Transformative Approaches to Teaching Language Arts in Senior

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Transformative Approaches to Teaching Language Arts in Senior
Navigating Geographical and
Cultural Terrain: A Cultural
Studies Approach to Teaching
English Language Arts
Dr. Karen Magro, Associate Professor
The University of Winnipeg
April 15, 2011, Adolescent Literacy Summit
Victoria Inn, Winnipeg
Cultural Studies
• A cultural studies approach can lead
teachers and students to compare
traditional canonical authors with popular
texts including the mass media. Cultural
studies invites a wide variety of new and
politically invigorating texts into teaching.
Interviews, testimonials, surveys, films,
and other texts can be integrated into the
• New age of immigration due to economic
reasons, civil conflict, poverty, and political
• Migration is recognized as one of the defining
global issues of the twenty-first century
• There are about 194 million people living outside
their place of birth
• Canada is in the forefront of this trend and is the
destination for a growing number of international
migrants, both forced and voluntary
• The face of North America continues to
• For example, in Winnipeg alone, more
than 100 languages are spoken across the
province. Over 27% of immigrants speak
Tagalog; after that German, Punjabi,
Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Korean,
Amharic, Ukrainian, and a number of other
languages are spoken
Educational Directions in Teaching
• We have to build an “asset” model of education that
recognizes the hidden strengths and tacit knowledge of
• Literacy must be viewed as multi-dimensional and
lifelong; family literacy must be emphasized.
• Alternatives teaching and learning approaches are
critical to examine
• More resources are needed to build “better” literacy
programs that meet the individual needs of learners.
• A holistic model of literacy education is needed that
integrates the social, psychological, and cultural
dynamics of learning
• What approaches would be most effective?
A Cultural Studies Approach to
Teaching ELA
• Texts are used as opportunities to encourage:
• Understanding between cultures
-Intercultural competence can be a transformative learning
experience where individuals move beyond the
boundaries and limit of understanding one cultural
paradigm to understanding the complexities and
strengths of different cultures..
-Classic works can be combined with contemporary
Examples: The Role of Women in Society: Jane Eye (
Bronte), A Doll’s House ( Ibsen), and The Bluest Eye(
Morrison), In Search of April Raintree, and Half Breed (
Reading, Writing, and Rising Up
• Linda Christensen:
“Some might say that the role of language arts teachers
is to teach reading, writing, and language and that we
should not be worrying about issues of injustice, racism,
and discrimination. The reality is that any piece of
literacy is political. Any piece of literature from cartoons
to children’s books reflects a “social blueprint about what
it means to be poor, wealthy, or what it means to be a
man, woman, gay, or straight. That vision is political –
whether it portrays the status quo or argues for a
reorganization of society.” ( Linda Christensen, 1999)
A new audience
• We need to find ways for students to express
their real concerns about the world. Students
have written pamphlets for parents to “teach”
them about how to use cartoons and videos
carefully with their children, articles about
anorexia and gang affiliation for middle school
girls. Other students might write articles about
prejudices and assumptions people make about
people from different ethnic backgrounds. The
audience should not be a “pretend someone” out
Connecting with Texts
• Teachers needs to be able to draw what Paulo
Freire (1997) described as “ a critical dialogue
about a text or a moment of society…..to reveal
it, unveil it, see its reasons for being like it is, the
political and historical context of the material”
(Shor and Freire, 1987, p. 13). But beyond this,
students need to use the tools of critical literacy
to deconstruct the myths and realities of our
society. They must use the tools of critical
literacy to transform the injustice and intolerance
they see around them.
Connecting with Texts
• Basic Format for Unit Planning
• 1. A question that provokes the examination of
historical, literary, and social texts.
• 2. The study and involvement of students’ lives.
• 3. The reading of texts from first person
narratives, to fiction, to movies, photographs
speakers, role-plays, and field trips.
• 4. A final project that opens the possibility for
students to act on their knowledge.
Background and Context
• To what extent are young adults given an opportunity to
develop their talents and capacities?
• External Assets:
• Family support
• Positive family communication
• Caring neighborhoods
• Caring school climates
• Parental involvement
• Commitment to learning: achievement motivation, school
engagement, reading for pleasure; service learning
Using International Texts
• Example: The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini ( Grades
• The Kite Runner treats growing up in a multiethnic family
and community. It is narrated by a man who grew up in
Afghanistan. Themes of secretiveness, oppression, bias,
and negative peer influences are highlighted. The work
challenges students to consider the complex process of
immigration. Readers can probe personal ethics,
culturally charged gender stances, social bias, and the
influences of religion and political unrest on individuals
and families.
