This article provides a general analysis of two different philosophies of educational pedagogy. While these approaches can be used to critique various aspects of teaching, this particular piece will be concerned with writing pedagogy. The two schools of thought considered are Social Constructionist (also known as Social Epistemic Rhetoric) and Post-Colonial pedagogy. All three of these theories seek to trouble conventional models of education that would simply “bank” information to students and expect them to regurgitate that information. Instead, these approaches try to de-center the authority of the classroom from the teacher, and thereby place the significance of meaning on a dialogic and negotiated interaction of students. Rather than knowledge being given by a teacher or professor, knowledge is collectively created.
Social Constructionist pedagogy focuses on the social, historical and cultural factors when considering a writer’s knowledge and their techniques of composition and meaning. Rather just banking information or writing for product, the Social-Epistemic rhetoric addresses writing on a collaborative basis which allows the meaning of a text to be collectively negotiated. This philosophy also investigates certain biases within a text and discusses how some discourse communities, political and economic for example, can perpetuate certain assumptions. Therefore, Social Constructionist theory approaches a discourse on its own terms, working from inside the language to discover its implied truths. This philosophy emphasizes that it is through language we understand social hierarchy since meaning is not absolutely given but is socially agreed upon.
Similarly, Post-Colonial pedagogy is concerned with writing as cultural indoctrination which emphasizes a single correct answer coming from pre-established authoritarian standards. Such a myopic view precludes the complexity and divergence of perspectives which Post-colonial theory stresses. Like Social Constructionist pedagogy, Post-Colonial theory is deeply concerned with the social, cultural and historical construction of reality and how one’s personal philosophy can influence and interfere with one’s pedagogy. Post-Colonialism also puts more emphasis on students marginalized by race, gender and ethnicity. Thus, a teacher practicing this philosophy is much more self-reflective and aware of their own person biases, which cause them to examine the power dynamics involved in teacher/student relationships. In this sense, Post-Colonial theory, like Social Epistemic (Social Constructionist), highlights a collaborative interaction which seeks to undercut the older “banking” method.
Both Social Constructionist pedagogy and Post-Colonial pedagogy seem to interconnect in terms of collaboration. Both theories utilize collaboration and peer group tutoring to collectively negotiate the meaning of a text. Therefore, both pedagogical approaches have a sense of democratic equality that questions the authority of a teacher as the keeper of knowledge and the “right answers.” Instead, collaboration introduces an epistemological shift whereby knowledge isn’t purely external but is constructed through social contextualization. This emphasis on collaboration within both Social Constructionist and Post-Colonial pedagogy is deeply concerned with diversity, allowing voices that are usually silent or ignored to engage and contribute to the discourse. Therefore, through collaborative pedagogy the elements of Social Constructionist and Post-Colonial theory may coalesce, showing how social and textual meaning can be constructed not just by individuals but a society and culture as a whole.