28 SES 02 B, Digital Technologies, Digital Economy and Neuroscience in European Space of Education
The natural ambition within education is to identify areas that are problematic in relation to students’ learning and to suggest which measures should be taken to meet needs. However, different actors search for problems and solutions through different lenses. Whereas the lens in sociologies of education, for instance, is directed towards social class and injustices, another and highly contrasting lens has grown strong in importance over the recent years. This contrasting lens is found within the cross-disciplinary arena labelled “neuro-education”, “educational neuroscience” and “brain-based education” to be recognized in Europe as well as in many other places of the world. Here, it is heavily emphasized that students’ brains should be taken into account both in research and in the classroom. The aim of our presentation is to cast a critical eye on this tendency, with a particular focus on the networks that are created.
For our study, we started in one of Fairclough’s (2003) several suggestions on how to conduct discourse analysis (p. 209-210) but in a modified version inspired also by Guo and Shan (2013). The combined tool has the following five steps in our version:
- Focus upon on a social problem which has a semiotic aspect. Analyze how the problem is constructed. Identify which discourse/which discourses are involved.
- Analyze which measures are suggested in order to meet the problem. Identify which discourse/which discourses are involved.
- Map which network of practices the problem and the suggested measures are built on, and how relevant practices are possibly re-organised. Think whether the network of the practices ’need’ the problem.
- Identify potential contradictions and gaps in the material. Give space for counter-voices.
- Reflect critically over the analysis (step 1-4).
In our presentation, we will pay particular attention to step 3. In order to do so, i. e. to map the network of actors who are involved and add fuel to this new and strong neuroscientific interest and its fundamental postulates, we turn to the sociologist of education Basil Bernstein. Bernstein (2000) contributes a tool based in his principle of recontextualisation, in which actors represent a variety of fields and influence what is finally affecting what happens in a classroom. In a somewhat simplified version, the set of fields include the field of knowledge production (i. e. research), the official recontextualisation field (to which government and authorities belong), the pedagogic recontextualisation field (referring to trade union magazines, teacher education and educational publishers) and the local recontextualisation field (where teachers and students meet). Previous studies have shown that actors also outside traditional recontextualisation fields involve themselves in recontextualisation processes. This is due to a marketised educational system recognized in many parts of Europe and, according to Bernstein, due to eroded borders between the public and the private.
As empirical material, we chose four articles from two different Swedish teacher union journals. This choice is fully compatible with Fairclough’s ideas to start in a problem which is expressed semiotically (here in text and images). Two of the articles present neuroscientists and their views, and two others present views from teachers who are extra devoted to neuroscience. The four articles represent the pedagogic recontextualization field. Starting from this field, which we use as a node, makes it possible to identify network of actors and draw conclusions regarding possible re-networkings and re-organisations.
The results (referring particularly to step 3) reveal that many actors are involved and add fuel to the strong contemporary neuroscientific interest. It is revealed that, and how, neuroscientists make themselves key actors and that brain-oriented ideas not only travel fast but also shape new networks. It is for instance shown how the Swedish minister of higher education (representing the official recontextualisation field) is included in the network by advocating more space for “new” research, where “new” equals to neuroscientific research. The interviewees in the union articles also argue that neuroscience should be left significant space in teacher education (the pedagogic recontextualisation field). Moreover, the analysis shows that the area is characterized by public-private partnerships. From the results, it is possible to draw conclusions on how networks around education is reorganized. Likewise, it is possible to identify a move away from acknowledging sociological matters and a de-legitimation of the research field of pedagogy.
Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: theory, research, critique. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Fairclough, N. (2003). Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London, UK: Routledge. Guo, Shibao & Shan, Hongxia (2013). The politics of recognition: critical discourse analysis of recent PLAR policies for immigrant professionals in Canada. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 32(4), 464-480.
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