October 16, 2023

Liberatory Learning

Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning

In this case study we explore Liberatory Learning as an alternative learning practice that liberates and empowers!

What is Liberatory Learning?

Learning has become synonymous with formal education, which is often entangled in flawed systems that perpetuate injustice. This has resulted in a distorted perception of the true power of learning. As we understand it, learning is inherently a liberating practice that often thrives beyond the confines of educational systems.

Paulo Freire, in his book "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," articulates this duality when he says that "Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." We firmly align with the latter interpretation, championing the idea that liberatory learning enables justice and empowerment.

Furthermore, Freire states, "Learning is a process where knowledge is presented to us, then shaped through understanding, discussion and reflection." This highlights the reciprocal nature of liberatory learning, emphasizing that every individual, regardless of background, age, or identity, possesses wisdom and knowledge. Everyone deserves the opportunity to engage in fulfilling and enriching learning experiences, both as individuals and within their communities.

In our troubled times marked by social fractures, our education systems are failing to serve us, our communities, and the planet. The way of learning that they utilize f is monocultural and perpetuates the vicious cycles that uphold toxic systems such as patriarchy, capitalism, and neo-colonialism. It is imperative that we reclaim our sacred capacity to make sense of the world we live in, radically reimagine it, and take action towards our visions. Liberatory learning provides just that! Let's compare and contrast:

Why does Liberatory Learning Matter?

Liberatory learning is a way for us to lead, reclaim and engage more deeply with our learning for liberation. We break down liberatory learning into the following key components:

Multicultural: Liberatory learning places inclusivity and empowerment at its core. By shifting away from monocultural perspectives and ways of knowing and being, it offers us a space to comprehend and navigate the world with intentionality and inclusiveness. Furthermore, it speaks to the significance of unlearning and relearning, emphasizing the importance of elevating knowledge from historically marginalized communities. This approach enables us to envision and cultivate a world that truly serves everyone.

Emergence: Liberatory learning is inherently evolutionary and responsive to the social fractures and crises we are confronted with. It is not confined by rigid systems, colonial notions of success, or limiting beliefs. In a world grappling with an ever-increasing array of crises, we require a learning approach that is both emergent and adaptable, one that prioritizes inclusivity and addresses the unique needs of our communities. As adrienne maree brown points to in their book Emergent Strategy, “Change happens. Change is definitely going to happen, no matter what we plan or expect or hope for or set in place. We will adapt to that change, or we will become irrelevant.” 

Social and Emotional Wellbeing: Liberatory learning proactively seeks to address the traumas stemming from historical and ongoing social fractures. It does so by embodying learning and ways of being that prioritize the personal and collective wellbeing of all individuals.

Relationality: Liberatory learning thrives on community and knowledge sharing. It is not an isolated pursuit, rather, it flourishes through the collective wisdom of others, fostering a conscious expansion of learners' knowledge. This process unfolds in a meaningful and non-hierarchical manner, driven by intentional relationality which is at the core of liberatory learning.

Autonomy: Liberatory learning empowers learners to cultivate a sense of autonomy, elevating their self-directed learning abilities and fostering meaningful learning experiences. Moreover, it grants learners the space to recognize their intrinsic value and wisdom, encouraging meaningful engagement with the knowledge they seek and promoting their confidence as valuable contributors to their own learning process.

Foundational Figures

In this space, we draw inspiration from numerous individuals and communities that champion and exemplify the principles of liberatory learning. We recognize that our comprehension of liberatory learning is deeply rooted in the wisdom of generations past, stemming from cultures and traditions that are deeply rooted in their communities and the natural world. Here are a few of the advocates who inspire us:

Paulo Freire, a renowned educator, philosopher, and advocate for liberatory education, is often considered the father of this concept. He challenged and questioned what he coined as the "banking" education model, which characterized mainstream Western education as a process where students' minds were perceived as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge devoid of meaning and intentionality. Freire viewed this educational approach as constraining and as a means of perpetuating oppression. He argued that “The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed). 

Source: Clovis Cranchi

bell hooks, an educator, activist, and author, envisioned education as a pathway to freedom. She passionately conveyed that, "To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin." In her insightful work, hooks explored hierarchies and language playing pivotal roles in the challenges confronting education. She emphasized the significance of dialogues about desire, class, and language, asserting that they are indispensable in reshaping education from a practice of oppression to a practice of freedom. bell hooks emerged as a visionary figure, and her wisdom and insights have revolutionized the landscape of transformative education. Her contributions have ignited profound discussions and paved the way for reimagining the role of education in fostering liberation and empowerment.

Monica Almeida

Dr. Kū Kahakalau is a native Hawaiian educator, activist, and researcher who is the first person in the world to obtain a Phd in indigenous education. She is an advocate and leader of Education for Aloha, an organization "grounded in Hawaiian traditional wisdom and knowledge systems, and rooted in the understanding of our Hawaiian ancestors that consider aloha, or love, care and compassion, as the most essential ingredient in education." (Dr. Kū Kahakalau). Kū explores place-based liberatory education with Aloha, a pedagogy that is a result of her work. The pedagogy of Aloha is rooted "in the experience of Native Hawaiians’ defiance of Western imposed educational models and the reconnection with their own values and orientations." 

Ku Kahakalau and Pedagogy of Aloha (ep.1) - Ecoversities
Source: Ecoversities


YouthxYouth is committed to wholeheartedly embodying and actively practicing liberatory learning in our ways of being, knowing, and learning. Additionally we are deeply inspired by these organisations that we believe are meaningfully and actively practicing liberatory learning:

LearningPlanet Alliance: “LearningPlanet Alliance leads a global community of practice dedicated to the transformation of education and the co-construction of a learning society.” (LearningPlanet Alliance)

Big Change: “We want to see a society where every young person is set up to thrive in life, not just exams. So that even in times of constant change, every child will feel emboldened to contribute positively to the world around them.” (Big Change)

Freire Institute: “The Freire Institute is an organization for transformative community-based learning. In our programmes your own knowledge and life experience becomes the raw material for education. We develop tools and approaches based on the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, whose work has inspired many social movements and educational programs around the world.” (Freire Institute)

Liberatory learning accelerates the process by which young people can reclaim and reshape their learning experiences, in an effort to make the world of their deepest longing come to life. Liberatory learning is a tool to move towards the world we long for, a world in which learning serves everyone: us, our communities, and the planet!


  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed - Book by Paulo Freire
  • Educational Learning Theories: 3rd Edition - Edited by: Jennifer Margolis, PhD, Sam May-Varas, EdD, Tanya Mead, MA
  • Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds - Book by Adrienne Maree Brown
  • Liberatory Education Graphic - A graphic showing different elements of Liberatory Education designed by Izadora McGawley
  • Teaching to transgress - Book by bell hooks
  • A Pedagogy for Liberation - Book by Ira Shor and Paulo Freire
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning
Liberatory Learning

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