Using International Texts to Foster
Intercultural Understanding
• As teachers, one of our goals is to
encourage students to see how and why
individuals hold different beliefs and
understand how those beliefs impact
people’s lives. We could then explore
politics, religion, and social justice as they
relate to personal choices.
Steps to Creating a Lesson Using
International Texts
• Lesson Steps for “Who are the People of________?”
• Create a small class library of resources about Afghanistan, Sudan,
Iran, etc.
• Provide detailed maps ( e.g. See National Geographic’s
Afghanistan: Land in Crisis Thematic Map)
• KWL Charts; Quiz on Assumptions about ____
• Give students twenty to thirty minutes to collect information to
support their true-false answers about a particular country and
• Provide opportunities for students to share their findings.
• What information did the students find? How “accurate” are their
• Make predictions about the circumstances they expect to find in a
particular text set in a different culture. ( Sheryl Finkle and Tamara
Lilly (2008) Middle Ground, National Council of Teachers of English)
Critical Literacy
• “The concept of critical literacy goes beyond simply inte
texts; it applies to all literate practices and involves takin
students apply critical literacy in these ways, they will e
only in the communication aspects of literate practice bu
• Students can be transformed in some way as they use k
skills, strategies, and ideas in new ways or in next conte
• By using critical literacy in all aspects of life, students ca
empowered to transform or influence in positive ways co
economic, or political life.” ( Michele Anstey and Geoff B
Teaching and Multiliteracies).
Positive Values and Social Justice
Equality and Social Justice
Social Competence
Intercultural competence
Peaceful conflict resolution
Personal Empowerment
Sense of purpose
Positive view of the future ( How can ELA foster these values and
Psychological, Social, and Global
• Powerful themes can be the basis on interdisciplinary and multigenre unit plans throughout the year:
• Love and Belonging
• Identity and the search for meaning in life
• Family
• Environmental Issues
• War and conflict
• Values
• Materialism and consumerism: the need for alternative paths
• Peace Building
• Poverty
• Challenges and the Future
• Technology
International Books
The Roar-by Emma Clayton
-abuse of power
-saving the environment
-moral courage
• Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan
• -women in contemporary Afghanistan
• -building inner strength and confidence
International Texts: Encourage
Voice and Choice in the Classroom
• Literature Circles can be based on articles,
short stories, memoirs, autobiographies,
biographies, novels, and other texts.
• Examples of Outstanding Texts for Teens
and Adults:
• I am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced (New
York Times Best Seller) by Nujood Ali (
with Delphine Minoui)
International Texts
• Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales
The Ask and the Answer: Part 2
-Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness
-misuse of power
-moral courage
-making moral decisions
International Texts
Red Scarf Girl Key Themes
-award winning memoir
-Explore China’s Cultural
Revolution through the eyes of a
young girl
-conflicting loyalties
-similarities to The Diary of Anne
-persecution and fear
-inner courage and resilience
-peace education
International Texts
Libertad Key
-based on a true story
-80,000 unaccompanied migrant
children attempt to enter the
U.S. -many children are
deported or go missing; some
die on the journey from countries
like Honduras, El Salvador,
Guatamala, and Mexico
-poverty and children
-social injustice
-fragmentation of families
-Bridging Refugee Youth and
Children’s Services
International Texts
Blue Jasmine Key Themes-immigration and acculturation
-loss of homeland
-adjustment to a new culture
-When twelve-year-old Seema Trivedi
learns that she and her family must
move from their small Indian town to
Iowa City, she realizes she'll have to
say good-bye to the purple-jeweled
mango trees and sweet-smelling
jasmine, to the monsoon rains and the
bustling market. More important, she
must leave behind her best friend and
cousin, Raju.
International Texts
The Ask and The Answer: Key Themes
-science fiction
-civil war
-book can be compared to War of the
Worlds and other books/graphic novels
with “apocalyptic” themes
-encourages critical thinking about the
world and the future
International Texts
Wanting Mor Key Themes
-Wanting Mor is about a girl named
Jameela, living in post Taliban
Afghanistan, whose mother dies during
the war. Her father gets remarried, but her
stepmother doesn't want her so her father
takes her to the marketplace and leaves
her there.
