19 SES 09 B, Teachers' Empowerment, Students' Power and Participation
Education in the Nordic countries has for decades emphasised the fostering of democratic citizens. This vision is evident in Nordic educational legislation and curricula, where the importance of democratic participation, student influence and agency in everyday classroom practice is maintained (Arnesen, Lahelma, Lundahl & Öhrn, 2014). This is also manifested in international discourse and conventions, such as in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations Human Rights, 1989) and is in accordance with the maxim that all students should have equal opportunities to succeed in school and be active participants in the society.
Recently implemented education policy in Iceland further emphasizes the fostering of democratic citizens, not least through six fundamental, socially constructed, cross-curricular pillars of education, which all emphasise critical thinking, action competences and influence (Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, 2012). Such a goal is challenged by the strong contemporary neoliberal waves, with increased emphasis on measureable, high achievement (Carr, 2008; Rizvi & Lingard, 2010), which is likely to be at the cost of the cultivation of democratic citizenship.
This contradiction between increased competition and emphasis on equal opportunities and student influence, drew us to examine power and influence in everyday practices within different academic programs at the upper secondary school level in Iceland. Our main research questions are the following: How do students try to influence and what areas do they target? What can they influence and how is it interrelated to the program they are enrolled in?
Previous Nordic research in the field demonstrates that despite strong arguments in education policies, pedagogic practices that support student influence seem to be rare (Öhrn, 2005; Rosvall, 2011; Waage, Kristjánsson, & Björnsdóttir, 2013) and depend on the efforts of individual teachers or subjects (Dovemark, 2011; Hjelmér, 2011; Öhrn, 2005; Rosvall, 2011). Furthermore, students’ explicit requests for change seem seldom to be fruitful and some studies show students neither succeed when asking for more teaching (Rosvall, 2011) nor reduced workload (Hjelmér, 2011). This situation tends to favour students with well-educated parents and a strong economic and social capital. Thus, some students are better positioned to get help from each other or from parents, or finance private tutoring. This is in accordance with many international studies showing strong connection between social class and educational achievement (Apple, 2002; Arnot & Reay, 2004; Bernstein, 2000; Power & Whitty, 2002).
In our analysis, we follow Bernstein’s theory of pedagogic discourse, to examine positions of power within the classroom and everyday pedagogic practices. The main concepts are classification and framing, and the two concepts explain power and control in relation to curriculum and pedagogic practice (Bernstein, 2000). Classification helps us to analyse the power relations caused and explained by the curriculum, such as areas of knowledge and school subjects. The concept of framing helps us to explain communications, pedagogic practices and the control teachers and students have over education within the classroom. This can comprise the selection of content, sequence, pacing and assessment of knowledge.
Apple, M. (2002). Does education have independent power? Bernstein and the question of relative autonomy. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(4), 607-616. Arnesen, A.-L., Lahelma, E., Lundahl., & Öhrn, E. (2014). Unfolding the context and the contents: Critical perspectives on contemporary Nordic schooling. In A.-L. Arnesen, E. Lahelma, L. Lundahl & E. Öhrn (Eds.), Fair and competitive? Critical perspectives on contemporary Nordic schooling. London: Tufnell. Arnot, M., & Reay, D. (2004). The framing of pedagic encounters. In J. Muller, B. Davies & A. Morais (Eds.), Reading Bernstein, Researching Bernstein (pp. 137-150). London: Routledge Falmer. Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: Theory, research, critique (Revised edition). Boston: Rowman & Littlefield. Carr, P. (2008). Educating for democracy: With or without social justice. Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(4), 117-136. Dovemark, M. (2011). Can this be called democracy? In E. Öhrn, L. Lundahl, & D. Beach (Eds.), Young people's influence and democratic education. Ethnographic studies in upper secondary schools (pp. 112–138). London: Tufnell. Hjelmér, C. (2011). Collective actions in the Natural Science Programme. In E. Öhrn, L. Lundahl, & D. Beach (Eds.), Young people's influence and democratic education. Ethnography studies in upper secondary schools (pp. 34–51). London: Tufnell. Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. (2012). The Icelandic national curriculum guide for upper secondary schools: General section. Reykjavík: MoESC. https://eng.menntamalaraduneyti.is/publications/curriculum/ Öhrn, E. (2005). Att göra skillnad. En studie av ungdomar som politiska aktörer i skolans vardag [To make a difference. A study of young people as political actors in schools]. Göteborg: Institutionen för pedagogik och didaktik. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2077/27923 Ritzvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2010). Globalizing education policy. London: Routledge. Rosvall, P-Å. (2011). Pedagogic practice and influence in a social science class. In E. Öhrn, L. Lundahl, & D. Beach (Eds.), Young people's influence and democratic education (pp. 71–91). London: Tufnell. United Nations Human Rights. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Valdimarsson, Ó. (2016). Hvar þrengir að í Reykjavík 2016? Fólkið í skugganum: Athugun á högum lakast settu borgarbúanna [Areas feeling the pinch in Reykjavík 2016. People in the shadows: Study on disadvantaged city dwellers]. Reykjavík: The Redcross Waage, I. Ó., Kristjánsson, K. & Björnsdóttir, A. (2013). Hver eru viðhorf grunnskólakennara til lýðræðis í skólastarfi? [Teachers' attitudes towards democracy in education?]. Hugur, 25, 75–90. Wolfinger, N. (2002). On writing fieldnotes: Collection strategies and background expectancies. Qualitative Research 2(2): 85-93.
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