Combining Trans-disciplinarity and Paulo Freire Methodology

Most practitioners/facilitators in South Africa use an adapted form of the Paulo Freire methodology(1) to convey frameworks and concepts that frame and spark  dialogues in workshop situations.  This methodology is informed by an underlying belief that people are ‘knowers’ and that we need to tap into this knowledge to challenge our own perspectives.  The facilitator is thus at the same time a facilitator and a learner.

This is of course different to our experience of ‘education’ where we sit and write notes, ask the occasional question of clarification, and listen to the teacher/lecturer who is regarded as the ‘expert’ on a particular subject.

The task of the facilitator/researcher is thus not to  ‘deposit’ knowledge into heads that are assumed to be empty, but to dialogue about concepts within a framework. The framework serves as a boundary outline within which to discuss an agreed topic.  In the planned workshops, even these frameworks are up for critique.  Knowledge production is a collective exercise.

In the Transdisciplinary Project for Social Justice the idea of using the Paulo Freire style workshops had several goals.   It is truly about ‘making the road while walking it’ at a time when the calls for decolonisation of education opened the way for me to combine three sources of knowledge – accumulated knowledge about lived experience under oppression, knowledge gained as a practitioner, and academic knowledge from 5 cognate disciplines.

From the idea to raise awareness and consciousness about findings of the research, the thought of ground-truthing and calibration of frameworks grew.  In the course of conducting the first workshops and updating the draft Guide on the structure of invisible/visible violence, the idea to go a step further and name participants as co-producers of knowledge came.

This is what is meant by generative ideas.  One insight leads to another that widens our knowledge about particular topics while it broadens the skills and tools facilitators can use or develop.

Trans-disciplinary Approach

This approach fits naturally with a trans-disciplinary(2)  approach which allows us to cross disciplinary, academic/non academic, and other artificial boundaries that limit knowledge and knowledge production to the privileged. Research participants are not ordinarily regarded as ‘peers’.  This project seeks to turn that on its head.

It has been suggested that(2) –

If we go through a list of some of the main problematiques that are defining the new Century, such as water, forced migrations, poverty, environmental crises, violence, terrorism, neo-imperialism, destruction of social fabric, we must conclude that none of them can be adequately tackled from the sphere of specific individual disciplines. They clearly represent transdisciplinary challenges. This should not represent a problem as long as the formation received by those who go through institutions of higher education, were coherent with the challenge. This is, unfortunately, not the case, since uni- disciplinary education is still widely predominant in all Universities.                                                                                                       (Manfred Max-Neef, 2005:1}.

Thank you for being willing to participate as an extended network of peers(3).

Further reading:




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