-Based on a true story about a girl who
ended up in one of the orphanages.
-Link to The Bread Winner Trilogy
-War and its impact on families
-social injustice and child poverty
-moral courage and resilience
International Texts
Children of War Key Themes
-impact of war of daily life of children
-children coping with stress and crisis
-resilience and courage
-strong social justice component can be
linked with local and global projects
-non-fiction can be a powerful way to
connect students with current issues of
war and peace building in today’s
social context
-local projects ( “From Me to We”)
International Texts
Slave by Mende Nazer:Key Themes (
Senior High)
-autobiographical account of Mende’s
remarkable journey toward freedom
-modern day slavery
-oppression of girls and women
-set in South and North Sudan
-inner strength, perseverance, and
-struggling in building a new life
International Texts
Little Daughter Key Themes
-the strength of individuals and family
within a violent political context
-war and resistance in Burma
-strong female narrator
-good book to use for Senior High
Students and could be compared
with Unbowed by Wangari Mathai or
Slave by Mende Nazer
-There are increasing numbers of
students coming from Burma and this
book can provide valuable
background knowledge for teachers
working with students fleeing
International Texts
Anne Frank: Key Themes
-graphic biography of Anne Frank
-powerful excerpts/photos
-hope and courage amid tragedy and
social injustice
-family solidarity and loyalty
-universal appeal
-compare Anne Frank’s Diary with
Hannah’s Suitcase and My
Childhood Under Fire
-can be used with Anne Frank’s story
“Fear” and Wiesel’s trilogy and S.
Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower.
International Texts
A Bed of Red Flowers:Key Themes
(Senior High Level)
-war and displacement
-persecution and social injustice
-survival and change
-navigating a new life in Canada
-loss of culture, language, and
-resilience and courage
-compare with Escape from Slavery
and other texts charting the
immigration experience
International Texts
In the Convent of Little Flowers :Key
Themes ( Senior High)
-set in India and the U.S.
-lives of girls and women
-arranged marriages
-gender and oppression
-child abandonment
-cultural and social shunning
-identity and role confusion
-the influence of culture and tradition
on behavior
International Texts
Broken Memory by Elisabeth Combres
-a fictional story of Tutsi girl
-horrors of contemporary wartime
-moral courage
Slave by Mende Nazar
-modern day child slavery
-inner strength and resilience
-war and conflict
Little Daughter by Zoya Phan
-memoir of survival in Burma and the West
-fragmentation of family life due to war
-moral courage and resilience
International Texts
Children of War by Deborah Ellis
• -nonfiction stories of Iraq Refugees
• -Interviews
• -Impact of war and conflict on families and individuals
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
-encourages creative thinking and writing
-poetry writing
-reflective quick writes
Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures
-from the archives of Anne Frank House
-Photographic Biography
Texts to Encourage Intercultural
The Heaven Shop-by Deborah Ellis
-young adult fiction ( Grade 8-9)
-Moral courage and resilience
-Young teen dealing with family members who have AIDS
-Shunning and discrimination
*Teachers’ Guides available on line
Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
-Setting ( 1942-seven months after attacking Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy invaded
Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The entire population was gathered up and evacuated to
dense forests in Alaska’s Southeast).
-war and dislocation
-loss of traditional ways of life
-story told from the eyes of a young girl
-struggle to survive and keep community and heritage intact
Important Questions when
Exploring Social Justice Issues
• How can ELA help students understand themselves and their world?
How can learning be more “authentic”?
• Intertextuality: How does our understanding of one text impact or
deepen our understanding of texts with related themes?
– “Intertextuality is the current and comprehensive literary term for the
concept that each text exists in relation to others and is framed by other
texts in many ways. Intertextuality is a broader concept than “allusion”
or “quotation” which refer to specific references in one text that point to
another text.” ( Fischer, 2006, p.27).
• Cultural Studies: How can ELA texts be used to explore psychology,
cultural values, world issues, and other contemporary issues?
• Think of ways to use non-fiction texts creatively: National
Geographic, New York Times Magazine, etc.
