03 SES 06 A, Can Educational Knowledge Be Powerful? Part 2
Symposium continued from 03 SES 04 A
Issues of the nature of educational knowledge, and its relation to educational practice and policy-making are never far from the forefront of debate about education. Certain traditions of educational inquiry have found favour with educational leaders, policy-makers and practitioners at different times and in different national jurisdictions (Furlong and Whitty 2017). Governments in many European countries, Australia, the United States and elsewhere have increasingly thrown their weight behind the production of ‘evidence’ in forms that prioritise certain research approaches and conceptualisations of educational knowledge (Schriewer 2017; Biesta 2011). One consequence of this is that the shape of the production of educational knowledge may shift further away from the Foundation Disciplines, Bildung-centred Didaktik and Curriculum Theory, with these traditions deemed superfluous and increasingly marginalised in higher education, including in teacher education. A related contemporary development is that relationships between communities concerned with educational policy, practice and research are altering, with new dynamics producing novel configurations of educational knowledge production and recontextualisation (Furlong and Whitty 2017; Terhart 2017). This may generate increasing uncertainty about what constitutes valid or powerful educational knowledge and about the role of educational theorising in questions of educational practice. It could also significantly impact on the extent to which educational ideas are open to robust challenge and scrutiny, and for public understanding of education.
There are also longer term implications for the forms of professional knowledge considered appropriate for educational professionals, with consequences for curriculum-making, pedagogy and assessment and for teachers’ research literacy. The role of higher education in teacher education has been questioned, with craft and technical conceptions of teaching foregrounded in some national contexts. If educational theories that open up curriculum questions become moribund then policy-makers may increasingly see no alternative than ‘teacher-proof’ curricula, with closely stipulated lists of propositional knowledge accompanied by mandated teaching techniques.
Aiming to explore these questions in greater depth, this double symposium seeks to examine questions of the potential ‘powerfulness’ or ‘powerlessness’ of educational knowledge, drawing on the sociology of educational knowledge and on forms of inquiry that might be better identified as distinctly educational (i.e. forms of Curriculum Theory). The symposium also builds on a forthcoming special issue of The Curriculum Journal entitled ‘After the knowledge turn? Politics and pedagogy' (edited by Hoadley, Barrett, Morgan, Cuthbert), to which a number of the participants in this symposium contributed.
This second session of the symposium further illuminates the challenges facing educational knowledge, and considers potential opportunities to address these. The first paper (Muller and Hoadley) draws on research conducted in South Africa to provide an account of how knowledge traditions influence present debates, showing that this is neither deterministic nor voluntaristic, but shaped by terms of contest set in the past. The second paper (Morgan) focuses on recent debates in the sociology of educational knowledge, arguing for a socialist educational imaginary which avoids the relativism of standpoint theory that is dominant amongst the educational left. The third paper (Deng) argues that contemporary curriculum theorising is in serious crisis due to the loss of the original subject of curriculum studies – practice and the inner work of schooling as a complex institution. The author proposes a way to revive curriculum theorising that matters in practice in terms of three propositions, discussing how this way of theorising can yield ‘powerful’ curriculum knowledge. The final paper (Biesta) examines the growing consensus that teacher knowledge should be empirical, and outlines the alternative offered by focusing first on which concepts should be ‘in place’ for teachers. The author makes the case for educational concepts, rather than concepts emerging from other disciplines.
Biesta, G.J.J. (2011). Disciplines and Theory in the Academic Study of Education: a comparative analysis of the Anglo-American and Continental construction of the field. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 19(2), 175-192 Furlong, J. & Whitty, G. (2017). Knowledge traditions in the study of education. In Knowledge and the study of education: an international exploration, eds. Whitty, G. & J. Furlong, 13-57. Didcot: Symposium Schriewer, J. (2017). Between the philosophy of self-cultivation and empirical research: educational studies in Germany. In Knowledge and the study of education: an international exploration, eds. G.Whitty & J.Furlong, 75-99. Didcot: Symposium. Terhart, E. (2017). Interdisciplinary research on education and its disciplines: Processes of change and lines of conflict in unstable academic expert cultures: Germany as an example, European Educational Research Journal, 16 (6), 921-936.
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