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Engaging in Critical Self-Reflection in the Teacher Education Classroom

Fri, April 5, 4:20 to 5:50pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 700 Level, Room 711


In this paper, the author seeks to show the urgency in teacher educators engagement of pre-service teachers in a process of critical self-reflection. In doing so, the author argues that teacher educators must be committed to engaging such a process for themselves (Cochran-Smith, 2003) and cultivating their own (and their students’) critical consciousness. Freire (1970) defines critical consciousness as “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (p. 17). The process through which critical consciousness is developed is necessary for a humanizing pedagogy.

Implications of Teachers’ Dispositions and Biographies/Positionality
Given the reality that teachers’ dispositions and biographies/positionality, and perhaps their own schooling experiences, undergird their outlook on youths’ educational possibilities (Britzman, 1994), teacher education programs must foster an environment in which PSTs have opportunities to unlearn many of the firmly rooted biases, stereotypes, and assumptions they harbor that prohibit them (Authors, 2016). Preparing PSTs and educating P-12 students in today’s sociopolitical, national and global climate requires explicit naming of and attention to ideologies rooted in white supremacy, anti-Blackness, settler colonialism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and other forms of systemic oppression. The author posits that teacher educators or PSTs often engage in deficit practices that violate and harm youth of color (Dumas, 2014). Thus, they must learn how to become more “analytical of their own teaching beliefs and behaviors” (Gay & Kirkland, 2003, p. 181). Simply put, in many cases teachers are unaware of how their deficit stances could endanger the bodies of their students. Similarly, some teacher educators may not be aware of their deficit stances (i.e. damage-centered teaching) and how they are endangering the bodies of their pre-service teacher students. Thus, engaging in critical self-reflection is necessary to resist damage-centered teaching in schools and the teacher education classroom.

Addressing the need for Critical Self-Reflection for both Teacher Educators and PSTs
Despite the challenges faced teaching across cultural differences, there must be a concerted effort within teacher education programs to help teachers learn how to negotiate their teacher selves (Danielewicz, 2001) in the face of learning from and adapting to the diverse needs of youth learners. Also, there must be opportunities for PSTs to develop their critical consciousness not only in one or two courses but over time. When PSTs are able to question, interrogate and dismantle their positions about certain issues (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, etc.) and others’ stances on the same topics, they may be more prepared to teach. In this paper, the author highlights examples in which PSTs have opportunities to engage in critical self-reflection. Ultimately, teacher educators who are always engaged in the process of developing their critical consciousness are able to model a level of transparency and vulnerability in teaching that helps pre-service teachers see teaching as cultural and humane work.