Social Justice and ELA
• “Empowering students to project their
voices into the world, for real purposes
and to real effect, is the ultimate goal of
both language arts and social studies. It
seems that teachers rarely reach for that
goal directly, by guiding students to do
what we hope they will do as adults: use
writing to work for positive changes in reallife situations.” ( R. Bomer, ASCD:
Educational Leadership, October 2004)
Writer’s Notebook
• Recording thoughts about what they observe---in school,
in the news, at home, on the street—and look for issues
that they believe people in the community should
• Inquiry based projects help students observe, reflect,
and think critically of ways that their community and the
larger world can be improved ( “From me to we”)
• Collaboration
• Action plans
• Advocacy
• Media Matters www.mediathatmattersfest.org
Reading Powerful Narratives
• Encourage students to think about local and global issues from first
hand accounts.
• “I have lived three lives. In my first life, I lived happily with my
parents and brother---a conventional middle-class family. We owned
a comfortable fourteenth-floor apartment in Sarajevo and a cottage
in the countryside. I was a cheerful sixth grader….My country,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a part of Yugoslavia, located between
Italy and Greece. The capital Sarajevo, was a beautiful, modern
European city, ringed by breathtaking mountains. Everything
changed on April 6, 1992. I was twelve… My mother said: It was the
beginning of war and of my second life…. Day after day we breathed
the damp, stale air, watching in terror as the explosions made the
ceiling above us shake…..I am an adult now, living my third life in
North America but my diary is still my most valuable possession. It
tells a small part of the story of my city, which struggled to breathe
despite the noose of tanks and weapons determined to strangle it.”
• -My Childhood Under Fire by Nadja Halilbegovich (2006)
Keeping the Focus on writing
Social action projects may include:
Web sites
Letters to the Editor
Letters to local MPs
Letters requesting information from government sources
Opinion papers
Keeping the focus on writing
• A student’s goal may be to convince peers that a
particular topic ( e.g. cyberbullying) is serious and
harmful. Students can make class and school
presentations through forums, debates, and focus
• In writing for different audiences, students begin to
realize that writing styles and tones are appropriate for
different audiences.
• By setting a climate for learning, the teacher provides an
important foundation for social justice exploration,
• By studying literature and history, and using terms such
as freedom, equality, race, and labor, students come to
understand terms that at first may seem too abstract.
Current Themes
Understanding the cultural and global context
Acknowledging Diversity
Differentiating Instruction
Creative Approaches
Building Emotional and Social Intelligence
Critical Media Literacy
Transformative Approaches to Teaching
Language Arts
Key Themes in Planning ELA Units
Linking Literature to Life
Interdisciplinary Approaches
Quick Writes
The Values of Autobiographies and Biographies
Creative Ways to Teach Non-Fiction
The Rise of Graphic Novels
Pictures and Poetry: Integrating Arts and ELA
Literature Circles: Fostering Choice and Voice
Culturally Diverse Texts
Theme Based Unit Planning: Incorporating Multiple
Maximizing Multiple Intelligences
and Multiple Literacies
• Be sure to provide instructional strategies that tap into different
learning styles and multiple intelligences:
( Howard Gardner (2006: Multiple
Intelligences: New Horizons. New York: Basic
Literature Circles: Creative Ways to
Offer Choice in Culturally Diverse
The Connector: embodies what skillful
readers most often do-they connect what
they read to their own lives, their feelings,
their experiences, to the day’s headlines,
to other books and authors.
Literature Circles
• The Questioner Role
– Wondering and analyzing: Where is this text
going? Why do these characters act as they
do? How did the author evoke this feeling? Is
this a plausible outcome? Sometimes
questioners seek to clarify or understand; at
other times, they may challenge or critique.
Literature Circles
• Literary Luminary/Passage Master Role
-find memorable, special, important sections of the text to
re-read, reflect on, analyze, or share aloud.
“Parvana moved through her days as though she
were moving through an awful nightmare---a nightmare
from which there was no release in the morning.
Then, late one afternoon, Parvana came home from
work to find two men gently helping her father up the
steps to the apartment. He was alive. At least part of the
nightmare was over.”
Literature Circles
• Illustrator Role: reminds the group that
skillful reading requires visualizing, and it invites
a graphic nonlinguistic response to a text.
