UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The classroom and the polis : political action, dialogue and the project of pedagogy Biln, Taigita Michaella


This study explores students’ experiences in a dialogue-based program and what these experiences reveal about the possibility of creating dialogic classroom spaces that engage the political and support the emergence of students as political actors. The case study was a semester-long, undergraduate program in a comprehensive university in western Canada. The theme for dialogue was “Indigeneity in Canada: Past, Present, and Future.” In a qualitative case study, I observed classroom interactions, wrote field notes and interviewed students and instructors over the course of thirteen weeks. Working hermeneutically, I interpreted the data by placing it in conversation with the political theory of Hannah Arendt. The students’ experiences revealed the dialogue-based classroom as a pseudo-public space repeatedly under threat from the larger social pressures of conformity, utilitarian thinking and emotional self-interest. The students’ experiences in the program tell a story marked by profound struggles for political voice, authentic relations, and a sense of equality. Confounding students struggle to appear in the dialogue was the potentially volatile psychological dimension of learning. The inherent unpredictability of the classroom as a public space cast the teacher, not as ring-leader or director, but as one who attempted to hold open the spaces so that the students could continually return, willing to take the risk that speech and action are in the public realm.

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