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Christopher Emdin on Reality Pedagogy

His students tell him he ‘yells’ too much, but an energetic, passionate, delivery is not made in a whisper. Christopher Emdin’s presentation on Reality Pedagogy on April 22 in Wilde Auditorium could not have been more engaging. Without a ‘mic’, without PowerPoint, and with just a bit more than your average use of body language, Emdin captivated his audience of nearly 200 educators representing schools, postsecondary institutions, and community-based organizations. Graduate and undergraduate students of education came to hear him as well.

Kenny Nienhusser, the director of ENHP’s Center for Learning and Professional Education in the Institute for Translational Research introduced Emdin and promised the audience that it was “in for a real treat.” Emdin came to the podium and quickly left it to move freely about the small stage. He warned his listeners that some of what he had to say might not sit well but, in the end, audience response was overwhelmingly positive.

He proposed that our cultural ‘songs,’ or our ways of knowing, may be passed from generation to generation in a way not unlike DNA. The song may disappear in one generation only to reappear in the next. He suggested that we begin to listen for the songs of our multicultural urban youth in the rhythms of hip-hop.

Emdin spoke about his research in urban science classrooms and the development of five sequential processes that support reality pedagogy. Ironically, ‘content’ is not the first to be considered. In fact, it is fifth on the list of his five C's. Taking precedence are Cogenerative Dialogues, Coteaching, Cosmopolitanism, and Context. Once these are in place and routinely operating, the teacher codiscovers the content with students. The codiscovery is possible because the teacher freely admits to not knowing all the answers. To describe the 5 C’s in a sentence or two would not do justice to Emdin's work. Clearly the following oversimplifies the process: Urban youth are empowered and engaged by 1. being provided with a mechanism to have a say in the way the class is run (cogenerative dialogues), 2. having an opportunity to assume the role of teacher (coteaching), 3. being given responsibility for specific classroom tasks that benefit the group (cosmopolitanism), 4. being taught by a teacher who utilizes artifacts familiar to students outside the classroom to facilitate learning within the classroom (context), and finally, what educators often focus on first – content.

For a deeper understanding, see Emdin’s article, “Moving Beyond the Boat without a Paddle: Reality Pedagogy, Black Youth, and Urban Science Education” or pick up his award-winning book Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation.

Dean Mueller, Chris Emdin, Kenny NienhusserChristopher Emdin (center) poses with ENHP Dean Ralph O. Mueller (left) and Director of the Center for Learning and Professional Education Kenny Nienhusser (right).

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