About this Guide

This guide gives an overview to critical pedagogy and its vitalness to teaching and education. It is not comprehensive, but is meant to give an introduction to the complex topic of critical pedagogy and impart an understanding of its deeper connection to critical theory and education.

What is Critical Pedagogy?

One working definition of critical pedagogy is that it “is an educational theory based on the idea that schools typically serve the interests of those who have power in a society by, usually unintentionally, perpetually unquestioned norms for relationships, expectations, and behaviors” (Billings, 2019). Based on critical theory, it was first popularized in the 70s by the widely-known Brazilian educator Paolo Freire in his canonical book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, but has since taken on a life of its own in its application to all facets of teaching and learning. There are many applications of theory-based pedagogy that privilege minoritarian thought such as antiracist pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, engaged pedagogy, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and social justice, to name a few.


Billings, S. (2019). Critical pedagogy. Salem press encyclopedia. Salem Press.

Why is Critical Pedagogy important?

Critical Pedagogy is an important framework and tool for teaching and learning because it:

  • recognizes systems and patterns of oppression within society at-large and education more specifically, and in doing so, decrease oppression and increase freedom
  • empowers students through enabling them to recognize the ways in which "dominant power operates in numerous and often hidden ways
  • offers a critique of education that acknowledges its political nature while spotlighting the fact that it is not neutral
  • encourages students and instructors to challenge commonly accepted assumptions that reveal hidden power structures, inequities, and injustice


Kincheloe, J. L. (2004). Critical pedagogy primer. P. Lang.