The neoliberal school is marked by an exam-focused, league table-driven curriculum, matched with an array of school policies on performance and conduct and a stifling of
critical engagement. In this context, this qualitative research study explores the challenges and transformative potentials of implementing critical pedagogies in the contemporary European secondary school classroom. The study reflects on the inclusivity of learning spaces, thereby taking into account high exclusion rates and segregation of students from marginalised communities and/or who are diverse learners.
To research a multitude of classroom experiences of power, learning, and belonging, methodologically, alongside other qualitative methods, the research draws on image theatre, a method of the critical and participatory Theatre of the Oppressed. It proposes that image theatre, explored through a critical spatial lens, offers an active research method to explore pedagogical practices with and through the body. The research focuses on power dynamics in classrooms. Through the theatre, students, teachers and researcher together generate data by engaging and playing with the very power dynamics the research explores.
The study engages with the contributions as well as challenges that the application of critical pedagogies engendered on a structural, relational, and emotional level. Findings show that sustainable changes towards an inclusive learning environment rely on policy and institutional support, yet a focus on spatial and temporal practices in the classroom application of critical pedagogies can support the production of more inclusive learning spaces. The thesis argues that critical pedagogical interventions allow for shifts in the terms of engagement within the learning spaces, offering participants possibilities to relate to both the learning and the research spaces through changed subjectification.
This research contributes to important discussions on inclusive and critical pedagogical practices, while the theatre method opens spaces to collectively reimagine the classroom, whilst rehearsing for change.