Other Roles
Discussion Director
Vocabulary Enricher
Travel Tracer
Sources: Harvey Daniels Literature Circles; Faye
Brownlie: Grand Conversations
Strategies that can enhance
literature circles
Applications to short stories and non-fiction
Posters advertising the book
TV movie critic-style reviews
Reader’s Theatre Performances
Performances of a “lost scene” in a book
A sequel or prequel to the story
A new ending for the book
A new cover for the book
Interview with the author or one of the characters
Background research on the setting or time frame
Diary of a character
Culture and Identity
“Culture affects the process of learning. Most life
histories reflect intercultural dimensions…Today the
intercultural dynamic is related more to migration and
refugees, and the globalization of the work market.
Many adults have to adapt to another culture, to a
culture that they were not prepared to face, and this
process of change becomes partly a process of
education. Adults have to learn a new language,
understand new rules, and adapt to a new set of
cultural values.” ( Dominice, 2002, pp. 88-89)
Emotional Intelligence
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to
sense, understand, and effectively apply
the power and acumen of emotions as a
source of human energy, information, and
influence. When trusted and respected,
emotional intelligence provides a deeper,
more fully formed understanding of oneself
and those around us.” (Cooper, 2002).
Inter and Intrapersonal Dimensions
of Emotional Intelligence
*Mood Management
*Ability to connect with and collaborate with others
*Ability to listen
Sources of Conflict in Groups
• Perceptions-Do we really want to see and
hear the truth?
• Stereotypes, prejudices, and biases
• Values and Beliefs
• Power, authority, and control
• Personality and behavioral style
• Goals and personal needs
Encouraging Transformative
*Interdisciplinary connections between English and content areas
like Psychology, World Issues, Peace and Environmental
and Human Rights
*Literature circles based on thematic topics
*Life History Writing
*Creative use of the biography and autobiography
*Quick writes ( L. Rief)
*Creative writing
*Experiential teaching and learning strategies that integrate
reflective and practical approaches
*Position papers
*Creative ways to link art, film, and other texts
Cultural Awareness: Understanding
Experience Through Life History
– “I grew up in a small village and my job as a young Dinka boy
was herding cattle. The war changed everything. I was lucky to
escape into the forest. Some of us crossed the rive Gilo and
made it to Kakuma, the largest refugee camp in Kenya. The
older boys and elders at Kakuma became our parental figures. I
always enjoyed sitting beside the elders and listening to their
stories…Life in the refugee camp still affects you—regardless of
your age and regardless of your ambition. The more you
internalize the experience the more it affects you. I have seen
many of my friends die. Looking at the large picture makes you
feel sad even today. Some people walked 1,000 miles without
their shoes. I lost friends who drowned crossing the river. Some
were also shot or kidnapped. Both my parents died in the war.
When you become a refugee, you are no longer a citizen. You
have to depend on the UN to help you in the camp. I asked
myself: ‘Why was life so hard? How could my country do this to
me? If my country failed to protect me as an individual, how can I
feel proud about being Sudanese?” ( Alem, University Student)
Learner Experiences
– “As I see it, refugees come with a lot of burdens—they have the
burden of dealing with the stress of the war they left and the
family members that they are still trying to help; they are also
dealing with the burden of paying back loans and making it in
Canadian society. Some of us from the Sudan came with such
high expectations and our expectations have not been met. They
don’t talk about the difficult barriers that stand in the way. Then
when you are walking on a -30 degree snowy day, you ask
yourself--- ‘could this be Canada—the land of opportunity.’Some
of the refugees I know don’t have hope. When they apply for a
job and are told that they don’t have Canadian experience, they
feel frustrated. The start lingering around and feel desperate.
Some of the younger ones I know have joined gangs like the
Mad Cowz. I try to encourage my friends and the younger people
to value Canada. I tell them that they have two homes---the
Sudan and Canada. Here in Canada, peace and freedom of
speech are valued. If you work hard and study hard, I tell them
that they can succeed.”
