Finding the Open Spaces in Closed Systems: An Exploration of Critical Pedagogy with a Social Justice Directive in an Ontario Secondary School Classroom
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This study examines the first experience of students, teachers, and an administrator in implementing a teacher-designed Leadership in Social Justice Program at a large urban Ontario secondary school. The program aimed to infuse a Freirean concept of critical pedagogical praxis (Freire, 1970/1993) in a grade 12 integrated educational experience with a social justice directive. Data were collected through two questionnaires and eight in-depth interviews. The data identified three areas of awareness that described ways in which student participants were impacted most profoundly (a) developing self-awareness, (b) understanding a new educational paradigm, and (c) finding a place in the world. The study found that the program was successful in highlighting the possibility for more meaningful education and engaged many students deeply; however, its success was limited by the lead teacher’s failure to fully grasp and implement tenets of Freirean critical pedagogy that involved the role of the teacher in pedagogical processes.