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Critical consciousness, or conscientizacao (Portuguese), is a popular education and social concept developed by renowned Brazilian pedagogue and educational theorist Paulo Freire to address a state of in-depth understanding about the world and resulting freedom from oppression.[1]


The ancient Greeks first identified the essence of critical consciousness when philosophers encouraged their students to develop an "impulse and willingness to stand back from humanity and nature... [and] to make them objects of thought and criticism, and to search for their meaning and significance.[2] In his books Pedagogy of the Oppressed[3] and Education for Critical Consciousness[4], Freire explains critical consciousness as a sociopolitical educative tool that engages learners in questioning the nature of their historical and social situation, which Freire addressed as "reading the world". The goal of critical consciousness, according to Freire, should be acting as subjects in the creation of democratic society. In education, Freire implies intergenerational equity between students and teachers in which both learn, both question, both reflect and both participate in meaning-making.


Freire's development of critical consciousness has been expanded upon in several academic disciplines and common applications[5] Public health community collaborations focused on HIV prevention for women[6], the role of critical consciousness in adult education[7], and the effect of peer pressure on cigarette smokers[8] Freire's notion of critical consciousness is, in part, a type of political consciousness.

External linksEdit

Relevant readingEdit

  • "Educacao como pratica da liberdade, Paz e Terra" (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) (1967) translation by Myra Bergman Ramos published as "Education and the Practice of Freedom" in Education for Critical Consciousness, Seabury, 1973.
  • "Extension o comunicacion?", Institute for Agricultural Reform (Santiago) (1969) translation by Louise Bigwood and Margaret Marshall published as "Extension or Communication," in Education for Critical Consciousness, Seabury, 1973.
  • "Education for Critical Consciousness" (includes "Education as the Practice of Freedom" and "Extension or Communication"), Seabury, 1973, published in England as Education, the Practice of Freedom, Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative, 1976.


  1. Mustakova-Possardt, M (2003) "Is there a roadmap to critical consciousness? Critical Consciousness: A Study of Morality in Global, Historical Context." One Country. 15(2).
  2. Thorton, B. "Critical Consciousness and Liberal Education" in Watson, B. (2006) Civic Education And Culture.
  3. Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
  4. Freire, P. (2005) Education for Critical Consciousness. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.
  5. Adelson, L (1987) "Contemporary Critical Consciousness: Peter Sloterdijk, Oskar Negt/Alexander Kluge, and the 'New Subjectivity'." German Studies Review. 10(1); pp. 57-68.
  6. Champeau, D. & Shaw, S. (2002) "Power, empowerment, and critical consciousness in community collaboration: Lessons from an advisory panel for an HIV awareness media campaign for women." Women Health. 36(3):31-50.
  7. Taylor, E., Tisdell, E. & Stone Hanley, M. (2000) The Role of Positionality in Teaching for Critical Consciousness: Implications for Adult Education. Paper presented at the 2000 Adult Education Research Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
  8. Zucker, A., Stewart, A., Pomerleau, C. & Boyd, C. (2005) "Resisting Gendered Smoking Pressures: Critical Consciousness as a Correlate of Women's Smoking Status," Behavioral Science. 53(3-4); 261-272.


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