1.1. General background
Critical pedagogy is an educational theory that aims to make students conscious of the many institutions that exist to facilitate and perpetuate systematic forms of oppression, both within and outside the classroom (Hollestin, 2006). Canagarajah (2005) argues that Critical pedagogy is not a set of ideas, but a way of ‘doing’ learning and teaching. It is a practice motivated by a distinct attitude toward classrooms and society. Critical students and teachers are prepared to situate learning in the relevant social contexts, unravel the implications of power in pedagogical activity, and commit themselves to transforming the means and ends of learning in order to construct more egalitarian, equitable, and ethical educational and social environments .Students exist in a very complex and constantly changing world; it is the responsibility of teachers to prepare students to live in this world. By implementing critical pedagogy, teachers can help students develop the essential skills they need to deal with a complex and ever changing world (Bassy, 1999).
Teachers can enable students to make critical analyses of the ideologies underpinning all forms of discourse without necessarily promoting a specific value system (Hardin, 2001). The acquired skills by critical pedagogy will prepare students to question the status quo critically, examine the hidden power structures that exist in society, and enable them to facilitate change in order to create a democratic, equitable, and fair world (Giroux, 2001). Critical pedagogy for the first time appeared in realm of education by Paulo Freire (1970). He introduced such concepts as banking theory, dialogical method, and transformative education. In the banking model of education, he argued, knowledge was another commodity to be transferred as efficiently as possible from sender to receiver. As an alternative to this system of education, Freire (1970) proposed that education should be a dialogical process in which students and teachers share their experiences in a non-hierarchical manner.
Pedagogical theories of philosopher John Dewey (1933) have a great impact on critical pedagogy movement. In his book democracy and education, he asserted that education must be a transformative experience. Dewey believed that ideal classroom should be a place where students use trial and error to develop needed skills for engaging in a genuine or an ethical democratic citizenship. Pennycook (1990) as one of the great exponent of critical pedagogy believed that there are two elements at the heart of all critical pedagogy theories: a notion of critique that includes a sense of possibility for transformation and an exploration of the nature of and relationship between culture, knowledge, and power. Viewing schools as cultural areas where diverse ideological and social forms are in constant struggle, critical pedagogy examines schools both in their contemporary sociopolitical content and their historical context (Pennycook, 1990).
Giroux (1989) argued for pedagogy of and for difference, a pedagogy that not only respect student’s voice and difference, but also relates these differences to the wider social order, creating the democratic sense of respect for difference that is essential for any notion of equality in society. Critical pedagogy (CP) is like a tree with some very central branches, the basic principles. ‘Empowerment’ is one of those very main branches of great moment in CP. It is mainly concerned with developing in students and teachers the self-esteem to question the power relations in the society (McLaren, 2003), thus gain the voice they deserve in the same society. CP looks at education as a political enterprise (Kincheloe, 2008) and aims to raise students’ “consciousness”, a term borrowed from Freire, to make them more aware of the power games in the society and their own position in that game. It is the “pedagogy of inclusion” (Pennycook, 2001) and has in large part been created to give the marginalized students the “right to speak” (Peirce, 1989, 1995, 1997).
Calderson (2003) discusses the notion of critical pedagogy as the guiding educational philosophy in community-based education. Milner (2000) examines how teachers can begin to pose critical questions regarding race through critical pedagogy. Many of the scholarly articles examine the inequalities of race that exist in education. In other cases, issues of gender, ethnicity, and cultural inequalities are addressed. Discerning these inequalities is essential for bringing about change. Generally, classrooms try to mirror in organizations what students and teachers would collectively like to see in the world outside of schools: respect for everyone’s ideas, tolerance of differences, a commitment to creativity and social and educational justice, the importance of working collectively, a willingness and desire to work hard for betterment of humanity, a commitment to anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic practices, etc (McLaren, 2005).
However, critical pedagogy brings with it the reminder that learners must be free to be themselves, to think for themselves, to behave intellectually without coercion from powerful elite, to cherish their beliefs and traditions and cultures without the threat of forced change (Brown, 2000).Critical pedagogy conceives the pedagogical site as a problematic space of racial, moral, and social tensions requiring deep interjections of social justice and civic courage. Giroux (1993) argues that schools are more than instructional place; they are cultural sites that actively are involved in the selective ordering and legitimization of particular forms of language, reasoning sociality, daily experience and style. According to McLaren̉ (1989 a), the aim is to integrate students’ abilities of critical reflections with their aspirations and potentials for social engagement and transformation.
