There are three theories that have guided my direction towards my goals as an educator. The ideology of social reconstruction is viewed as a social lens in curriculum’s through critical study of power and culture. It reveals that there are unhealthy aspects of society in which survival is threatened due to our established methods created by society in which we respond to our social dilemmas. There is an underlying assumption that alternatives are available to prevent society from damaging itself further hence, education is a way to help problem solve society’s dilemmas. As I grow from an adult learner to an educator to a change agent to a scholar, I am responsible for developing learners as change agents who will learn how to participate in constructing a more just society. According to Knowles (1980) & Brookfield (1986), “The optimum role that adult educators fulfill is defined more broadly than the traditional teacher or professor, ranging from leader to facilitator to change agent.” (Knowles, 1980, Brookfield, 1986, cited in Pappas & Jerman, 2004, p. 32). This theory challenges the adult learner to question social assumptions, to reflect upon them, and then create action resulting in social change.
I identify with this ideology as it gives me direction in my goals and strategies as a way to create a safe space and place for multiple opportunities of carefully guided group discussions that are reflected in my unit plan as Friere (1973) commented:
Dialogue is (the) fundamental part of the structure of knowledge (which) needs to be opened to other Subjects in the knowledge process. Thus the class is not a class in the traditional sense, but a meeting place where knowledge is sought and not where it is transmitted. Just because the educator’s task is not dichotomized into two separate moments (one in which he/she knows and another in which s/he speaks about this knowledge), education is a permanent act of cognition (p.149).
My unit will reveal group discourse regarding discrimination, stereotyping, and bias against non-conforming people which is considered a construction of the socialization process and it is the extension of patriarchal ideology (Kaur, 2012, para. n.p.). I would present a videosong presentation of four young men singing about cognitive bias that exist and incorporate a discussion period open to student reactions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=3RsbmjNLQkc
Furthermore, the transformative learning theory begins with a disorienting dilemma that reveals a conflict between what an adult learner assumed to be the truth and what they have experienced in the past. As we mature it is our experiences that drive adult learners to develop assumptions in the meaning schemes of specific situations and meaning perspectives of broad worldviews. (Brookfield, 1992, para. p. 77). Cranton (1994) explains, “Transformative learning theory leads us to view learning as a process of becoming aware of one’s assumptions and revising these assumptions” (cited in Schroeder, 2005, n. p.). In my opinion, it is the analyzing of our assumptions, knowledge and the world around us that can challenge social oppression and develop transformative adult learners as Boyd (1991) stated, “…making the unconscious conscious, becoming aware of aspects of themselves of which they are not conscious” (cited in Dirkx, 1998, p. 7). Brown (2006) also confirmed how to confront oppression:
By being actively engaged in a number of transformative learning strategies requiring the examination of ontological and epistemological assumptions, values and beliefs, context and experience, and competing worldviews, future leaders will be better equipped to understand, critically analyze, and grow in their perceived ability to challenge various forms of social oppression including racism, sexism, heterosexism, anti-Semitism, ableism, and classism” (p. 705).
This theory gives me direction in my goals and strategies as it raises consciousness within our society through discourse and analyzing dilemmas resulting in adult learners beginning to develop awareness of structures within their society that may be contributing to inequality and oppression” (Dirkx, 1998, para. p. 3). It is transforming our frame of reference as active learner through critical reflection and examining beliefs, values and assumptions that can revise our assumptions, beliefs, and values in order to problem solve, create social change or justice, or when being involved in a communicative learning environment (Mezirow, 1997, para. p. 7).
Boyd (1989) claims “…an outcome of transformative learning includes a change in self as an adult learner’s goal is to become an autonomous and a responsible thinker…” (as cited in Schroeder, 2005, n. p) although transitional learning also focuses on the community of adult learners. Mezirow (1997) discussed the self as autonomous, “Autonomy here refers to the understanding, skills, and disposition necessary to become critically reflective of one’s own assumptions and to engage effectively in discourse to validate one’s beliefs through the experiences of others who share universal values” (p. 9). As part of the developmental nature of an adult’s process of change, reflective discourse is necessary as it is the reflection of self as Taylor & Marienau (2002) stated, “…a self that can examine its own biases and assumptions, make and carry out thoughtful commitments, and reach out to others for mutual enhancement.” (n. p.).
In addition, it is through gender studies in general and the queer theory specifically that gives me direction in my goals and strategies as I focus on fluid reality, sensitivity and holistic methods of understanding, learning and teaching through process and by using a contextual lens when viewing genders, sexual orientation, and why they matter. Pappas & Jerman (2004) remarked:
Looking at the structural component of the contextual lens means focusing on how relationships of power across race, gender, class, disability, and sexual orientation affect the ability of adult learners who represent these groups to participate actively in learning processes (Caffarella and Merriam, 2000; Cervero, Wilson, and Associates, 2000 Tisdell, 1993,1998; p.25).
