As an alternative to the banking model, which situates learners as recipients of knowledge and thus education as reproductive, critical pedagogy positions learners as participants in knowledge creation, and thus education as transformative. The purpose of transformative education is to empower learners to see the social world differently and through an ethical lens, so that they will challenge and change the status quo as agents of change.
The status quo is upheld by current power relations. Power dynamics are inherent in any social sphere (e.g. health professions education). They influence what is possible for a person to say and do without concern for negative consequences. There are many social relationships in health professions practice that involve power and hierarchy, and can also lead to or inadvertently perpetuate harm: e.g. doctor-patient relationships, doctor-nurse relationships, teacher-learner relationships. In order to achieve the ideals of transformative education, we must eschew traditional teacher and learner roles and hierarchies. This is why critical pedagogy aims to:
- Acknowledge and connect with learners’ personal and emotional experience, rather than neglecting the learning potential that lies in these experiences;
- Engage these experiences through dialogue, which is a form of social interaction that integrates different perspectives, including affective knowledge (emotion/feeling) and experiential knowledge. Dialogue is differentiated from discussion, which can tend to put aside the affective and experiential.
All of these efforts take place with a commitment to continually creating a more ethical society.