10 SES 08 A, Professional Knowledge & Teacher Identity: Inclusivity
This paper raises questions about professional knowledge in teacher education, specifically about how well teachers are being prepared to address issues arising from the emerging syndrome of student social anxiety and withdrawal from schooling. The theme of this paper emerged from findings generated through a large qualitative study focusing on students at risk of disengaging from secondary schooling. Data collected from secondary school students, school principals, teachers and support providers (e.g., school counsellors) indicated high levels of social anxiety and stress among some students, to the point that a number of them either attended school, particularly mainstream classes, only with great reluctance, or withdrew from schooling altogether. This was identified as a point of tension for teachers, many of whom reported feeling unprepared to effectively address the learning needs of these young people. In this paper, we draw on our empirical work to elucidate these complex issues before proposing ways in which teacher educators might play a role.
Aims and research questions
The aims of this paper are twofold. First, the paper aims to provide insights into the emerging syndrome of student social anxiety and the associated disengagement from schooling, as well as teachers’ capacity to respond. Second, the paper aims to provoke debate about the role of teacher education in addressing issues associated with this syndrome.
This paper therefore addresses the following research questions (RQs):
RQ1: In what ways is social anxiety among students impacting on their learning engagement?
RQ2: What is the reported capacity of teachers to address the learning needs of these students?
RQ3: In what ways can teacher education effectively respond?
This paper is framed in Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems theory, which holds that young people grow and learn in the context of multiple nested systems (namely, microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem), which interact with each other. A young person’s development and learning is affected by people and experiences across different levels of the system, from the family (microsystem) to the school they attend (microsystem), relations and activities between family and school (mesosystem), and culturally- and socially-contextualised norms and practices (macrosystem). The nature and quality of interactions that occur in and across the systems have a variety of consequences on the development of the young person.
In the current “conceptual age” (Pink, 2005) where the characteristics of systems, as well as the interplay between different contexts, are changing rapidly, there are inevitable consequences on the enabling and inhibiting factors associated with young people’s development and capacity to learn. Within and across the family and school contexts, for example, relations are increasingly conducted through online engagement, such that the need for face to face interactions is diminished. This has been shown to lead to, at times, total, social withdrawal. The Japanese have termed this behaviour “hikikomori”, that is, an abnormal avoidance of social contact (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23182523). The same phenomenon is now being recognised in many other countries worldwide, including Britain, Italy and Korea.
Bronfenbrenner’s conceptualisation of the interactions within young people’s cultural and social ecology is thus useful in this study that explores ways in which social anxiety impacts on the learning engagement of secondary school students.
Bronfenbrenner, U. 1979. The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Bronfenbrenner, U. 1989. “Ecological systems theory.” In Six theories of development: Revised formulations and current issues, edited by R. Vasta, 187-249. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. Patton, M. Q. 2015. Qualitative research and evaluation methods. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Pink, D. H. (2005). A whole new mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. New York: Riverhead Books.
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