Hearing from and Listening to: Dialectical Tensions in the Pedagogical Pursuit of Critical Analysis


  • Rhoda Zuk Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Donna Varga Mount Saint Vincent University


Racism, History, Contemporary representation, Critical analysis


As instructors, it is not uncommon to find ourselves faced by a lack of enthusiasm from students when we ask them to participate in the critical analysis of complex issues. It can be difficult to know if it is an outcome of their having limited knowledge of the subject, fear of their perspectives being negatively judged by peers and instructors or an uncertainty of how to think critically (not just negatively) about an issue. An outcome of any of these factors can be a silent class or one dominated by a few voices, leaving the instructor unsure as to whether the time has been well spent.   

This session built on the lessons learned from our experiences of (more or less) engaging students in the critical analysis of racialized discourses. During the presentation, we identified strategies for teaching students how to critically analyze materials, and shared our classroom experiences of engaging students in these processes. Those attending the presentation were invited to describe their own instructional experiences and to elaborate on processes they found helpful or unhelpful. There was opportunity for participants to utilize the strategies presented through analysis of racialized materials.  

Author Biographies

Rhoda Zuk, Mount Saint Vincent University

Associate Professor, Department of English at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her teaching and research interest include children‘s literature, eighteenth-century literature, feminist theory, and theories of the relationship between representation, race, and power.

Donna Varga, Mount Saint Vincent University

Professor, Child and Youth Study, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. She teaches in the areas of early childhood education and care, methods of research, and critical perspectives toward human development study. Research interests include discourses of childhood development, socio-cultural beliefs about animals, and animal-human relationships.


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