Texts that Highlight Refugee
A long way gone- A. Beah
Escape from slavery-F. Bok
God grew tired of us: A memoir- J.B. Dau
They poured fire on us from the sky-B.Deng, A. Deng, & B.Ajak
What is the what-D. Eggers
Then they started shooting: Growing up in wartime Bosnia: Lynn Jones The swallows of KabulY. Khadra
Slave: My true story- M. Nazer
Prisoner of Tehran: A memoir- M. Nemat
A bed of red flowers-N A. Pazira
Emma’s war-D. Scroggins
Chanda’s secret- A. Sratton
Exploring Literature as a way to
encourage transformative learning
The idea of using literature and other texts to
help students broaden their perspective of world
issues and the plight of refugees can encourage
transformative learning. Greenlaw (2005) writes
that readers “can learn to probe their own
emotional responses, gather information to help
them interpret what they are reading, develop a
vision of what a better world might be like, and
critically examine injustices both in their own
lives and the lives of others” (p. 46).
The Social Climate
Despite anti-bullying programs and other
initiatives designed to foster inclusion and
maximize motivation, too many children and
young adults are feeling increasingly alienated.
“There is the growing isolation of children as
they spend increasing periods of time in front of
screens, learning the literacy of violence in video
games, learning the literacy of insensitivity from
TV “reality shows,” or learning the literacy of
consumerism from an endless bombardment of
advertising” ( Gordon, 2005, p. 116- Roots of
Literacy and Lifelong Learning
“Literacy, broadly conceived as the basic
knowledge and skills needed by all in a rapidly
changing world, is a fundamental human right. In
every society, literacy is a necessary skill in itself
and one of the foundations of other life skills.
There are millions, the majority of whom are
women, who lack the opportunity to learn or who
have insufficient skills to be able to assert this
right. The challenge is to enable them to do so.
This will often imply the creation of preconditions
for learning through awareness raising and
empowerment” ( UNESCO, 1997)
The Right to Learn is:
*The right to read and write
*The right to question and analyze
*The right to imagine and create
*The right to read one’s world and to write history
*The right to have access to educational resources
*The right to develop individual and collective skills
Paulo Freire:Literacy and
“Democracy and democratic education are
founded on faith in individuals on the belief that
they not only can but should discuss the
problems of their country, their continent, their
world, their work, the problems of democracy
itself. Education is an act of love, and thus an
act of courage. It cannot fear the analysis of
-P.Freire ( 1997)-Pedagogy of the oppressed
Transformative Learning
“Transformative learning involves experiencing a
deep, structural shift of consciousness that dramatically
and permanently alters our way of being in the world.
Such a shift involves our understanding of ourselves and
our self-locations; our relationships with other humans
and with the natural world; our understanding of relations
of power in interlocking structures of class, race, and
gender; our body awareness; our vision of alternative
approaches to living; and our sense of the possibilities
for social justice and peace and personal joy.”E.O.Sullivan (2002), OISE, The University of Toronto,
Centre for Transformative Learning
Transformative Learning
From Mezirow’s (2000) perspective,
transformative learning does not only include the
addition of new information; rather the way we
understand and interpret our world can be
transformed through a process of critical
reflection and action. Learning is understood “as
the process of using prior interpretation to
construe a new or revised interpretation of
meaning of one’s experience in order to guide
future action.” –Mezirow (2000) Learning as
Three Dimensions to
Transformative Learning
• Psychological changes in understanding of
the self;
• Convictional changes ( a revision of belief
• Behavioral Changes ( changes in lifestyle)
• There are rational, creative, and intuitive
dimensions to transformative learning, and
the ideas can be applied on a personal,
social, and global level.
Dimensions to Transformative
“We are living in a period of the earth’s history that is
incredibly turbulent and in a epoch in which there are
violent processes of change that challenge us at every
level imaginable. The pathos of the human being today
is that we are caught up in this incredible transformation
and we have a significant responsibility for the direction it
will take. What is terrifying is that we have it within our
power to make life extinct on this planet. Because of the
magnitude of this responsibility for the planet, all of our
educational ventures must be judged within this order of
-E.O. Sullivan (2002) Expanding the boundaries of
transformative learning.
Factors Influencing Transformative
• The readiness of the learner
• Personality traits and learning style preferences
• Teaching Style and Philosophy of Teaching of the
• The educational climate
• Beliefs, values, and attitudes
• The Mission of the Institution
• Content Area and Curriculum Choices
• Methods of Assessment
“An act of learning can be called
transformative only if it involves a fundamental
questioning and reordering of how one thinks or acts.”Stephen Brookfield (2002).
