GLL – on critical consciousness and transformative education

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, development, Transformation, Adult Education

Step 3 – Part 1: Critical Consciousness

Keywords: Critical Consciousness, Freire, Laszlo, Macroshift, enactivist orientation, transformational orientation

Link to blog

Link to forum

Discuss the relevance of “critical consciousness” as a dimension of transformative adult education. Why is critical consciousness a necessary dimension of transformative adult education


Freire’s ideas offer a valid approach to transformative adult education although they often sound too dichotomous (see my previous comments). Freire supports the transition to a new epoch in which oppressed people will eventually enjoy the benefit of just-for-all participatory democracy. His ideas remind me of Ervin Laszlo’s Macroshift, which describe the kind of all-encompassing change that occurs at certain points in human history.

I believe that epochal transformations may also happen independently from people’s actions, and that people are not necessarily able to control such epochal shifts. We can – however – try to understand the processes, so as to feel less “victims” and more “participants”.


Freire’ relies on critical consciousness to rid society from oppression. As suggested in the quotes above, education plays a pivotal role in such process. It seems to me that what Freire proposes sounds like what many have called “critical thinking skills.” Freire’s approach is however more political, possibly entangled in the contextual conditions of his time and place.

Nevertheless, I believe that his ideas are valuable as a platform for transformative education.

For this course I have looked at other sources outside of the provided readings, only to find out that the ideas around transformative education emerge as an interconnected web of thoughts. Freire talks about active participation, which reminds me to the concept of Active Citizenship we discussed earlier in the course. Freire’s idea of critical consciousness is not unlike what others have written on transformative education, in particular Merizow’s “Transformative Learning Theory” advocating a societal emancipatory change achieved through individual transformation. Lena Wilhelmson believes that “perspective transformation leads to a revised frame of reference, and a willingness to act on the new perspective.”

In a web-like, holistic, interdisciplinary fashion, these ideas resonate with Intercultural Communication discourses on transcending constrains in our current mind frame, and reconstructing dominant narratives through dialogue and self-reflection.

I believe that the complexity found in transformative adult education requires a systems-thinking approach. It is very interesting for me to notice how many of the discussions we had in the past provide a broad framework for understanding these issues. To conclude this post, I believe Freire’s approach fits into a radical orientation to education. In order to implement societal and personal transformation, we can move on to a transformational orientation (as suggested by Merizow), and eventually transcend the political aspect that still pervades Freire’s writings through a highly participative enactivist orientation that states that “learning cannot be understood except in terms of co-emergence: each participant’s understandings are entwined with those of other participants, and individual knowledge co-emerges with collective knowledge.” (Fenwick, p. 49)

Like in Freire’s advocacy for the emergence of a new era, enactivist educators “can provide feedback loops to a system as it experiments with different patterns leading out from disequilibrium,” (Fenwick, p.50) the system breaking point sometimes heralds the start of a paradigmatic macroshift, as suggested by Ervin Laszlo.


Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at

Wilhelmson, L. (2002) On the Theory of Transformative Learning, In Bron, A. & Schemmann, M. Bochum (Eds.) Social science theories in adult education research (180-210) Studies in international adult education, v. 3. Münster: Lit Verlag.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr Laszlo’s Macroshift check out the suggested links:



Anita wrote:

I agree. Fenwick (2001) identified some critiques of the criticial resistance orientation to adult education:

  • the repressive potential in boundaries (e.g., monolithic “dominant ideology” that is manipulative and evil, mass of passive, homogeneous non-critical victims)
  • the need to examine our positions as the “good liberator”, our right to impose grand visions for people’s lives, or to essentialize, simply, or problematize people’s experience
  • the focus on power

and I think these apply to Freire to some extent.

Helga Wrote:

While we are debating theory, it might be useful to look at actual results of intervention programs. Friere tried to transplant his ideas to Guinea Bissau without taking into consideration the social differences between Brazil and that African country.

“in 1980, the Department of Adult Education of Guinea-Bissau declared the following:

We could say that literacy in the years 1976 to ’79 involved 26,000 students and the results were practically nil.

(This statement was taken from a government document dated at Bissau, November 8, 1980. A military coup took place on November 14, 1980. Frank Tenaille, Las 56 Africas (México: Siglo XXI, 1981), p. 134.)”

My comments:

Thank you Helga and Anita for your strong reminders!

Yes, while we are sitting here discussing poverty and education, with a cup of coffee steaming on the table, people out there – many of them! – are feeling the blunt of modern days’ politics of exclusion. In my case – from my rented space in one of the richest places on the planet, surrounded with all kind of examples of wasteful habits and capitalist mismanagement and exploitation – I fee ill equipped to approach issues of survival that sound and look so alien to the world I live in. I can, as we all do in these forums, discuss those issues, maybe hoping that something at some point will change, although it is clear that my term papers are not going to provide for safe shelters and food for anyone.

