Applying critical pedagogy in the senior secondary liberal studies curriculum: An action research study in Hong Kong

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


This study aims to investigate, with an action research approach, the possibility of enhancing conscientization by applying critical pedagogy (CP) in the Liberal Studies (LS) curriculum of Hong Kong, in order to introduce a new paradigm of civic education that fosters learners’ transformative actions in sociopolitical issues. Shor’s (1992) model of “empowering education” was taken as the main framework in applying CP. In addition, Shor’s (1992) “Paradigm of Four Domains” was adopted to investigate teachers’ and students’ obstacles and resources in the process. The study was conducted in a local secondary school for approximately 10 weeks, with a Secondary 5 class of 15 students as participants. The findings revealed that there were rich possibilities of conscientization, which means the development of critical consciousness, achieved through applying CP in the LS curriculum. However, some obstacles were found hindering the application of CP in the LS curriculum. Among them were the “teaching to the test” pressure on the teacher and the mentality of didacticism. On students’ side, their weakness in literacy skills and the alienation caused by the authoritarian culture were the main obstacles. Yet, students’ developing interest in experiential learning activities and their willingness for transformative practice were found to be resources that motivated them to learn in the new mode of CP. To complement students’ resources, the willingness and proficiency to support students’ transformative practice, the readiness to explore taboo issues, and an influential relationship with students were the resources that facilitated CP practice on the teacher’s side. This study is significant and advocating in several ways. Throughout this study under the specific school conditions in Hong Kong, Shor’s four-domain paradigm for the practice of CP is developed and enriched. Based on the findings, this study recommends the “Independent Enquiry Study” (IES) in the LS curriculum be expanded, and connections between the teachers’ community and progressive civil society be strengthened. Moreover, critical dialogues and researches about the myths and hidden agendas in textbooks and learning materials, as well as discussions and preparations for transformative actions, are suggested to be conducted intermittently in the LS classroom. It is expected that through the new paradigm of civic education nurtured by CP in the LS curriculum, the enthusiasm and competence of the young generation can become a sustainable force that promotes social change towards justice. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • YUEN, Wai Kwan, Gail 袁慧筠, Supervisor
  • TANG, Hei Hang, Hayes 鄧希恒, Supervisor
  • CHANG, Benjamin Johnson, Supervisor
  • LEUNG, Yan Wing, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Civic education
  • Conscientization
  • Critical pedagogy
  • Liberal studies curriculum
  • Transformative actions
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2020.


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