Transformative vs. Technical
“I’m not really sure what a transformative educator means. I
think that if someone calls himself or herself a transformative
educator, that’s a very demanding claim. I think that if you can help
people a few steps along on their journey of learning, you’re doing
well. I see transformation as having a lot to do with the student, and
their own readiness, rather than being with the teacher. I am very
wary of the educator as change agent. I have to ask myself: what
kind of change? Certainly, I critically challenge the students to
examine their ideas and the nature of society, but I do not think that I
should be directive in suggesting that they should change either
their lives or society. I am not a moral arbiter. It’s different if
someone says, ‘I don’t like the way I am, and I’d like to change.” The
initiative to change is not the responsibility of the educator….it’s not
my role to start counselling people about major life changes.”
Teaching Roles
*Expert-transmits expertise
*Instructor-tells what to do
*Facilitator-responds to needs;encourages and supports
*Resource person-provides material
*Manager-keeps records, arranges, and manages
*Mentor-advises, guides, and supports
*Co-learner-learns and mutually plans with learners
*Reformer-challenges, stimulates, questions, and fosters transformative
*Researcher-makes observations, formulates hypotheses, develops a
theory of practice
*Advocate-helps students connect with outside agencies/resources
*Cultural Guide-help learners understand and navigate a new culture
Literature as a vehicle for tapping
areas of the imagination
“Literature provides shape and form to life’s
questions. That’s what keeps people reading. I have a
desire to make shape out of different facts. Unlike other
kinds of teaching where the curriculum may be very set
and specific, there is an element of discovery in teaching
English. Freud studied literature as a way of
understanding personality and motivation. There is
something bigger than an academic discipline in
studying literature. We all have a narrative to tell. At a
basic level, literature exists to help people understand
themselves and the world.”
-Craig, Community College English Teacher
Creative Writing as a vehicle for
transformative learning
“Writing is an act of seeing. I try to encourage
my students to be good observers. Poetry allows
my students to share their deepest fears. I think
that the whole idea of teaching literature and
creative writing is to inform, uplift, and serve as a
useful psychological and spiritual guide. Part of
my work involves demystifying the language of
poetry to make it accessible to students from
different backgrounds.”
-Rob, inner city senior high English teacher
Literacy to Empower
“I teach in the center of pain and poverty….A lot of talented
people grow up with poverty, prejudice, and a lack of hope. They
don’t feel accepted…Lots of students have lost friends and relatives
through suicide. I try to get them to explore their feelings and share
with others by writing about it. I have seen many students
overwhelmed by their alcohol and drug habits. Students who have
grown up in parentless homes are now parents themselves.
Everywhere I see the streets pulling at them.
Teaching is a humanitarian act and I try to transform lives. I try
to help my students recognize how vital they are and how, in fact,
the can move mountains if they are willing to realize that their
negative experiences in childhood can be a resource of tremendous
energy and insight. Your mission as an English teacher is to help
individuals feel hopeful about themselves.”
-Rob, inner city senior high English teacher.
Teaching Language Arts from a
Transformative Perspective
• Gee (2006) emphasizes that English teachers
stand at the very heart of the most critical
educational, cultural, and political issues of our
time, and that while they can see themselves as
“language teachers” with no connection to
political and social issues, an alternative is that
they can accept their role as persons who
socialize learners into a world view that must be
looked at critically, comparatively, and with a
constant sense of the possibilities for change.”
A balance between self and social
• Integrate emotional and social intelligence into teaching language
arts ( self-awareness, empathy, motivation, mood management, and
problem solving ability)
• Autobiographical writing
• Provide access to texts that reflect diversity in terms of culture,
gender, race, and ethnicity.
• Provide texts that help students understand timely social and global
“Readers can learn to probe their own emotional responses,
gather information to help what they are reading, develop a vision of
what a better world might be like, and critically examine injustices
both in their own lives and the lives of others.”
-Greenlaw (2005)
Perspectives of Learning
“Learning is more than an accretion of facts. It’s changing the
architecture around you. Major learning to me means a paradigm
shift of sorts. The things that I’ve always valued have involved a
recognition that now I see things working in a different way. I can
see my students learning if they start challenging me and asking me
questions. Sometimes I see it in their assignments where they are
applying a skill or a strategy in a fresh or original way. They’re not
just regurgitating information. They’re taking a different way of
looking at poetry and then applying it to writing their own poem…..
I want students to read a range of authors—Manitoban,
international, and so on and from different historical periods.
