23 SES 02 D, Teachers and Teaching
When Pierre Bourdieu referred to his notion of “regulated improvisation” (1977, p. 79) he focused on the imperfect alignment between an established habitus and the conditions of uncertainty inherent in fields. Teachers work in an increasingly liquid and unstable education policy environment framed by a risk culture that is undergirded by a pervasive neo-liberal political economy of risk fuelled educational triage incorporating financialization, corporatisation and capitalisation. Buoyed by a standards agenda is an education policy focus espousing development of teacher skills and evidence based capacities in reaction to a technologically complex and highly competitive economic future. A contradictory situation is manifest, in which the discursive expectations and certainties of ‘what works’ is synonymous with evidenced-based practice/s enunciated in policy texts via the misalignment of the basic daily experiences of public school teachers witnessed most acutely in policy disjuncture. The aftereffect is usually a series of reflexive classroom-based pedagogic counter responses that the extant research literature characterizes as forms of “adaptive teaching” (Parsons et al. (2018). Through an exploration of the ‘logic’ of what has been articulated as teacher skills and capacities we actively problematize the policy representations of teachers that fail to notice the structural impediments of context. Further, this exploration inquires into policy conceptualisations of teachers’ work that we say fragments pedagogy legitimizing a narrow performative habitus defined by “...invention and improvisation” (Sweetman, 2003, p. 535) personified in school based surveillance practices.
This study is guided by a singular focus: What can be said about current education policy priorities and trends that are determinative of teacher skill and capacity development? The theoretical perspective adopted draws upon Bourdieuian notions of “regulated improvisation” to argue that despite discursive certainties espoused in education policy about ‘what works’, teachers are positioned to “...make use of improvisation to [so that they might] match their subjective capacities with objective possibilities” (Bunn, 2017, p. 3). In doing so improvisation becomes a “...form of situated—but conscious—modification of practice that must be done at speed” (Bunn, 2017, p. 4), eschewing considered relationality in favour of skilling up and getting through. This demand for rapid classroom based decision-making requires a strong reflexive awareness on the part of teachers if students are to benefit from their learning. Teacher skill and capacity develops over the arch of time and while more experienced teachers have a “feel for the game” (Bourdieu, 1990, p. 66) more nuance than that of their junior colleagues they are never in a position of total mastery. Nonetheless the performative habitus (see Stanfield and Cremin, 2013) demanded of all teachers by an education policy logic of skill/s based capacities constructs an idealised teacher.
Throughout this study we theorise notions of ‘teacher expertise’ in major education/training reports and policy documents which espouse student learning as intimately connected to teacher performance. We demonstrate that education policy rhetoric increasingly emphasizes the need for student achievement growth through links between continuous improvement processes and system performance. A focus on innovation, creativity and evidence drive ongoing systemic change and reform that for teachers means stronger adherence to evaluation and accountability frameworks. Such frameworks destabilise our expectations of schooling outcomes by dismissing broader socio-economic and cultural geographies as pervasive inhibitors on achievement in an era of risk. An implicit aim of this education policy redirection is then the redefinition of what constitutes ‘good teaching, effective schooling and quality learning’ (Ball, 2005) resulting in the exclusion of the teacher from the change making process.
Framed on Critical Policy Analysis (CPA) the paper interrogates the power dynamics apparent in major education policy documents across three nations of the OECD: Australia, England and the US. While CPA has a central aim of illuminating the “...ways that structures (such as education) perpetuate inequities in society” (Fernändez, Le Chasseur, and Donaldson, 2018, p. 401) it is also about exploring policy intent and implementation in order to uncover the particular set of values and power interests inherent in policy (see Ozga, 2000). We deploy Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of qualitative data to identify the ‘orders of discourse’ (Foucault, 1981) prescribing contemporary classroom-based pedagogy and the work of teachers. The method of CDA and the work of Fairclough (1992, 1993, 2003) in particular is used to help reveal the discursive utterances of policy text which facilitate constrained constructions of educational reality. Dominant policy discourses such as those connected to “...representations of the ‘new global economy’” (Liasidou, 2008, p. 489) legitimize power imbalances. In choosing CDA as our analytical method we hope to pay close “...attention to the presence of power dimensions” (Struyve, Simons and Verckens, 2014, p. 788) prevalent in current education policy text that is steering education and the work of teachers in a specific and narrow outcomes-based direction.
The presentation contributes to the debate which centres on critical explorations of neo-liberal discourses and its effects on education and the work of teachers. It explicates the current positioning of teachers through policy discourse illustrating a narrow discursive nature of managerialist language which re-frames sociological understandings of education, pedagogy and the work of teachers. Further, we highlight the crucial implications for teaching practice which we contend are impacted upon by audit regimes that continue to reinforce mechanisms of surveillance through large scale student management and performance accountability. A major outcome of this presentation is an explication of the contemporary re-casting of how the classroom-based educational experience of teaching and learning is both re-shaped and enacted by current education policy.
Ball, S.J. 2005. Education Policy and Social Class: The Selected Works of Stephen Ball. 1st ed. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor & Francis. Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic Of Practice. London: Polity Press. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline Of A Theory Of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press. Fairclough, N. (1993). “Critical Discourse Analysis and the Marketization of Public Discourse: The Universities.” Discourse and Society 4 (2): 133–168. Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse. Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge. Fernández, Erica., LeChasseur, Kimberley & Donaldson, Morgan L. (2018) Responses to including parents in teacher evaluation policy: A critical policy analysis, Journal of Education Policy, 33:3, 398-413, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2017.1370135 Foucault, M. (1981). The Order Of Discourse in Untying The Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader (Ed: Robert Young), Boston, Massachusetts: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 48-79. Liasidou, Anastasia (2008) Critical discourse analysis and inclusive educational policies: the power to exclude, Journal of Education Policy, 23:5, 483-500, DOI: 10.1080/02680930802148933 Ozga, J. (2000) Policy Research in Educational Settings: contested terrain. Buckingham: Open University Press. Parsons, Seth A., Vaughn, Margaret, Scales, Roya Qualls., Gallagher, Melissa A., Parsons, Allison Ward., Davis, Stephanie G., Pierczynski, Melissa., & Allen, Melony. (2018). Teachers’ Instructional Adaptations: A Research Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 88(2): 205-242. Stanfield, Jamie & Cremin, Hilary (2013) Importing control in Initial Teacher Training: theorizing the construction of specific habitus in recent proposals for induction into teaching, Journal of Education Policy, 28:1, 21-37, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2012.682608 Struyve, Charlotte, Simons, Maarten & Verckens, Anneleen. (2014) Parents are not born, they are made: a critical discourse analysis of an educational magazine in Flanders (Belgium), Journal of Education Policy, 29:6, 785-803, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2014.889756 Sweetman, P. (2003). Twenty-first century dis-ease? Habitual reflexivity or the reflexive habitus, The Sociological Review, 51(4): 528-49.
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