Today I was doing some web search on the concept of Ubuntu. I came across a video of Nelson Mandela.  Soon after that, I found a pamphlet that brought back, with awakening intensity, all the drama that does not transpire in the kind of intellectual discussions we are having. Here is an excerpt:

“They always want to talk for us and about us but they must allow us to talk about our lives and our struggles.

We need to get things clear. There definitely is a Third Force. The question is what is it and who is part of the Third Force? Well, I am Third Force myself. The Third Force is all the pain and the suffering that the poor are subjected to every second in our lives. The shack dwellers have many things to say about the Third Force. It is time for us to speak out and to say this is who we are, this is where we are and this how we live. The life that we are living makes our communities the Third Force. Most of us are not working and have to spend all day struggling for small money. AIDS is worse in the shack settlements than anywhere else. Without proper houses, water, electricity, refuse removal and toilets all kinds of diseases breed. The causes are clearly visible and every Dick, Tom and Harry can understand. Our bodies itch every day because of the insects. If it is raining everything is wet – blankets and floors. If it is hot the mosquitoes and flies are always there. There is no holiday in the shacks. When the evening comes – it is always a challenge. The night is supposed to be for relaxing and getting rest. But it doesn’t happen like that in the jondolos. People stay awake worrying about their lives. You must see how big the rats are that will run across the small babies in the night. You must see how people have to sleep under the bridges when it rains because their floors are so wet. The rain comes right inside people’s houses. Some people just stand up all night.”

There is more. Read on if you want at:

As you see, the global web connects us in interesting and powerful ways, allowing us a glimpse into otherwise hidden aspects of others’ experience.

Participating in this course has been good and very interesting. Nevertheless, I cannot hide my discomfort when I open the Pandora box of “the world problems” and realize how powerless I feel. We talk about transformation, and we debate whether Merirow’s or Freire’s ideas would work better. It all seems so irrelevant when we stare real-life cases in the eyes.

Ubuntu to everyone!


FLIP: conducive learning environment


Link to forum


I just read your post and I feel like I have to respond. I am speaking for myself, though I believe others may also agree with this: you have given us powerful feedback! I really appreciate the way you worded it: it’s constructive, respectful, synthetic, all-inclusive, forward-thinking, and in my opinion characterizes your role as transcending the teaching-learning dichotomy — we cohorters are learning and teaching and you, as a valuable resource person, are doing the same by considering students’ suggestions and feeding them back into the learning circle. Your summary is also very helpful.

One more thing: thanks for keeping an eye on the group dynamics and for adjusting our sub-groups as we move along. In spite of the idea that students “make it happen,” I believe that at some level, like this particular one, intervention has its merit, also considering the limited duration of the course.

I look fwd to the remainder of the course with renewed energy and confidence.


Issues of access and power in future scenarios


FORUM: The future of work and education

TOPICS: Doornbos, power, access, active citizenship, motivation, elite workforce,

Doornbos, A.J., Bolhuis, S. and Simons, P.R. (2004): Modeling Work-related Learning on the Basis of Intentionality and Developmental Relatedness: A Noneducational Perspective. (link to Itslearning)

As pointed out in other posts on this last block of readings, issues of power, inequality, and access will continue to affect future policies of work and learning.

I believe that there is a real danger of creating a framework of affordances that is restricted to those who are “in the system,” leaving the others out. Examples of such a development are at hand both in workplace training and in formal education.

Doornbos et al. – however – recognize the impact of issues of power and access in workplace learning contexts, whereas they assume equality of access in formal education settings.

“Cliques, politics, and power may intentionally or unintentionally influence the distribution of opportunities to learn. Those with more access to power can claim learning opportunities, and they can also deny opportunities for learning, whereas those with less power may find access to what they want difficult. In contrast, access to learning is assumed to be equal within a formal education setting” (p. 257).

Unfortunately, the article does not seem to add much with respect to such assessment. This could lead to the establishment of what Rifkin calls (see his article) an elite workforce.

The risk is real, as also recognized by George Papadopoulos in his assessment of access policies. (see article Lifelong Learning and the Changing Policy Environment)

I feel that current and future policies of work and learning should frame the discussion within an open system approach similar to the one suggested by Marsick and Watkins. That would ensure permeability of access within and across interrelated work-and-learning contexts. By doing so, we could transform (and not just reform) today’s approach into a new challenging and promising platform that would offer opportunities for open participation, motivated interaction, transnational co-operation, active citizenship, and diversity of learning styles and educational pathways.

