Publication Date

Spring 5-8-2020


Learning and Teaching


In this self-study action research project, I explored how students exercised agency and how it may be affected by a critical pedagogy approach in a community college English as a Second Language (ESL) setting. The participants were adults enrolled in an advanced ESL course in a community college in the greater San Diego area. Students engaged in three dialogic circles as part of a needs assessment dialogue and two successive critical pedagogy dialogues. Data were collected using a classroom observation protocol (supported by audio recordings of the dialogues), student writings in response to journal prompts, and an analytic journal which I completed after each dialogue. The data suggest that my attempts to implement a critical pedagogy approach improved the quality of my facilitative questions and altered how students participated in the dialogues, evolving from primarily statements of opinion and personal narrative to an increased level of evidential, dissenting, and metacognitive statements, but did not dramatically alter how much I spoke relative to the students. While contextual factors, such as the effects of COVID-19, may have affected the validity of this study, the data suggest that implementing a critical pedagogy approach has the potential to increase learner agency in adult ESL students, and that the skills required for engaging in such dialogues may require significant scaffolding for both instructors and students.