Deweyan Tools for Inquiry and the Epistemological Context of Critical Pedagogy

Educational Studies: A Jrnl of the American Educ. Studies Assoc 47 (6):561-582 (2011)
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This article develops the notion of resistance as articulated in the literature of critical pedagogy as being both culturally sponsored and cognitively manifested. To do so, the authors draw upon John Dewey's conception of tools for inquiry. Dewey provides a way to conceptualize student resistance not as a form of willful disputation, but instead as a function of socialization into cultural models of thought that actively truncate inquiry. In other words, resistance can be construed as the cognitive and emotive dimensions of the ongoing failure of institutions to provide ideas that help individuals both recognize social problems and imagine possible solutions. Focusing on Dewey's epistemological framework, specifically tools for inquiry, provides a way to grasp this problem. It also affords some innovative solutions; for instance, it helps conceive of possible links between the regular curriculum and the study of specific social justice issues, a relationship that is often under-examined. The aims of critical pedagogy depend upon students developing dexterity with the conceptual tools they use to make meaning of the evidence they confront; these are background skills that the regular curriculum can be made to serve even outside social justice-focused curricula. Furthermore, the article concludes that because such inquiry involves the exploration and potential revision of students' world-ordering beliefs, developing flexibility in how one thinks may be better achieved within academic subjects and topics that are not so intimately connected to students' current social lives, especially where students may be directly implicated



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Peter Nelsen
Appalachian State University

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