Pierre Caspar: Training Networks and the Changing Organization of Professional Learning


FORUM: The future of work and education

TOPICS: Pierre Caspar, cognitive learning society, E.U., active citizenship, motivation

Pierre Caspar: Training Networks and the Changing Organization of Professional Learning (link to Itslearning)

The article examines the issue of life-long learning and reminds us that training will have to take into account the changing conditions in today’s word: training is designed in a different way; training is implemented in a different way, and in new spaces; training needs to be implemented and managed differently.

I was particularly interested in its application to the development of lifelong learning policies in the E.U. and the establishment of a cognitive (or learning) society that will promote active citizenship. Active citizenship also appears in a citation in the ILO chapter where, according to the EU Memorandum on lifelong learning, active citizenship is about how “people participate in all spheres of economic and social life, the chances and risks they face in trying to do so, and the extent to which they feel that they belong to, and have a fair say in, the society in which they live”. Raffe (2003) defines it as follows: “In the words of the European Commission’s memorandum on Lifelong Learning, ‘Living and working in the knowledge society calls for active citizens who are self-motivated to pursue their own personal and professional development’ (European Commission, 2000, p. 17). Active citizenship is promoted through the processes of education, by letting young people own and manage their educational biographies, as well as through its formal content” (Raffe, p. 13).

In such context, Caspar envisions a society where “learning is a natural process, where everyone is potentially teaching and learning” (p. 111).

On the other hand, each individual’s personal commitment is pivotal to the success of such ambitious program. (p. 113) This was also affirmed in other articles examined in this course.

However, I can see that in this model of lifelong learning a gulf could develop between active participants and those who are – for whatever reason – not participating, or are even excluded from participation. I believe that the affordances made to all need to be accessible to people who may be currently marginalized and not fully integrated in the complex system of formal education and work formation.



FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)

TOPICS: Reflections, learning, collaborative, co-participation, affordances, ALGC


Link to itslearningHere are some comments. I have posted three elaborate posts in this discussion group, and so far I have not received one single comment. I could go on and post more, but at this point I have serious doubts that doing so will be productive.

I have already expressed my thoughts on this group assignment (see relevant post link to itslearning’forum). My impression is that, for the most part, we are just talking past one another, without a clear understanding of where this is going and how to structure this unique opportunity for meaningful group work. In my last group assignment, after three days of silence, we all got on the task. I don’t see anything like that happening here. Sorry if I am the bearer of not-so-charming news.



FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)

TOPICS: Reflections, learning, collaborative, co-participation, affordances, ALGC


link to itslearning forum

Link to e-portfolio

We are now almost a week into our group assignment.

Throughout the readings for this class I found a common theme that qualifies the level of learning in a community of practice. I’d like to think that it would also apply to our current task. I am talking about the dialogical, collaborative and participatory nature of learning.

Here are some thoughts on our learning environment and process, which I have tried to present by dividing them under relevant headlines.


In his article on workplace learning (block 1), Smith says: Trentin (1999), working within the social constructivist framework, has also argued that the power of new communication systems lies in their potential to support collaborative education and training. In reviewing a number of definitions of collaborative learning, Trentin is anxious to point out that the concept rests on a view that knowledge is not something that is delivered to students but that emerges from active dialogue. This notion of collaborative learning is much the same as that shown by Billett and Rose (1996) to be most effective in securing conceptual knowledge in the workplace.” (p. 75)

Cited in the same article, Trentin also says that “It is important for instructors not to take a directive role or to provide answers at the expense of encouraging discussion.” (P.77)

This gives us a lot of responsibility and room to construct and elaborate our own learning. However, in order to be able to achieve the learning goals for this assignment, I believe it is very important that we consider how our personal participation ( or lack thereof) may impact others. The following are some considerations based on the readings.

AFFORDANCES and cO-participation

In block 2 readings, the concept of affordances emerges, i.e. the learning opportunities made available to workers by employers. From my understanding, affordances set the stage, but it is up to the participants to engage actively and co-operatively in the learning process. This has been suggested by Billet in his article on Co-participation at work (block 2 readings). Here are some excerpts:

“the reciprocal process of how the workplace affords participation and how individuals elect to engage with and participate in work activities and interactions, and learn co-constructively through them.” (p. 191) This definition underscores the tight relationship between social and cognitive experiences in the work place. (p. 191)

“Co-participation at work refers to the interdependent process of engagement in and learning through work.” (p. 197)

“Co-participation at work is constituted at the intersection of the trajectories of the evolving social practice of the particular workplace on the one hand, and individuals’ sociall yshaped personal histories or ontogenies on the other.” (p. 197)

Furthermore, participation in other social practices is thought of exercising influence on on-the-job learning processes. (p. 197)


Affordances, like Billet says, are invitational. It is left to the individuals to decide on the degree of their participation. This is relevant to and very important for our current task. “Ultimately, individuals exercise agency that determines how they engage with the activities and guidance afforded by the workplace.”(P.198)


The level of personal participation may even extend further so as to include the concept of appropriation, which is defined in the same article as “When […] the learner concurs with what is to be learnt and makes it their own.” (p. 199)


Mumby’s article on workplace and learning reinforces the concept of self-regulated learning.

