Learning theories (A9)

Inside-Out pedagogy is based around the idea that classes of prisoners and college students can be mixed for mutual gain. Developed by Lori Pompa, the learning is aimed to be community-based, all people are seen to have something to contribute to the learning environment. Instructors must go on a seven-day course to study dialogue, critical reflection, experiential learning and collective education enquiry. The prison and college students study together as equals for one semester, taking post-secondary classes which tend to be more focused on social sciences and humanities, such as sociology and philosophy. This allows the college students to gain an understanding of social issues which they couldn’t attain in a traditional classroom. Furthermore, by learning collaboratively the lessons can move away from notions of charity or service which could be interpreted as patronising.

Perceptions of prison are challenged through asking questions such as ‘What images come to mind when you think of prison’ and ‘What perceptions are commonly held about prisoners?’. By encouraging such discussions social barriers are hoped to be overcome, breaking down barriers between wider society and prison. By creating reciprocal opportunities for learning, the purpose of education is subverted. Rather than prescribing education, it is complementary, learners learn from each other. This also furthers the potential of transformation of the prisoners, one of the main aims of this pedagogy. By promoting intellectual, aesthetic, civic, moral and social goals of education rather than just economic success, prisoners are encouraged to find further meaning in their lives. Paul Perry, an employee of the program, created the Graterford Think Tank. This is a group formed for released inmates who took the inside-out prison education course. These alumni have a special focus on the course, promoting rehabilitation on the outside by perpetuating the same ideals. It has been running since 2002.

To summarise, by creating a learning environment in which all participants are treated as equals, both college students and prisoners are encouraged to associate which should lead to the breaking down social barriers. This enables the possibility of positive transformation for both. This is achieved through discussion-based lessons, though also offer a chance of academic success, promoting personal and technical advancements.

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Published by Coffee & Alex

Alexander Clarke is a sole trader who writes and teaches. He’s published articles, blog posts, short stories and poems. He’s taught philosophy, theology, ESOL and PSHE.

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