23 SES 09 A, Resisting Neoliberalism in an Era of Risk: Local, national and transnational perspectives: Part 1
Symposium to be continued in 23 SES 12 A
This paper uses the concept of ‘repertoire of resistance’ (Johansson and Vinthagen, 2016) to explore how adult literacy practitioners in Scotland understand, and are able to handle, particular ways of resisting the neoliberal agenda. In particular, it examines how practitioners have developed patterns of ‘everyday resistance’ (Hollander & Einwohner, 2004) to policies that focus on ‘up-skilling’ people so that they become more employable. These policies arise from the dominant neoliberal discourse that shapes the expected outcomes of education by only valuing the economic and ignoring its social and developmental responsibilities (Olssen 2009). This approach leads to a conceptualisation of the purpose of literacy education as the provider of ‘employment ready’ workers and limits the curriculum to the development of narrow skills that emphasise participants’ limitations rather than their expertise. The research found that practitioners’ repertoires of resistance were embodied in their professional culture that prioritised holistic approaches to teaching and learning, expressed as a commitment to putting learners at the centre of the curriculum. This shared understanding of good practice, developed through interactions with colleagues that reinforced their collective understanding of what were fundamental principles for delivering literacy programmes, enabled staff to assert their agency to support literacy that was based in rich and meaningful practices. The curriculum they offered was based on a ‘funds of knowledge’ approach (González, Moll, and Amanti 2005), which helped learners to develop the effective strategies and skills they already used rather than being seen as having individual deficits that needed to be corrected. Practitioners were able to find creative ways to work around the requirements to deliver pre-set outcomes and instead constructed a curriculum that enabled them to deliver more open programmes that emphasised the social and emotional aspects of learning as well as cognitive changes (Illeris, 2004). These actions not only show how practitioners participate in policy networks as powerful actors but also enabled them to ‘draw attention to dissonances between policy discourses and the actualities of learning in local settings’ (Smythe 2015, 6). These shared understandings of what is good practice also enabled them to disrupt the ways in which policy becomes embedded in practice.
González, N., Moll, L. and Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing Practices in Households, Communities, and Classrooms. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Hollander, J. A., and Einwohner, R. L. (2004). ‘Conceptualizing resistance’, Sociological forum, 19 (4), 533-554. Illeris, K. (2004) Transformative Learning in the Perspective of a Comprehensive Learning Theory, Journal of Transformative Education, 2 (2), 79-89 Johansson, A. and Vinthagen, S. 2016. ‘Dimensions of Everyday Resistance: An Analytical Framework’ Critical Sociology, 42 (3) 417-435 Olssen, M. 2009. “Neoliberalism, Education, and the Rise of a Global Common Good.” In Re-Reading Education Policy: A Handbook Studying the Policy Agenda of the 21st Century, edited by M. Simons, M. Olssen, and M. A. Peters, (pp. 433-457). Smythe, S. (2015). ‘Ten Years of Adult Literacy Policy and Practice in Canada: Literacy Policy Tensions and Workarounds’, Language and Literacy 17 (2): 4–21.
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