Critiquing Critical Pedagogy: A Multidisciplinary Theoretical Inquiry
AuthorMcKinney, Matthew Ryan
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ABSTRACT This dissertation posits that while critical pedagogy reflects composition studies’s understanding of how students learn to write in significant ways, it is also characterized by several limitations that can undermine its efficacy. Essentially, critical pedagogy does not comprehensively address the need to provide scaffolding from more traditional pedagogies, the influence of peer relationships on student engagement/agency, the rejection of empowerment through engagement with disciplinary discourses, and the tendency of political issues to favor the instructor’s knowledgebase over students’, to the point of hindering student-centered learning. In order to form a theoretical response to these limitations in critical composition pedagogy, this dissertation examines scholarship in critical pedagogy, other pedagogical traditions and models, cognitive psychology, and rhetoric and composition. Chapter 2 argues that critical composition instructors should structure their course around solicitations of student experiential knowledge and offer scaffolded practice for students’ making meaningful choices through initially providing structured choices. Chapter 3 reviews the significance of cognitive psychology research on young adult neurocognitive development, specifically in terms of scaffolding critical pedagogical concepts and responsibilities for students, as well as cultivating strong, mutually agentic peer relationships. Chapter 4 argues that critical composition instructors can help students cultivate agency and critical engagement through textual relationships and disciplinary discourses by drawing on both classical and modern rhetorical scholarship, with the enthymeme in particular as a potentially valuable rhetorical tool for multidisciplinary discourse analysis. Chapter 5 reviews the limitations of critical pedagogy that I have identified, and also what a general response to these limitations should look like in practice. I then discuss a pedagogical model I designed around these limitations and responses. I review and reflect on what aspects of my pedagogy worked well and what did not, possible reasons for why certain elements did not work, and how those can be addressed in subsequent theorizing and practice.