New centre approved at Newman University, the Romero Freire institute

07/11/2019 by Sinead Staunton

A new institute at Newman University has been approved called the ‘Romero Freire Institute: Dialogue, Pedagogy and Praxis.’ The aim of this institute is to bring together four threads of research and scholarly activity:

  • The staff/student partnership initiatives
  • Wider community engagement, research and knowledge exchange, such as the work with Citizens UK and the Reach Out youth project.
  • The Critical Pedagogy Group
  • The pedagogic work of the Directorate of Learning Teaching and Scholarship

The centre will aim to bring together representatives from academics, professional and support staff, students, alumni and members of the local community, and will be a source of support for readers and professors in teaching and learning, particularly those who are not from, or operate within, a school context. The centre aims to have a broad reach and act as a bridge and mediator between student and community research, consultancy and evaluation, the scholarship of teaching and learning and academic research in Higher Education.

Paulo and Nita Freire’s work has influenced people working in education and community development. The Freire’s developed an approach to education that links the identification of issues to positive action for change and development. Their approach leads us to think about how we can ‘read’ the society around us. With this in mind, the Institute aims to bring together academic, professional and support staff with students and members of the community to explore common issues, conduct research and produce knowledge. It will then seek to ensure that this knowledge has an impact on those effected ‘lived lives’. While Paulo Freire is the more well-known of the two, Newman University wish to also honour Nita, in acknowledgement that women’s contribution is often overshadowed by their male collaborators.

Oscar Romero was a prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador who served as the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture amid a growing war between leftist rebels and government and right-wing forces. In 1980, Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence. During Romero’s beatification, Pope Francis stated, “His ministry was distinguished by his particular attention to the most poor and marginalized.” He is hailed as a hero by supporters of liberation theology inspired by his work.

Freire’s work places an emphasis on working with oppressed groups, which are heavily represented within the Newman Student body and often marginalized within Higher Education. Critical pedagogy seeks to empower students and community members to think critically about their own educational situations and the relations of power communicated and maintained by existing social/institutional arrangements. Critical pedagogues’ aims are to raise consciousness about institutionalized inequities and to provide opportunities for students to participate in creating a more just, democratic society (Freire, 1970, 1998). This vision also fits in with the central tenets of Catholic Social Teaching; these being ‘human dignity, the common good, and the preferential option for the marginalized” (Scanlan, 2008, p. 31).

The aims of the institute are:

  • To generate a creative space where all staff, students and the community can come together in common cause, develop research agendas, support each-other writing bids, co-create knowledge and undertake actions that advance the common good.
  • To foster and build capacity for the scholarship of learning and teaching practices in Higher Education, focusing on, but not exclusive to, critical pedagogy; providing mentoring for new writers, potential readers and Professors of teaching and learning.
  • To further develop and disseminate the outcomes of student staff partnerships, which to date have focused on teaching and learning, research and community partnerships, revitalizing Critical Commentary.
  • To act as a conduit for issues arising from student and community research in terms of institutional and wider impact, which in turn will help the institution build its impact case studies.
  • To act as a bridge and mediator between student and community research, consultancy and evaluation, the scholarship of teaching and learning and academic research in Higher Education.​

The work of the Institute will be directed by a standing committee with representatives from academic, support and professional staff, students and community members which meets every two months. This is in turn, directed by a wider steering group that meets quarterly and included a wider section of interested parties and representation from senior management including Council.