Critical pedagogy is a teaching approach that attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate. In other words, it is a theory and practice of helping students achieve critical consciousness. Critical pedagogue Ira Shor defines critical pedagogy as
- "Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse." (Empowering Education, 129)
Critical pedagogy includes relationships between teaching and learning. It is a continuous process of unlearning, learning and relearning, reflection, evaluation and the impact that these actions have on the students, in particular students who have been historically and continue to be disenfranchised by traditional schooling.
Critical pedagogy was heavily influenced by the works of Paulo Freire, arguably the most celebrated critical educator. According to his writings, Freire heavily endorses students’ ability to think critically about their education situation; this way of thinking allows them to "recognize connections between their individual problems and experiences and the social contexts in which they are embedded." Realizing one’s consciousness ("conscientization") is a needed first step of "praxis," which is defined as the power and know-how to take action against oppression while stressing the importance of liberating education. "Praxis involves engaging in a cycle of theory, application, evaluation, reflection, and then back to theory. Social transformation is the product of praxis at the collective level."Postmodern, anti-racist, feminist, postcolonial, and queer theories all play a role in further explaining Freire’s ideas of critical pedagogy
Contemporary critical educators, such as bell hooks appropriated by Peter McLaren, discuss in their criticisms the influence of many varied concerns, institutions, and social structures, "including globalization, the mass media, and race/spiritual relations," while citing reasons for resisting the possibilities to change. Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg have created the Paulo and Nita Freire Project for International Critical Pedagogy at McGill University
Authors of critical pedagogy texts not only include Paulo Freire, as mentioned above, but also Michael Apple, Henry Giroux, Peter McLaren, Joe L. Kincheloe, Howard Zinn, Suresh Canagarajah, Alastair Pennycook, Graham Crookes and others. Educationalists including Jonathan Kozol and Parker Palmer are sometimes included in this category. Other critical pedagogues more known for their anti-schooling, unschooling, or deschooling perspectives include Ivan Illich, John Holt, dead prez, Ira Shor, John Taylor Gatto, Matt Hern, and Carlo Ricci. Much of the work draws on anarchism, feminism, Marxism, György Lukács, Wilhelm Reich, Khen Lampert, postcolonialism, and the discourse theories of Edward Said, Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault. Radical Teacher is a magazine dedicated to critical pedagogy and issues of interest to critical educators. The Rouge Forum is an online organization led by people involved with critical pedagogy.