Over the last few years and throughout my PhD I have focussed on teaching for equity and diversity to improve the social ills that plague our society through my subject matter: physical education. While completing my PhD at the University of Alabama, I undertook a number of studies investigating transformative pedagogy and how it was operationalised across practice from teacher candidate to practising physical education teacher to teacher educator.
‘Transformative pedagogy has been defined as an educational philosophy that combines social constructivism and critical pedagogy.’
Transformative pedagogy has been defined as an educational philosophy that combines social constructivism and critical pedagogy (Tinning, 2017; Ukpokodu, 2019). The educator can teach about sociocultural issues to raise awareness of social ills through high levels of reflection which has a focus on equity and diversity. For some, transformative pedagogy is an unfavourable term because it presumes an educator’s practice can transform an individual (teacher candidate) from one thing to another. However, after being informed by postmodern and poststructural ideas, I have found the term particularly useful because I see the individual as someone who is in constant transformation. That being said, my online publication (Lynch & Curtner-Smith, 2018) provided transformative pedagogical ideas that educators could use in higher education depending on their context. In the interests of being concise, this blog provides an overview of the core principles used by the transformative educators in the study; these include a sociocultural philosophy, content, organisation, and pedagogical methods used.
The educators in the study had an explicit sociocultural focus that they shared with teacher candidates. Their goals for their program were driven by their vision for physical education as a subject and focussed on the holistic element of physical education where the ‘affective and social/ emotional domains’ were prominent (not just a physical focus). With a sociocultural goal, the educators led the students to understand culturally accepted norms in society and groups that dominated and those that are marginalised.
The sociocultural focus drove their content, which included teaching about all forms of oppression, regardless of the subject area and topic of the day. The educators explicitly intertwined issues of race/ ethnicity, spirituality/religion, gender, ability, sexual orientation, language, age, socioeconomic status, intersectionality, and so forth, without neglecting any oppression. The sociocultural intent was often the underlying focus of the class despite the topic the teacher candidates covered. As an example, one lesson could have been about placement schools and expectations of placement. However, school location and residential segregation could have become the class focus.
Each of the teacher educators set up their class space in a democratic way: students sat in circular formations, either in one large circle or small group tables. This classroom organisation promoted the discussion element of the class and encouraged students to participate in either small-group or whole-group dialogue. At times this meant that the teacher educators had to rearrange classrooms or relocate lecture theatres to classroom spaces – even if it was a large group. The idea of teaching in sterile rows, reading off PowerPoint to passive students was an alien practice to each of the educators.
The last consideration that you could take forward to your practice was to incorporate student-centred active inquiry methods to promote student engagement. Such pedagogical methods were included for both in-class work and out-of-class assignments, and involved alternative assessments such as immersion projects, employing digital media, arts-based activities, self-identity journals, creating sociocultural resource packets, and storytelling.
While this blog has shared some neophyte ideas about transformative pedagogical practices, it is important to note that transformative practice is context-specific, and what works in one university with one group of students may not work for another. However, attempting equity work is one step in the right direction towards a more socially just and conscious society.
Lynch, S. & Curtner-Smith., M. D. (2018). Faculty members engaging in transformative PETE: a feminist perspective. Sport, Education and Society. Advance online publication. doi.org/10.1080/13573322.2018.1560255
Tinning, R.. (2017). Transformative pedagogies and physical education: Exploring the possibilities for personal change and social change. In Ennis, C. (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Physical Education Pedagogies (pp.281–294). New York: Taylor & Francis.
Ukpokodu, O. (2009). The Practice of Transformative Pedagogy. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 20(2), 43–67.