Ira Shor's Empowering Education
In this reading, Ira Shor discusses the need for teachers to prepare students to participate dynamically in society. Children need to learn to evaluate and question their reality so that they can transform it. Shor states that teachers can do this through empowering education. Shor describes his empowering pedagogy as having the following values: participatory, affective, problem-posing, situated, multicultural, dialogic, desocializing, democratic, researching, interdisciplinary, and activist. In the selected readings, Shor discusses some of these values. He states that teachers must foster classroom involvement, encourage positive emotional responses to learning, pose problems for students to help them question the way things are, use everyday life experiences in your teaching, value all cultures, and practice reflexive teaching. If teachers use this manner of instruction, then their students will be well prepared to participate in our democracy as well as break down the status quo. The following are highlights of the reading that really resonated with me.
I thought this was a well-chosen quote that Ira Shor picked to frame the reason for his work. Shor begins this reading by naming the problem he sees. This problem Shor brings to light is traditional education. With traditional education, students are simply filled with information rather than being taught how to evaluate what they are learning. He argues that the aim of education should be to develop intelligence not merely filling a memory bank. To him, education should spark curiosity. He thinks that students should be taught to explore, question, and evaluate and that teaching students using traditional education is a disservice to them.
This quote elicited an affective response from me because it reminds me of why I became a teacher in the first place. I became a teacher because I love learning and wanted to incite the same passion in other people. I need to be reminded of this, because so many times I feel like I’m stuffing my students with knowledge rather than lighting the fire of curiosity.
“A curriculum designed to empower studens must be transformative in nature and help students to develop the knowledge, skills, and values needed to become social critics who can make reflective decisions and implemente their decisions in effecgive personal, soicail, and political action.” (page 16)
The first quote highlights the problem that Ira Shor names. This quote explains why it is important to move away from traditional education and why we need to use empowering education. In the reading, Shor argues that the purpose for instruction is to prepare students for a dynamic and evolving democracy. In order to do so, students need to possess the skills required to question and change the status quo. Ira Shor believes that teachers must cultivate the skills and qualities of exploration and curiosity instead of merely just dumping knowledge on the students through traditional education. Teachers must develop a curriculum that questions society. A curriculum that does not question why things are the way they are perpetuates the status quo and supports the dominant ideology as one that is fixed instead of one that can be changed for the better. We owe it to our students to move away from traditional education towards empowering education so that our society can become a better place.
“Participation provides students with active experiences in class, through which they develop knowledge that is reflective understanding, not mere memorization. Further, participation sends a hopeful message to students about their present and future; it encourages their achievement by encouraging their aspirations. They are treated as responsible, capable human beings who should expect to do a lot and do it well, an affective feature of the empowering classroom that I will have more to say about shortly.” (page 21)
The focus of the rest of Ira Shor’s writing in the selection is spent on the “now what?” Shor describes in detail what teachers should do in order to empower education and why they should do this. As aforementioned, these suggestions include encouraging participation, engaging students, problem-posing, sharing responsibility and decision-making with students, etc. This quote pertains to encouraging participation. When students play an active role in their education, they get much more out of it than when they play a passive role. By participating, students feel in control of their education and are more involved in the learning process (which leads to higher achievement). Learning is a dynamic interplay between a person and knowledge and the more active a student is in this transaction, the more they can interact with the knowledge, and the more they will learn. Through participation, students construct their own knowledge which can “transform the students power of thought.” This means that students can deconstruct traditional knowledge perpetuated by dominant ideology and reconstruct their knowledge to include changes to the dominant ideology. Students can come up with their own way of thinking instead of being forced to repeat dominant ideology.