A Critical Theory Perspective on Program Development

A Critical Theory Perspective on Program Development

Stephen Brookfield (University of St. Thomas, USA) and John Holst (University of St. Thomas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5872-1.ch001
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Abstract

The dominant modes of program planning in the field of adult education are drawn from three intellectual traditions: humanistic psychology, progressivism, and behaviorism. This chapter proposes a model of program planning drawn from a different intellectual framework, the tradition of European critical social theory. Articulated by the Frankfurt School of Social Theory, a critical perspective emphasizes the role of adult education programming in fostering social movements for democratic social change. The chapter specifies the organizing principles and specific goals of a critical theory approach to program development and poses a number of questions that can be asked to determine the success of such an initiative.
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Introduction

The two program development models at the center of this book, and the teaching practices that flow from them, both nest in well-defined philosophical schools. In the 1980’s and 1990’s Elias and Merriam (2004) elaborated this nesting. Elements of Andragogy were placed partly in humanistic psychology, and partly in progressive education, whilst Tyler’s model was in the behaviorist school. In this chapter our objective is to conduct an analysis of pedagogy and andragogy drawing on a very different philosophical base, that of Frankfurt School critical theory. We will begin by laying out the basic tenets of a critical theory perspective, and then we will explore connections and contradictions between that perspective and the andragogical model of program development. Finally, we will outline what a critical theory approach to curriculum and program development might look like.

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