23 SES 05 C, Discourse and Regulation
Parallel Paper Session
Following the North American example, teaching as a practice and teacher education as an initial and general means towards shaping that practice in Australia have recently adopted the term “clinical” to describe what they are, and what they do. The entry of the term into the education lexicon has been lauded and criticized in equal measure. For some the term has the potential to raise the profile of the profession by placing it alongside other clinical professions such as medicine. For this group ‘clinical’ highlights the importance of bringing together theory and practice. It signals a reformation of teaching and teacher education which emphasizes the identification of the learning needs of individual children and the careful planning of interventions that will assist them to move along a developmental continuum from novice to expert. For this group, the emphasis on teaching as a clinical practice involves carefully identifying the component parts of any knowledge or skill and sequencing these from the most simple to the most complex before targeting teaching just beyond the level at which the student is currently operating. In doing this, student progression can be assured.
And yet for others the use of the term in education is a form of ontological and epistemological violence and it signals immense danger. Following Foucault (1994), some critics argue that the term dehumanizes students, separating what they know and can do from who they are. It celebrates a form of decontextualised teaching and learning that makes a ‘patient’ of the student, reducing their differences to variations in the performance of set skills and emphasizing the reproduction of correct knowledge. Creativity and innovation are sacrificed on the altar of competencies that can be measured and reported. For this group, the use of “clinical” in education is a ‘small act of cunning’ and ‘means of correct training” (Foucault 1991) that seeks to erase difference and reduce capabilities to base levels and a general compliance.
All critics of the term have sought to have it expunged from the education lexicon and a number have called for a return to (or perhaps a move towards) Freirean praxis through which theory, knowledge and skills are embodied, enacted and reflected upon, and where the teleological purpose of education is to transform the world rather than conform to it. This call has often been ridiculed by proponents of a clinical approach as a return to a failed experiment in which educators spent more time on reflection than they did on action. The debates are polemic with the political left and political right calcifying their positions without careful examination of the limits of their own commitments and the strengths of the others.
What might happen if instead of continuing polemics around teaching as a clinical practice and teaching as praxis the two terms were brought together to endlessly trouble one another?
How might the bringing together of clinical praxis assist in avoiding the establishment of a new orthodoxy and open up the possibility of on-going action and reflection?
Derrida, Jacques. "Différance," Margins of Philosophy, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1982 Derrida, Jacques. "Positions", tr., Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981 Derrida, Jacques. "Writing and Difference", tr., Alan Bass, Chicago University of Chicago, 1978. Foucault, Michel (1994) "The birth of the clinic: An archaeology of medical perception" Miedema, S. & Biesta, G.J.J. (2004). Jacques Derrida’s religion with/out religion and the im/possibility of religious education. Religious Education 99(1), 23-37.
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