"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Practicing and studying problem posing curriculum

Today, two new ESOL students joined my class.  We are a small group (5) of intermediate/advanced level speakers that meet on Saturday afternoons in a computer lab.  I never know in what direction our class discussions will go.  We have the Internet at our fingertips, the possibilities are endless.   Everyone agreed to read and discuss stories about famous Americans.  In the absence of special requests, I chose Rosa Parks in honor of  Black History Month.  Just as I had hoped, discussion about Rosa Parks generated the word discrimination.  We talked about this word at length, and then I heard the word immigration.  We decided to watch YouTube of President Obama's call for immigration reform.  However, we stayed on the surface. We didn't get personal.

This group is working through the process of getting acquainted.  We need a foundation before we can begin digging deeper.  Asking too many questions would have been rude.  It's too soon to reveal personal stories.  We will take it one step at a time, bringing in "important things" (realia, codes, artifacts).  Week by week, we will dig deeper.  We will read and write our stories.  We will position ourselves on the edge of taking action.  I have no idea what we will do or where we will end up.  One time, students created skits and performed them for other classes.  Another time, students spoke about perseverance, sharing successes and failures with fellow learners.  I am the facilitator at this stage.  I make the arrangements so that "action" can take place.  This is what I was doing before I had a name and label for it.  I didn't know what to call it, I didn't know what the heck I was doing  Then I took my own action.  I began to study.  Now I see that one label for what I do is problem posing/critical pedagogy.    

It was because I felt so strongly about this methodology that I knew I needed to study and learn more.  Taking literacy to the streets (my bold way of describing it) doesn't exactly translate well to a grant proposal.  I need to describe pedagogy and show how what I do brings positive outcomes for my program.  That's how I ended up in Oliver Hall. 

To me, an important difference between study and practice is our positioning.  I am a subject in the practice on Saturday afternoons.  I am physically part of the process.  If we consider our sociocultural model, I am positioned somewhere in the muck around the inner culture of learners, trying to connect with them, trying to show  how action will put them on a path out, or to a bigger circle?   OK, getting a little too metaphorical and hokey.   I will be describing this in detail in my study.

When I sit at my computer to blog and write a papers, I am in a different position. I am not "in" the model, or in sync with any practice.  I am a detached researcher (ha ha), an object on the outside looking in.  Even though my ADLT 650 1-2-3 project includes my practice, my work environment, my colleagues, I am standing back and looking through a lens.  I am not in sync or practicing, I am studying now.  To me, there is a big distinction between the two, though I probably need to do a better job of describing it.   But then again, that's why I'm studying.  I'm somewhere in my own inner circle looking for a path.

Thanks for reading my post!  Susan



  1. I enjoyed this Susan. The style of your writing even shows that you are stepping back and viewing yourself differently in each situation. I felt like you were hovering over yourself watching and perhaps I was hovering next to you. Great perspective. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I too enjoyed your post Susan (as I most often do, you are a great writer!). I so appreciate your discussion of facilitation too. Changing direction and going with what seems to relate most to your learners can be a scary process, but so much more rewarding for the learner when it touches a cord with them and they can relate it back to the lesson you intend. (I have also been in situations where it has gone "not so well"-scary but worth the try?:). I too am learning so much in my studies at VCU in relation to adult education. I so look forward to what we have yet to uncover!

  3. Two quick notes, cuase I gotta go to bed:
    (a) so glad you picked up on the issue of respecting personal boundaries, not being intrusive, and using what Wallerstein calls "codes" or mock ups, hypotheticals, skits. These one-step removed strategies often get much deeper than if the students nhad to disclose personal stories.
    (b)about "hovering over yourself" as Lisa put it: the art of reflection is always imperfect, becuase as soon as we step ourside our expereinces, we are reduced to memories and words, whic can only ever approximate. Thus we strive write with pricision, but also evocatively, like poets.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.