The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

Critical Professional Development: Centering the Social Justice Needs of Teachers

Rita Kohli, Bree Picower, Antonio Nieves Martinez, Natalia Ortiz


As a response to increasingly technocratic, top-down teacher professional development that we refer to as antidialogical professional development (APD), this article theorizes a model of critical professional development (CPD) where teachers are engaged as politically-aware individuals who have a stake in teaching and transforming society.  Illuminating three US based case studies of CPD that emerged in response to the unmet needs of justice-oriented teachers- The People’s Education Movement, New York Collective of Radical Educators’ Inquiry to Action groups, and the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice- this article uses Freire’s framework of dialogical action to analyze shared critical practices.  In each independent case, teachers were engaged in a cooperative dialectical process, there was a strong emphasis on unity amongst participants around their social justice goals, the structure was organized through shared power between teachers and organizers, and teacher and student needs were centered using a practice of cultural synthesis.  Reframing the possibilities of teacher professional development through this model of critical, dialogical practice, this article offers a critique of the banking methods and technical content traditionally used within APD, and provides insights into how teachers can successfully be positioned as experts in their own social justice-oriented professional growth.


teacher professional development; social justice education; critical pedagogy; Freire

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