I subscribe to Critical Pedagogy. I don’t know of a part in the Freirian curriculum or methodology that is not high touch, just like you cannot live without breathing. Here are some examples of the beginning phase(s) of a Circular & Cyclical Curriculum in a Critical Pedagogy – they are all High Touch:
Intro Phase & Building Community Phase
⇒ Getting to Know You in the context of Learner Experience:
E.g.: In pairs, and later in the larger forum, learners discuss, draw, sing or act (depending on English level) WHO was their first family member to arrive in the US, WHEN (year), and WHY (reason for migration). This exercise is developed using the backdrop of the US Immigration Timeline including immigration legislation and events. Padlet is a good tool for geographic mapping and online timelines. Zoom breakout rooms can be used for pair work and forum work.
The educator/ facilitator later facilitates a larger forum discussion/ activity where learners can connect the dots and develop a structural power analysis. It is important for learners to connect the dots through their shared stories. Massive migration is not an aggregate issue stemming from multiple individual family decisions; it is forced displacement. Mind mapping is one of the many useful supporting tools for visualizing this (Lucidchart, WiseMapping, Pear Deck).
Note 1: Community building needs to be ongoing throughout the entire semester.
Note 2: It is important to decide an easy and fast communication system to keep the community/class together. Whatsapp and Facebook are good tools.
⇒ Leadership Development Skills:
Multiple activities are used to develop collective leadership skills (as opposed to individual leadership): facilitation skills, concept articulation, public speaking and presentation skills, self-confidence development, digital literacy skills, negotiations skills, advocacy skills, argument development (at all English levels), critical thinking (not the Western culture type), problem posing, asking-the-right-question skill, power analysis, systems thinking, strategy and strategic planning skills etc.
⇒ Eliciting Multiple Intelligences:
The educator/ facilitator needs to get to know each and every learner and their learning styles. Various activities can be developed to explore multiple intelligences and to get to know the learners.
⇒ Establishing Cyclical Routines within a Circular Context:
Eg.: Good News/ Bad News (weekly routine on Mondays) – learners share their past week or weekend life experiences. The community (class) serves as a support system, networking forum, community building space, identity and culture affirmation, connecting the dots, healing and language practice. Collective storytelling, collective story writing, collective poetry and collective art usually grow out of this deep listening and deep sharing time.
⇒ Eliciting Learner Themes – Through online shares, discussions and tools, educators/ facilitators and learners can elicit learner themes for acquiring language each trimester. Some of the tools are:
-community mapping (Lucidchart, WiseMapping)
-sick trees, fishbones (SmartDraw),
-Image theater, theater of the oppressed (Flipgrid, TickTok, Whatsapp, Facebook MyStory)
-Collective storytelling, (Flipgrid, Padlet, PearDeck)
-Collective brainstorming (Padlet, Pear Deck, Google Drawings, Zoom whiteboard, Jamboard)
Eliciting, identifying and naming the issue(s), needs, and details that impact our adult learners is of utmost importance. This is the context in which our learners experience feelings of love, hate, fear, anxiety and distress. This is the context where there is most passion and most human need, and where language is acquired faster. This context should never be assumed or imposed by the educator. The educator needs to serve as a facilitator to facilitate discussion through language acquisition. Language acquisition should never be the end goal, but the means for a greater end. A variety of activities and tools anchored on popular education techniques are used to elicit simple, yet deeply impactful, learner themes. This context will be different with each and every class/ group of students/ semester.
Western culture places great emphasis in developing contextualized courses when teaching a language. Western culture also monetizes from this. Western Language Learning courses are developed for Travelers -those who have language needs for travel purposes. Business language courses are developed for business people and negotiators. Technical language courses are developed for medical, legal, and engineering professions. And the list goes on. However, the contextualized learning experience in Adult Education is limited to surface level participation at best, and academic Q&A sessions, surveys, and lists at worst.
Here are some examples of past contexts (developed through Eliciting Learner Themes techniques) where language was acquired fast and in a transformative rather than a transactional process:
-Love and Relationships (language & relationship isolation is a big issue)
-Street Potholes (huge)
-Healthy Food Access
-In-state Tuition for Post Secondary Education
-Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants
-Community Health and Healthcare Access
-Jobs & Unemployment
-Immigration Process & Know Your Rights
-Women’s Voice & Women’s Power
-Entrepreneurship & Cooperative Business Development
-Community Organizing & Collective Leadership
An important aspect to keep in mind as Educators, Facilitators and Learners (yes, educators are learners in the classroom too): We are NOT empowering learners, and we are definitely NOT in the saving- learners-business. Our migrant adult learner community already has power – power that no one from the outside can provide, generate or take away. However, through language acquisition, Adult Education can and must take a stand in providing the space and the platform to allow for the development of a critical consciousness, and for the inherent community power to be voiced and exercised. This is critically important to accomplish in order to start undoing centuries of unjust oppression and silencing perpetuated through the vehicles of academia and Western education. In doing so, Adult Education needs to ensure that it doesn’t replicate the Western educational ideology supporting these systems of oppression. Neither practicality, distance learning, teaching efficiency nor the organizing of the brain and of learning materials should excuse that.
When I first came to this country, I was focused on learning its systems from the inside. For several years, I went through courses on Western business development and wealth creation that no college or university offers. I trained with millionaires and billionaires who only pay $16 dollars a year in taxes. I saw their tax returns, and I learned how to achieve that. These courses can be quite explicit. They train elite business people to create wealth with the freedoms that are available by operating outside-of-the-(glass) box. Those living and operating inside-of-the-box are the majority of the population who need to be trained to remain inside-of-the-box. This is achieved through a mass educational system that promotes closed systemic linear thinking with high workforce productivity, high efficiency, and aggressive goal-driven outcomes. Trainers and mentors make one thing clear: they tell their students to ensure that their employees never come out of their inside-of-the-box thinking and life experience. The glass ceiling is very real and openly discussed. Therefore, people inside-the-box have to be educated and trained to find happiness and content in becoming good (chained) employees only. If at some point, good employees were to decide to become employers, the mass educational system has trained them so that they operate their business(es) with an employee mentality. The business owns and drives the employer with employee mentality, and not otherwise. Well aware of the role of education in perpetuating systems of oppression, seventy Harvard University Students walked out in protest from their Economics “Ec-10” class in 2011. “‘Today, we are walking out of your (Prof. N. Gregory Mankiw) class Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society.’” Ec 10 is taught by Prof N. Gregory Mankiw with over 700 enrollees, the highest enrollment numbers of any course at Harvard. ‘“Harvard graduates have been complicit (and) have aided many of the worst injustices of recent years. Today we fight that history”, said Rachel J. Sandalow-Ash ‘15, one of the students who organized the walkout. Harvard students will not do that anymore. We will use our education for good, and not for personal gain at the expense of millions.”’ Unfortunately, not much has changed since 2011. Retrieved on 5/31/20 from The Harvard Crimson, https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2011/11/2/mankiw-walkout-economics-10/
We should never forget that All Education promotes a world view and values. Education either supports the status quo or works intentionally to dismantle it. Education is NOT neutral.
From Our Indigenous Community To Educators: “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” ― Ascribed to Lilla Watson, Australian Indigenous educator, activist and artist.
Now THAT is High Touch.
(for additional discussion, see my post on Consistent Learning Path)