Norton and Toohey (2004) argue that “advocates of critical approaches to second language teaching are interested in relationships between language learning and social change. From this point of view, language is not simply a means of expression or communication; rather it is a practice that constructs, and is constructed by, the way language learners understand themselves, their social surroundings, their histories, and their possibilities for the futureˮ. In order to construct a critical pedagogy for language classroom, there is the need to change that belief of language teachers and many others. Second/foreign language learning should be seen as “education rather than an acquisition of a skill” (Guilherme, 2002, p. 189).
Sadeghi (2008) pointed out that the conventional language classrooms do little to advocate change in students’ social cognition since they do not address the issues of socio-political and cultural issues adequately. In other words, the shadow of a critical pedagogy is far too blur to cause what Sadeghi (2008) called a “transformational effect” on the learners. Akbari (2008) argues that implementation of a critical model in any local ELT context has a number of requirements, among which decentralization of decision making (in terms of content, teaching methodology, and testing) is of crucial importance. He, also, discusses that as long as course contents and testing methods are decided upon by ministries in capitals, ELT classes suffer from vague generalities and socio-political numbness. The great potential CP has in curriculum development and student empowerment will be actualized only when education, and by extension ELT, develops the required attitude, starts at the local level, and acknowledges the significance of learners’ experiences as legitimate departure points in any meaningful learning enterprise.
Despite the great importance laid on critical pedagogy and its implications in ELT and the importance of TEFL in Iran educational system, no one has ever tried to investigate the status of critical pedagogy implications in EFL teaching in Ira nian High schools. This study is an attempt to probe into the use of CP in EFL classrooms and the barriers in the use of such an approach.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Critical pedagogy (Freire, 1970) in general and critical applied linguistics (Pennycook, 2001 &Philipson 1992) in particular influenced ELT curriculum in almost all parts of the world. It seems that the main principles and assumptions underlying CP can to a great extent influence the process, outcomes, possible dangers, and effectiveness of learning and teaching English to non-speaking countries. English in Iran, like the other countries, is taught as a foreign language at junior high schools, high schools, and at tertiary levels. Therefore, it can lead to both negative and positive educational, racial, and cultural consequences. Despite the great emphasis laid on the importance of being critical, it is not really known whether Iranian English language teachers are all aware of Critical pedagogy in ELT. More specifically, it is not yet known whether different components of ELT curriculum which is widely practiced in educational system of Iran including textbook development, teaching styles and strategies, and testing methods and outcomes are all in line with principles of critical pedagogy. Moreover, it is not known whether Iranian English teachers pay attention to individual differences, needs, and perceptions, students negative and positive attitudes to what happens in an ELT setting, and learners᾽ involvement in teaching and learning process. In addition, the main barriers in following critical pedagogy principles in ELT classrooms are not still known.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objectives of this study are to shed light on the status of critical pedagogy in ELT in Iranian schools and to explore the main barriers in practicing CP at Iranian’s educational contexts. To be more specific the following research questions were raised.
1. Are Iranian language teachers familiar with CP and its components?
2. What are the main barriers of applying CP principles from teachers᾽ points of view?
1.4 Significance of this study
This study is both theoretically and practically significant. Theoretically speaking, it will be found whether Iranian language teachers are following the principles and premises of CP or not. Moreover, the areas which will be influenced by CP are identified. Practically speaking, the results of this study will be useful to all stakeholders of ELT in Iran including administrators, text developers, teachers, test developers, and learners.
1.5 Definition of key terms
For the purpose of this study following key terms will be defined, although some these terms may be defined differently for different purposes.
1.5.1 Critical pedagogy: an educational methodology that seeks to increase student awareness of the hidden curriculum’s inherent inequalities and multiple forms of oppression that exist in society, and encourage them to take active step towards creating a more democratic and equitable society (McLaren, 2003; Freire, 1970).
1.5.2 Banking method: Freire (1970) suggests that the banking method is a system of education in which the teacher is seen as having all of the knowledge and students are simply empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge. It suggests that the students do not have any prior knowledge and the teacher is the source of all information. Freire explains that following oppressive attitudes and practices are the main characteristics of banking method of education:
‒ the teacher teaches and the students are taught.
‒the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing.
‒the teacher thinks and the students are thought about.
‒the teacher talks and the students listen-meekly.
‒the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined.
‒the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply.
1.1. General background