Liberal studies and critical pedagogy in further education colleges: ‘where their eyes would be opened’ (sometimes)

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This paper revisits the liberal studies movement, a significant feature of the English further education (FE) sector from the 1950s until the beginning of the 1980s. Its central argument is that liberal and general studies (LS/GS) and similar provision offered a vehicle where, at least in some circumstances, certain politically-motivated FE teachers were able to engage in forms of mutual, dialogic teaching and learning which can be conceptualised as critical pedagogy—or at least as close to critical pedagogy as can be achieved within the formal education system in a nation such as England. The paper draws on interviews with former FE lecturers who taught various forms of liberal studies to vocational students in FE colleges across England during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Whilst it is recognised that LS/GS was always contested terrain, data presented in this paper provide evidence to suggest that the spirit of critical pedagogy existed amongst a certain strand within the liberal studies movement, at least for a time—even if not all learners wished to be emancipated by their studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-706
Number of pages15
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number6
Early online date26 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


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