Narrating activist education: teachers' stories of affecting social and political change
Social, cultural, political and pedagogical perspectives
Deweyan learning environments
Invitational educational environments
Critical pedagogical praxis
Experiential learning vs. experiential education
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The project was undertaken in order to gain a deeper understanding of the conceptual and practical relationships between education and activism. Of particular concern is how teachers perceive this landscape from social, cultural, political, and pedagogical perspectives. Underpinning this research is a presupposition that education has the potential to create a less oppressive and more socially just world. Methodologically informed by narrative inquiry, ten participants were interviewed using a semi-‐structured interview format that encouraged story telling. The approach to the interviews was based in an understanding of stories as fluid and organic organisms. Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) notion of concepts as rhizomes was helpful in theorizing this approach. Participants were encouraged to share stories of their experiences as activist educators, the transcripts of each were parsed for relevant stories, following McCormack’s (2000a, b) multiple lenses approach, and then curated into an experience narrative for each participant. Three meaningful rhizomes were discerned from the body of experience narratives. Analysis of stories indicated that activist education may be understood as socially, politically, and pedagogically oriented. Social elements have to do with human relations, how people treat each other, and how they learn these ideas through education. Political elements refer to normative dimensions of activism and education: what decisions should be made in order to live well? Who should be included in making these decisions, and who is excluded? Pedagogical elements reflect the importance of experiences as vehicles for learning, and the potential for activism to be a source of rich learning experiences. These three strands are not strictly independent, but rather are intricately intertwined, and even chameleonic at times; that is to say that activist education may be social at one moment, but transform into something more political or pedagogical at another moment according to the needs of the teachers and students and the contexts in which they find themselves. The findings of this work are significant both for teachers who identify as activist educators, teachers who do not immediately see themselves as activist educators but who are interested in anti-‐oppressive and social justice education, and others who are interested in social justice and anti-‐oppressive education. The stories shared by the ten participants in this research illustrate a broad range of activist education approaches that range from simple and politically safe, to complex and politically contentious. Readers of the participants’ stories and accompanying theorizing have an opportunity to better understand ways that education, as a process that changes students and teachers, can play a role in social change both in schools and the societies and cultures in which they are situated.