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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 4. Learning in Place: Wayfinding, Emplacement, and Creativity


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Rather than viewing place as simply the venue for learning about place and associated critical issues, this chapter explores the relationships of mind-body-environment and how we learn from place, including in relation to the social and narration. In this way, we tease out interactive and emplaced dimensions of practical experience that shape learning in a teacher education program. The empirical data drawn on to elaborate this discussion are from three different offerings of a university summer institute for beginning and experienced educators, which takes place on Treaty 6 and 10 territories in the central prairie and boreal forest regions of Canada. The 2-week six-credit institute is divided into two courses of Urban Education and Land-based Education, with students spending each day out of the classroom, walking, sitting, paddling, and otherwise situated within and across the course territories.

Through the lens of questioning, what happened here? What is happening here? What could happen here? students explored how place is determined through history and in relation to other places and beings, and also experimented with the possibilities of engaging more intentionally in the enactment and future of the environments of which they are a part. The study suggests the ways that students came to see the course terrain as doxic, or as having come into being as the result of socio-spatial-historical conditions ← 61 | 62 → (Bourdieu, 1990). The data offer views into the ways in...

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