05 SES 07, Marginality and Exclusion
This paper examines the feasibility of the concept of recognition as one way to perform critical school improvement research on disadvantaged schools. The empirical context is in Helsinki, Finland.
The ways that disadvantaged schools’ problems have been tackled in policy practices often draw from the neoliberal ideal. This has been criticized, because, for example, the accountability practices based on high-stakes tests seem to force schools to aim for narrow effectiveness. (see e.g. Lupton 2005; Wrigley 2003; Fullan 2011; Schwartz 2013). The entering of neoliberal practices to public schooling is a phenomenon familiar throughout Europe (Sahlberg 2011), even in the traditionally egalitarian Nordic countries (e.g. Beach and Sernhede 2011). The Finnish education system has both gone against the neoliberal mainstream in education policies and succeeded in the PISA studies. Finland does not have high-stakes tests during the comprehensive school, nor school inspectors, league tables or massive pressure for families to choose schools. These features make the Finnish case a peculiar example from the international perspective and for all of the school improvement research.
In disadvantaged schools’ studies the current (neoliberal) educational policy practices are often not critically examined, rather the studies define improvement as success in high-stakes tests. (Vartiainen 2017.) In this paper, we will try to look at improvement of disadvantaged schools from a different viewpoint by utilizing two Finnish lower-secondary schools as empirical case-studies. These schools are located in the capital of Helsinki in low socio-economic neighborhoods and have managed to consistently gain better learning results than statistically expected (Bernelius 2013). Following studies that aim at improving disadvantaged schools by concentrating on some other aspects than those emphasizing neoliberal effectiveness (see Lupton 2005; Wrigley 2003; Persson & Persson 2012; Thrupp 1999), we will explore the feasibility of the concept of recognition as one way to perform critical school improvement research.
The theory of recognition is mostly used in political and social theory, and as a theory of social justice. Axel Honneth, Nancy Fraser and Charles Taylor are probably the best known developers of recognition in political theory. There are also studies that formulate the pedagogy of recognition (Foster 2012), and analyze it at the school level (e.g. Huttunen & Heikkinen 2004; Ayala 2010). However, in the studies of recognition at the school level, the conduct of the concept seems to neglect the middle-class nature of schooling, and therefore steps into the same “pitfall” as improvement through neoliberal effectiveness. If the concept of recognition is understood merely as a tool for the teacher to give feedback to students, it neglects the questions of power, structural inequality, and social reproduction of schooling, in other words it favors the ones already favored by the school system. Following Rodriquez (2012), we will elaborate the five pedagogies of recognition in the Finnish disadvantaged areas’ schools context. This will allow us to take a more holistic approach, and to understand recognition as a pedagogical attitude (Foster 2012) and as pedagogical practices.
Therefore, we pose two questions: How to define the concept of recognition in a manner that takes into account the specific nature of the school as an institution of middle class nature, unequal power relations, and structural as well as historical boundaries? How is this pedagogy and practice of recognition manifested in the two Finnish case-schools?
The data production of the Helsinki case-schools started as part of a study called Well-Functioning Local Schools in the beginning of 2014. The starting point of Well-Functioning Local Schools was to investigate the good practices of the case-schools with an interdisciplinary research group (sociology and politics of education, urban geography). The criteria for choosing the case-schools was that they a) were located in socio economically disadvantaged areas (low income and level of education) and thus entitled to positive discrimination funding by the city of Helsinki and b) had attained better learning results than statistically expected for several years in a row (see Bernelius 2013, 74). We produced an observation (about 2 months) and interview (N=59) data from the schools. The observation was based on the features of “a good school” created in school effectiveness and improvement research (see Sammons et.al. 1995; Lupton 2005; OECD 2010) and took place in the everyday life of the schools: lessons, breaks, celebrations, school trips, parents’ meetings etc. We interviewed principals, teachers, assistants, parents, pupils and other school actors. During the observation period, the list of the features of a good school produced in traditional school effectiveness and improvement research started to seem irrelevant and hollow. There was constantly such an array of things going on in the schools (cf. von Manen 2008), that the questions of how these features were related to each other and what were the particular discursive practices and the dynamic culture in these specific schools became pressing. In this paper, we aim at constructing an analytical frame of the concept of recognition and, with qualitative content analysis, analyze how the seemingly individual relations of good school traits and practices within the case schools are connected to each other and to structural and historical boundaries.
