for me and every other student to be an active participant, not a passive consumer’ (hooks, 1994).

The theme that is consistent throughout hook’s writing in Teaching to Transgress is the notion of freedom. Freedom to be, freedom to heal, freedom from racism, freedom from sexism, freedom from capitalism, freedom of cultural diversity, freedom to think, freedom to love and through it all, the freedom of everyone to learn.

Transformative pedagogy

bell hooks used transformative pedagogy in her classrooms to ‘build “community” in order to create a climate of openness and intellectual rigor’ which developed ‘a sense that there is shared commitment and a common good that binds us’ (hooks, 1994).

Transformative pedagogy combines elements of constructivist theory and Freire’s critical pedagogy to empower ‘students to examine critically their beliefs, values and knowledge’ (Ukpokodu, 2009). With praxis and group work, hooks effectively faced the challenge of multiculturalism in her classrooms by giving all participants an equal voice and equal chance to listen.

Freire’s theory of praxis is where reflection and action are applied to develop critical awareness. Application of this theory will help to construct environments that bell hooks refers to as transformative; spaces that foster the ‘sense that there is shared commitment and a common good that binds us’ (hooks, 1994).

By acknowledging whiteness in the classroom colonialism is recognised as a structure which persists. Through this realisation we also come to understand, as bell hooks writes, ‘liberation is an ongoing process, (and that) we must pursue all opportunities to decolonize our minds and the minds of our students’ (hooks, 2010, p. 28).


hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York & London : Routledge