Towards a Discursive Pedagogy in the Professional Training of Community Educators
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The author’s previous research into the learning experiences of mature, workingclass students undertaking a professionally endorsed qualification in Community Education, was overly negative in its view of the students whilst underplaying the role of curriculum in their learning. Reinterpreting their undergraduate experience more positively leads to thinking about how their educational needs could be reconciled with the programme’s aim to produce critically competent graduates. Four principles derived from the Habermasian concept of communicative action can inform thinking about an appropriate pedagogical approach. The first directs attention to the acts of reciprocity that underpin learning. The second focuses attention on how knowledge can be constructed through redeeming claims. The third signals the necessity of safeguarding participation and protecting rationality in argumentation, and the fourth points to the idea of competence as a constructive achievement. Taken together, the four principles express the ideal of a discursive pedagogy in which teachers and students socially construct knowledge appropriate to the subject area. Because it involves active participation based on a commitment to open communication and argumentative reasoning, approximating the ideal conditions of a discursive pedagogy could address the student’s learning needs whilst meeting the programme’s aim. Anticipating and considering the likely issues and challenges involved in attempts to realise these idealised conditions suggests ways in which a discursive pedagogy could be given practical form.