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Critical Education and Sociomaterial Practice

Narration, Place, and the Social


Marcia McKenzie and Andrew Bieler

Critical Education and Sociomaterial Practice presents a situated approach to learning that suggests the need for more explicit attention to sociomaterial practice in critical education. Specifically, it explores social, place and narrative dimensions of practical experience as they unfold in schools, in place-based learning, and teacher education contexts. Such an orientation to practice both links social and material conditions (social relations, other species, physical context, objects) to human consciousness and learning, and considers the relationship between such learning and broader cultural change. The core of the book is an examination of critical situated learning undertaken through three separate empirical studies, each of which we use to elaborate a particular domain or dimension of practical experience. In turning to the sociomaterial contexts of learning, the book also underscores how social and environmental issues are necessarily linked, such as in the production of food deserts in cities or in the pollution of the drinking water in Indigenous communities through oil development. More social movements globally are connecting the dots between sexism, heteronormativity, racism, colonization, White privilege, globalization, poverty, and climate justice, including with issues of land, territory and sovereignty, water, food, energy, and treatment and extinction of other species. As a result, categorizing some concerns as ‘social justice’ or ‘critical’ issues and others as ‘environmental,’ becomes increasingly untenable. The book thus suggests that more integrative and productive forms of critical education are needed to respond to these complex and pressing socio-ecological conditions.
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Chapter 2. Theorizing Practical Experience and Critical Situated Learning: The Social, Place, and Narration as Dimensions of Practice


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It is at the juncture between student experience and cultural change that we position this book, suggesting that critical education can better attend to practical experience in ways that build the potential for cultural change as a response to the pressing critical issues of our times. As Ben Highmore (2002a) has written in relation to everyday life studies, this kind of work is “situated between the levels of attention that would focus either on subjective experience or on the institutional frames of cultural life” (p. 31). In what follows, we suggest that the sociomaterial complexity of practical experience can more fully be engaged in critical education through a focus on situated learning. We expand on dimensions of situated everyday practices of the social, place, and narration, including in relation to the structures of feeling within which they are embedded. We discuss associated considerations of temporality, embodiment, and power, laying the groundwork for the main work of the book, which examines various dimensions of practical experience through empirical study. The chapter concludes with a focus on methodological considerations in terms of both pedagogy and research: pointing to possible methods for “zooming in and out” (Nicolini, 2013) on critical situated learning through multiple theoretical registers and emplaced methods of research and practice ← 9 | 10 → (Fenwick, Edwards, & Sawchuck, 2011; Pink, 2009; Tuck & McKenzie, 2015; Wilson, forthcoming)...

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