It is based on learning outside the hetero-normative box. In my opinion, this theory offers potential of informing pedagogy in adult learning as I will apply theory to practice. According to Freire (1998), “Thinking about practice means thinking about the theory inherent in it. Thinking about theory means thinking about how it emerges “soaked in well-carried out practice (cited in Grace, 2001, p. 258). This theory has its own complexities as Gamson (2000) noted, “The theory insists that all sexual behaviors, all concepts linking sexual behaviors to sexual identities, and all categories of normative and deviant sexualities are social constructs (cited in Misawa, 2010, p. 30). It is about examining the shifting identities within our society as well as acknowledging these identities. Grace & Hill (2004) described, “The q in queer theory can never be defined in any stable way, since the notion itself rejects an essentialist epistemology that defines sexuality in a bifurcated, either/or way as gay or straight, hetro or homo” (cited in Brookfield, 1992, p. 77). As an educator I must be able to construct a safe learning environment in which inclusion is a priority as factors and assumptions regarding genders and sexual orientation are explored in order for learner’s stories to be shared. I believe this theory is based on listening and understanding to the various identities that exist in our society.
I identify strongly with this theory as I am pansexual, meaning I follow my heart and not gender when it comes to the affairs of the heart and feel a connection to the LGBTIQQ community. I am not alone as other adult learners and educators are non-conformers to the norms placed in our society. I felt an instant connection with Bettinger, Timmins, & Tisdell’s (2006) description of Tisdell’s queering sexuality as the journey of labeling ones sexuality is seen through a contextual lens, “ In describing living as a heterosexual, and then a lesbian, and then again as a heterosexual, Tisdell rejects the descriptor of bisexual writing, for me my sexual orientation is contextual, and related more to a person and relationship, than with one gender or another” (cited in Brookfield, 1992, p. 74). I believe my unit plan reflects this theory as critical reflection and discourse will be utilized through exploring the history of genders and sexual orientation, the meaning of genders and its social influences, and the impact of pressures on the development and expression of sexual orientation.
In my opinion, the ideology of social reconstruction should dominate in the current state of U.S. schools. It is based on the concept of the educational system needing to guide and support adult learners in helping them to reflect and act on addressing the social injustices by changing their world. This can take place when knowledge, privilege, and power are focused on and the connection to oppression of the marginalized voices. It is the realization that the systems placed in society appears to be its downfall to of those who are in need the most. The educational system needs to change to benefit the oppressed as Freire believed (2005), “…that reflection and action were inseparable. He thought that reflection without action is merely “verbalism” and action without reflection is only “activism.” In other words, you cannot act without thinking and reflection without action will not change reality. Praxis is at the heart of transforming the world and thus becoming “fully human.” (p. 87).
The ideology in my view that does dominate in the current state of U.S. schools is transformative learning theory because it has changed the way educators teach their students as adult learners are self-directed, in need of critical discourse, strive to be autonomous, and free from oppression. Freire (1993) commented:
If students are not able to transform their lived experiences into knowledge and to use the already acquired knowledge as a process to unveil new knowledge, they will never be able to participate rigorously in a dialogue as a process of learning and knowing (p.19). This theory brings to light the importance of critical self-reflection and self-directed learning as Kitchenham (2008) described the connection between Mezirow’s (1978a, 1978b) initial theory and Freire’s (2005) concept to confront oppression within the educational system resulting in a view of perspective transformation in relating to emancipatory process, ” ….a conviction that meaning exists within ourselves rather than in external forms such as books and that personal meanings that we attribute to our experience are acquired and validated through human interaction and communication” and went on to say… In other words, meaning is individualistic and found inside the learner and teacher rather than prescribed by external influences such as written texts and speeches; however, that meaning becomes significant to the learner through critical discourse with others. (p. 113).
I would endorse applying the queer theory to the teaching strategy of discourse between large and small group adult learners as an effective practice. Students bring an array of epistemological assumptions , beliefs and values into a learning environment and it is through discussions that stories are shared and reflected upon as Freire (1985), stated, “The nature of the dialogue is what forms the basis of critical consciousness” (p. 98). It is this theory that touches each student as questioning arises from deeper issues regarding genders and sexual orientation. Alexander & Gibson (2004) commented:
Queer theory moves us beyond the multicultural task of accepting and validating identity and moves us toward the more difficult process of understanding how identity, even the most intimate perceptions of self, arise out of a complex matrix of shifting social power. In this way, we believe queer theory has uses and applications for self-understanding that engage all students as they narrate their identities for us, tell us who they are, and give us- and themselves-the stories of their lives, past, present, and future (p. 3).
In conclusion, my involvement in this course has reinforced my orientations toward these theories as they reveal the fact that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel regarding my own ideas, beliefs and values in the field of gender and sexual orientation studies as there are others who in agreement who came before me. I have begun researching free newsletters and magazines to study theories that inform my practice. I will reread certain chapters in text books and refer back to those that went in to detail of assessments, activities and strategies. Being an eternal student I will continue to read selections from journals and books that will help me to be better equipped on my journey as an educator in the field of gender and sexual orientation studies.
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