23 SES 10 D, Students as Actors
Parallel Paper Session
The development of student voice is an ideal within democratic educational practice and a preoccupation of current policy (see Thompson and Gunter, 2007). It is, however, subject to many contradictory pressures especially within governance contexts that are increasingly regulated through the use of numbers and the calculability of student experience (Grek and Ozga, 2009). This paper explores some of the ways in which student voices are expressed, co-opted or marginalised within different policy regimes and discourses.
The notion of student voice has been particularly significant within adult literacy and community education programmes because of their inclusive ideals and the informal, non-hierarchical relationships between students and teachers that they aspire to. Opportunities for student writing and publishing are especially pertinent to literacy education and have a long theoretical pedigree, from the liberation pedagogy of the Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire (Freire, 1972) to more recent research (for example Mace, 1995; Ivanic, 2006) which argues for the importance of student writing as a way of developing a sense of control and authorship; as a way of expressing and claiming public space for marginalised identities; and as a space in which to collectively imagine new futures (Gutierrez, 2008).
This paper draws on a number of theoretical tools to explore the politics of student voice. Firstly it is grounded in the new literacy studies, which sees the meanings and values of literacy to be contingent and situated, shifting according to context, purpose and social relations (Barton and Hamilton 2012; Street and Lefstein, 2008). Scholars of literacy studies contrast the vernacular, everyday lived experiences of reading and writing with institutional contexts which select and privilege certain practices. They focus on the politics of diversity asking: which knowledge perspectives are acknowledged and allowed to enter educational practice? They also draw on social semiotics (Kress, 2009) to carry out close analysis of the social interactions and artefacts associated with the expression of student voice. This perspective also makes the claim that discourses have active, material effects within social practices.
For a compatible macro level theory of the social and policy process I draw on the theoretical resources of actor network theory. This offers a perspective on policy initiatives as flows of competing social projects that that aim to organize and make tractable diverse everyday lived experience and which rise and fall with the strength of the networks they enrol.
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