“Experienced learners plan before beginning a task by selecting strategies and resources that match the task. They monitor their task performance, ready to change strategies and resources if necessary. And they evaluate or appraise the outcome to refine knowledge.” (p. 96)

“self-regulated learners are successful learners (Boekaerts et al., 2000; Zimmerman, 1990)” (p. 96)


As students we are afforded a learning environment within which we have the opportunity to explore new knowledge and construct our learning. This is the situational component of community learning experiences. The rest is activated by personal social participation in the experience. Billet’s article and other articles as well, make plenty of references to negotiated, co-constructed engagement as one of the pillars of learning within a community of practice.

I believe that much of what I have just listed is missing in our current group discussion.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Andre Wojecki’s article: What’s identity got to do with it, anyway?


FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)

TOPICS:  ANDREW WOJECKI, wounding learning, relational trust

On Andrew Wojecki’s article: What’s identity got to do with it, anyway? (link to itslearning)

I found this article very interesting, mainly because it focuses on the human characteristics of learners. It gave me the opportunity to connect to my own needs as a learner, and – as a teacher – on the issue of “relational trust.”

It also provided a link to the previous course and my group’s report on the dimensions of global learning. In that report, we examined identity construction as one of the important dimensions in experiences of global learning.

To begin with, I would like to say that as much as I liked reading everyone’s final post for assignment 1, which gave me the opportunity to learn about other cultures’ approaches and relevant learning policies, I believe that – given the particular conditions under which such policies have been formulated – they would not be automatically transferable to other political, economic and learning settings, although they can provide powerful inspiration and more. I feel that by emphasizing the human aspect of the learning experience, the content of Wojecki’s article can more easily be understood and applied to a variety of contexts, including national, regional, vocational, workplace-related, and traditional-education related.

The article introduces the concept of WOUNDING LEARNING (169 – 170 -171):

“Individuals affected by wounding learning practices are learners who have experienced an “injury” through their participation in mainstream educational practices.” (p.171)

“These negative and emotive experiences therefore continue to shape how the individual knows what learning is, therefore framing how she or he engages with formal learning in the future.” (p.171)

Comment: The article presents this concept as one that is limited to mainstream educational practices, without mentioning so-called alternative-experiential learning experiences. I believe that the latter ones can be equally crippling and devastating, should they fail to establish a productive trust relationship between the learning context and each individual learner, as they involve issues of group dynamics that, when not properly managed, they can have serious consequences both at the psychological level and at the level of the learning outcomes.

One way such wounding learning experiences may be re-dressed is by establishing COLLABORATIVE LEARNING BASED ON TRUST = “RELATIONAL TRUST”

A collaborative learning environment helps to foster a sense of ‘relational trust’ (Bryk and Schneider, 2003) within the group of adult learners. (p. 176)

This can be achieved by engaging in active listening within the collective construction of work practices (communities of practice, according to Wenger)

That is possible by recognizing the importance of personal narratives in the identity-building process. This of course would require an intensive investment of energy and skills on the part of educators.

QUESTIONS: Wojecki seems to believe that previous negative experiences can taint a learner’s perceptions and view on learning. The educator should then investigate the learner’s narrative and work with the students to overcome their recalcitrance. To me, this sounds like a therapeutic analytical approach that may – in my opinion – go way beyond the role of a teacher. Of course, I understand the benefits of such approach.

Here are two questions:

1) How much can be expected from teachers – in any of the learning contexts we examined so far – with regard to individual learner’s difficulties? Wojecki says: “Through examining and reflecting on how our teaching and assessment practices cultivate, encourage, and promote opportunities for adult learners to reflect on how they see themselves in the world, spaces may be created where learners experiment in re-authoring their identities for learning. As adult educators, we occupy privileged spaces in which we interact within the stories that comprise learners’ lives. Attending to learners’ identities, and listening to the stories of learning they tell and re-tell may assist us as we shape our own identities and practices as adult educators.” (p. 180)

As much as I like this approach, I can see the difficulties in adopting it, given the already heavy workload placed on educators.

2) What if the learner’s difficulties are not derived from previous negative experience? What if the learner’s attitude toward learning is one that is per se “unproductive,” independently from previous experiences? Such approach reminds me of what Garrison called “naïve constructivism.” I argue that there may be a different kind of poor learner, different from the “wounded learner” presented in this paper.

I’d like to conclude this post on a positive note, citing Wojecki:

“Through committing with learners to creating new learning opportunities

and experiences that help to reshape or open up possibilities for one’s designated

identity, new futures may be imagined.” (p. 175)

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