However, I believe that it is vital for students to write their own
literature and enter the literary process. I guide them through this
Themes in Transformative Learning
Critical thinking
Personal and social empowerment
Democratic Participation
Divergent viewpoints
Balancing the rational, analytic, and
Paulo Freire and Transformative
“It is not enough to be able to help others read words; we
must help others to read the world.”
-Freire uses the word “conscientization” to refer to the
process of becoming critically aware of one’s life world
through an in-depth interpretation of problems and
through dialogue with others. Through “praxis” or the
interplay between critical reflection and action,
individuals are able to move from being “carried along in
the wake of change” to empowered individuals who can
create and intervene in situations. Ira Shor (1987)
emphasized that the teacher’s conviction that she or he
can learn from the student is a cornerstone in Freire’s
problem-posing education.
Areas of Transformative Learning
Literacy Education
Human Rights and Advocacy
Peace Education/Global Citizenship
Women’s Integration and Empowerment
Environmental Sustainability
Indigenous Education and Culture
Social and Emotional Literacies
Access to Information
Diversity and Equality: Providing educational
opportunities for culturally diverse populations and for
the ageing population
Working toward transformative
• Acknowledge learner interests through critical
incidents,Learning style inventories, etc.
• Balancing structure and creativity through applying
multiple intelligence theory and differentiated instruction
• Interdisciplinary approaches that link ELA to world
issues, psychology, sociology, etc.
• The teacher as co-learner, challenger, and guide
• Dialogue and Collaboration
• Experiential Learning Techniques
• Life History Writing, Journals, Learning Logs
• Encourage drama, popular/interactive theatre,poetry,
and other creative forms of literature
Transformative Teaching
“It is important to ground the learner in
a sense of place, history, culture, and
identity….Transformative teaching must
examine how notions of self, personhood,
place, history, culture, and belonginess to
community are manifested in specific
cultural contexts and values.”
-George S. Dei (2002) Expanding the
boundaries of transformative learning.
Tensions in Teaching
“I work with students who live on the margins. The
greatest barrier to learning is this complex thing called
poverty—whether it’s not being able to buy a bus
pass or not eating properly or living in a house where
everyone is up all night partying. We’re talking about
food, shelter, safety, and feeling a sense of belonging
and self-worth. I try to break down these feelings of
isolation that my students experience….I am also not
under any illusions about assessment. The
transformative philosophy is what I strive for but the
reality is that I have to be realistic and practical and help
my students develop essential literacy skills. At some
point, they will have to write a test or an entrance exam
and I have to prepare them.”
Technical vs. Transformative
“We would be lost if we did not have an intellectual and spiritual
conscience yet in many ways we are heading for that….
We have to fight to keep the word education in our programs. So many
literacy programs today are becoming “training”. Our administration keeps
asking for key productivity indicators and this is particularly frustrating when
you are working with literacy learners who are at different levels. Many of
our students have also bought into a myth that education guarantees a job.
Maybe if enough people question how the economy works, major changes
would take place. When my students come to class, I’m hoping that they will
find some control over their lives in some other way besides the economic
way….A real tension for me is that I feel that society thinks that my job as a
literacy educator is trying to help people fit into the system. Am I teaching
them to fit into a society that has contributed to their marginalization? I want
to offer students new direction and opportunities. I’d rather have a society
where everyone is welcomed and needed. We do not have this yet.”
-Barb, Community College English Instructor
Learning as a process of
• “Teaching is a process of construction---I see
myself as an architect and a guide….the process
of discovering new ideas is
continuous….Learning is a process of discovery.
You have to reach students at a level that they
are familiar with and then build from there. I
often make links between Poe, Conrad, and
Twain with contemporary media and film if I’m
introducing concepts like satire, tone, irony, and
so on. We’re not living in the “great books
Personal Development and Social
“I think of teaching English as tapping areas of the
imagination. I want my students to trust their own
judgments while also considering appreciating the
opinions of others. I teach in a multi-cultural setting and
what may be difficult is the language barrier or the
content. I try to work around those barriers….In my view,
educational programs should come from a need within
the community and they should be engineered in a way
that people can identify with their own realities. We are
too work and grade focused. As a result people lose
touch with their creative side. We have to emphasize
personal development as well as academic mastery as
equally valuable goals in education.”
-Ross, High School English Teacher
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