Resisting the binary divide in Higher Education: the role of critical pedagogy

Khan, Alya and Gabriel, John (2018) Resisting the binary divide in Higher Education: the role of critical pedagogy. Journal For Critical Education Policy Studies, 16 (1). pp. 30-58. ISSN 1740-2743


The article explores the landscape in higher education in which old binary divisions are officially denied yet have been reinvigorated through a mix of conservative and neo-liberal policies. Efforts to resist such pressures can happen at different levels, including, in this case, module design and classroom practice. The rationale for such resistance is considered in relationship to the authors’ political and moral standpoints. Debates within higher education policy circles are invariably reduced to a series of oppositions: theory and practice; training and education; research and teaching. The article seeks to break down such polarities through an exploration of classroom practice. In fact, we argue that such distinctions help to legitimize the existing inequalities in higher education and group-based harms, which characterize the sector. Instead, a case is made for a pedagogy that enables students, particularly those from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, to use their experiences, values, etc. to exchange and develop ideas in a group context, thereby providing an important means of collective empowerment (intellectual and practical, both at work and in their private lives). In this process students are encouraged to use ethical theories as tools to explain and underpin their understanding of work-based scenarios. The role of the academic is to facilitate such exchanges and foster new ethical approaches and a public awareness and engagement that goes beyond the classroom. The pedagogic approach, drawing on notions of relational autonomy and narrative methods as well as providing spaces for the co-production of new knowledge, confirms the indivisibility of research and teaching.

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