From Pedagogy to Agency: Learning to Act in Rural China
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From Pedagogy to Agency confronts the imbalances found between rural and urban society in China, exploring the role education plays in their ever-changing relationship. The thesis posits that schools, classrooms, and education can play a vital role as places of mediation within our society. Places where differences are not only tolerated but are made critical components of a shared world. While education is now defined by the answers we receive rather than the questions we ask. This thesis proposes space of learning where we learn to ask questions again, creating a dialogue between students and teachers alike that promotes practices of negotiation and cooperation. Grounded in field research in China, this project first explores how China’s built urban environment, villages, as well as the spaces in-between, reveal a culture fraught with tension between its past and future. Looking more specifically at a site between the two northeastern cities of Beijing and Tianjin, the thesis proposes the reconstruction and expansion of the Mangdian Village Elementary School on the outskirts of Langfang. The craft of building is recognized as an important act of mediation, with their making a reflection of a society's values. From Pedagogy to Agency envisions how agency that can be cultivated in a space of learning, where a community workshop could be both the catalyst for the rebuilding of the school, as well as a source of long term empowerment of local craft. This intervention allows for a renewed understanding of the relationship with material ecologies around the site. As the school begins to embed these activities within its spaces, their dialogue redefines an education where a child learns to become a part of the world. While this process is filled with risks, moments of uncertainty, and will be endlessly challenging. The thesis ultimately posits this as the role education must play, for us to learn to be with each other, and for a shared future to be possible.
Cite this work
Puzhen Zhou (2017). From Pedagogy to Agency: Learning to Act in Rural China. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12378