The Finnish education system has many of the features which the critics of the neoliberal effectiveness regime emphasize as important especially for disadvantaged schools. There is, for example, an accountability system that allows risk taking, and little competition between schools and students. This could enable the schools to step forward from desiring an imaginary middle class profile student and to recognize all (kinds of) students. This could work as counteraction to the exclusion of disadvantaged students within the school system. As an example of the preliminary analysis of the case-schools, in one of the schools, there seems to be a genuine effort to value all students and exceed, for example, the inherent racism also observed in the Finnish context (Juva & Holm 2017). The staff consciously reflects the way in which students and colleagues are talked about, i.e. the power of language is acknowledged. This extends to the everyday practices within the school. When unfair practices are discovered, adjustments are made. In the other case-school the recognition is expressed mostly through trust and lowering of hierarchies: the principals express trust towards teachers and other staff (and vice versa), and the school’s adults express trust towards students. The reflection of discourse is not acknowledged as thoroughly as it is in the other case-school. However, the connection with the surrounding neighborhood is rather unique. Many of the staff live near the school, and both the staff, the pupils and their families value and take strength from their neighborhood, one which is, by statistical measures, challenging in the Finnish context.
Ayala, R. 2010. Pedagogical Recognition. Phenomenology & Practice, Volume 4,No.1,pp.5-29. Beach, D. & Sernhede, O. 2011. From learning to labour to learning for marginality: school segregation and marginalization in Swedish suburbs. British Journal of Sociology of Education. Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 257–274. Bernelius, V. 2013. Eriytyvät kaupunkikoulut. [Differentiating city schools]. Helsingin kaupungin tietokeskus. Tutkimuksia 2013:1. Foster, R. 2012. The Pedagogy of Recognition: Dancing Identity and Mutuality. Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 1779. Tampere University Press: Tampere. Fullan, M. 2011. Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform. Seminar Series 204. Melbourne: Centre for Strategic Education. https://michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/13396088160.pdf Huttunen, R. & Heikkinen, H. L.T. 2004. Teaching and the dialectic of recognition, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 12:2, 163-174. Juva, I. & Holm, G. 2017. Not all students are equally equal: Normality as Finnishness, In: Kantasalmi, K. & Holm, G. (eds.) The state, schooling and identity, diversifying education in Europe. Palgrave Macmillan: Singapore. Lupton, R. 2005. Social justice and school improvement: improving the quality of schooling in the poorest neighbourhoods. British Educational Research Journal. Vol. 31, No. 5. 589–604. Manen, M. von 2008. Pedagogical Sensitivity and Teachers Practical Knowing-in-Action, Peking University Education Review. OECD. 2010. PISA 2009 Results: What Makes a School Successful? Resources, Policies and Practices (Volume IV), OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264091559-en. Persson, B. & Persson, E. 2012. Inkludering och måluppfyllelse- att nå framgång med alla elever [to include and gain goals -to succeed with all the pupils]. Liber. Rodriguez, L. F. 2012. “Everybody Grieves, but Still Nobody Sees”: Toward a Praxis of Recognition for Latina/o Students in U.S. Schools. Teachers College record, vol:114 nr:1. 1–31 Sahlberg, P. 2011. Finnish Lessons, What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? New York: Teachers College Press. Sammons, P., Hillman, J. & Mortimore, P. 1995. Key characteristics of effective schools. A review of school effectiveness research. A report by the Institute of Education for the Office for Standards in Education. Schwartz, A. 2013. Pedagogik, plats och prestationer. [Pedagogy, place and performance] En etnografisk studie om en skola i förorten. Göteborgs Universitet. Thrupp, M. 1999. Schools making a difference: let’s be realistic! School mix, school effectiveness and the social limits of reform. Buckingham: Open University Press. Vartiainen, H. 2017. Improving Disadvantaged Schools – a Review of the Literature. Research article, submitted. Wrigley, T. 2003. Schools of hope. A new agenda for school improvement. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.