07 SES 03 A, Promoting Social Justice
The pedagogic relationship between teachers and learners is critical to educational achievement (Hattie, 2009), yet success in school is increasingly linked to students’ socioeconomic background, particularly within OECD countries (UNICEF, 2010). This is especially troubling for Europe where despite numerous strategies to engender equity through education, significant “disparities persist … across but also within EU Member States” (NESSE, 2012, p. 1, original emphasis; Le Donné, 2014). PISA results show, for example, that the impact of socioeconomic disadvantage on educational attainment is now stronger than the OCED average in Sweden, while Romania has had the greatest increase amongst OECD countries on the same measure since 2000 (OECD, 2010). Plans to redress disadvantage (e.g., Europe 2020) continue to be frustrated as past inequalities worsen under austerity measures throughout many member countries (ETUC & ETUI, 2012).
This paper presents findings from the second phase of a study into the social justice dispositions of teachers as they relate to their pedagogic work with students in advantaged and disadvantaged secondary schools. Our aim is to identify and explore the potential of ‘teacher disposition’ as a site for intervening in the nexus between student class background and academic achievement. Specifically, the research questions of focus in this phase of analysis are:
- What are the emphases and repetitions in each teacher’s pedagogic actions which reveal their social justice dispositions?
- How do these emphases and repetitions in teachers’ pedagogic work vary between and across advantaged and disadvantaged school sites and contexts for such work?
- How can these social justice dispositions be named or ‘characterised’, based on the types of actions revealed in practice?
Theoretically, we draw on Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992) to understand dispositions as the tendencies, inclinations, and leanings that provide un-thought or pre-thought guidance for practice. Further, we conceive of ‘pedagogic work’ (Bourdieu, 1977; Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990) as comprising a series of ‘pedagogic actions’ conferred with ‘pedagogic authority’. Thus, we argue that a reading of teachers’ actions has potential to reveal their authority—in this case, the social justice dispositions that inform them.
Of particular interest are the themes to emerge from analyses of pedagogic work that unfold across differently positioned sites and contexts for classroom practice. We argue that teachers’ socially just pedagogic work is enacted differently in different contexts, influenced by different social, cultural, and material conditions. We thus extend our Bourdieuian framing through the influence of cultural-historical activity theory (Engeström, 1987) to recast Bourdieu and Passeron’s concept of pedagogic work as an ‘activity system’. This provides the opportunity to explore the potential for reworking existing systems to bring about different outcomes, change, and transformation that might guide new forms of future action and pedagogic practice.
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