Critical Pedagogy

Teaching for Social Justice

FSU is fortunate to have multiple internationally known scholars visiting campus to talk about teaching this spring. Vishanthie Sewpaul, Professor of Social Work at the University of Stavanger, Norway, and Professor Emeritus at the University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, will be a guest scholar later this month, co-sponsored by the College of Social Work and the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. On January 24, she will give a talk entitled “Emancipatory Education: The Personal-Political Nexus in the Pursuit of Social Justice and Transformation.”

To create such emancipatory, transformative educational experiences, Dr. Sewpaul practices a critical pedagogy that helps students attain critical consciousness—in other words, she helps them perceive the social and ideological structures that shape our existence, but which ordinarily remain invisible to us because they are so familiar. She teaches students to question their learned assumptions so that they can work toward a more just society. Sewpaul describes the kinds of questions we can ask ourselves and our students:

Once during a radio talk show in which the debate was whether or not South Africa was ready to have a woman as its next president, a man called in and, with a great deal of conviction, said that he believed that a woman could never hold such a position. If this man had the benefit of reflective dialogue and reflective thinking, he might have realized that what he presumed to be his were values, thoughts, and beliefs inscribed in him within the family and reinforced by other dominant social institutions… More often than not, it is difficult to distinguish what is within or outside our cognitive frames. When we say, “I think,” “I believe,” “I know,” we should ask ourselves how do we know, believe, or think, and where do our knowledge, thoughts, and beliefs come from. Each of us has the power to disrupt or to reinforce dominant thinking. But the problem with ideology is that “we experience ideology as if it emanates freely and spontaneously from within us as if we were its free subjects, ‘working by ourselves’” (Althusser, quoted in Hall, 1985, p. 108)—the voluntary intellectual imprisonment of the free subject. This makes it difficult for us even to think about engaging in such epistemological exercises.

College should prompt students to engage in such epistemological exercises, to examine their identities and worldviews, but if we want our students to stretch, we must first earn their trust. We must demonstrate respect and care for them, empowering them to take these risks. That requires us to learn about them: what they know, where they come from, and who they are. “In order to ensure that teaching and learning become and remain a relational process,” Sewpaul advises, “it is critical that educators make an attempt to understand the life-worlds and the socio-demographic backgrounds of students.” Sewpaul points out that “the educator shapes the culture, tone and ethos for teaching and learning,” and she focuses on creating “a sense of solidarity in the classroom where teaching and learning become a process of cooperative enquiry.”

If you’d like to learn more about these approaches to critical reflection, cooperative enquiry, and inclusive classrooms, we hope you’ll attend Dr. Sewpaul’s talk, and we’re happy to help you think through strategies for your own courses.


From the AAC&U: To mark the third annual National Day of Racial Healing on January 22, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) calls on colleges and universities across the country to engage in activities, events, or strategies that promote healing and foster engagement around the issues of racism, bias, inequity, and injustice in our society. The National Day of Racial Healing (NDORH) is an opportunity for people and organizations to come together in their common humanity and take collective action to create a more just and equitable world. NDORH is part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) effort—a national and community-based process to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change, and to address the historical and contemporary effects of racism.

The FSU-Teach Tenth Anniversary Nobel Laureate Symposium on University STEM Teaching

The FSU College of Arts & Sciences and the FSU-Teach Program are hosting a talk by Dr. Carl Wieman, Nobel Laureate in Physics and Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year on February 14, 2019 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. College of Medicine Auditorium (MSA) 1115 West Call Street. Direct questions to Victoria Gardner,, (850) 645-9463.