02 SES 04 A, VET-Teachers - Roles and Perspectives
Teacher-student interactions form the heart of the teaching practice and have been ascribed an inherent moral significance (e.g. Buzelli, 1996; Bloome, 2005; Bullough Jr., 2010). Inherent, here, signifies that the moral significance of teacher-student interactions is construed as something that permeates the work of teaching: any specific teaching act has an inherent moral significance (Jackson, Boostrom, & Hansen, 1993). A useful perspective to study the inherent moral significance of teacher-student interactions can be found in the works of proponents of the continental European pedagogy (e.g. van Manen, 1991; Biesta, 2009).
Before we go into the qualities of pedagogy for this particular purpose, we will elaborate on its continental European meaning. In continental Europe, pedagogy is a separate discipline apart from, for example, psychology and sociology, often located in separate faculties within universities. Ponte and Ax (2009) described the research object of continental European pedagogy as follows: ‘This science seeks answers to questions about what kind of human beings children should become and how they can be raised toward becoming such human beings, taking into account the context in which this process of upbringing takes place’ (p. 293). In the Anglo-American literature the word ‘pedagogy’ merely refers to teaching strategies or methods of instruction. In this paper we focus on education as a domain in which children are being raised towards adulthood. Because of the word ‘pedagogy’ can easily be interpreted in different ways we will use the term ‘pedagogy as human science’ when we refer to its continental European meaning.
Distinctive of the research object of pedagogy as human science is the characteristic or specific relationship between the adult, (in this case: the teacher) and the child (in this case: the student) that intends the education of the child. As a consequence theories in pedagogy as human science do not apply to any other form of human relationships (van Manen, 1994). The daily interactions between teachers and students form an innate part of this relationship. Therefore, we consider pedagogy as human science a useful perspective to explore the inherent morality of teacher-students interactions.
In pedagogy as human science the interactions between teachers and students are always concerned with both the empirical question ‘what is the case?’ and the normative question ‘what ought to be the case?’ (Biesta, 2009). A persistent problem in continental European pedagogy is that debates about what ‘is’ and what ‘ought to be’ have for the most part been played out at the level of ‘grand theories’, such as the positivist, phenomenological and critical theories (cf. König, 1990). However, it is not very likely that teachers will articulate their ideas about what they consider to be in their students’ best interest (and why), in abstract philosophical terms. This study addresses the question ‘what is’, and ‘what ought to be’, at the level of everyday teacher-student interactions. The main research question in this study is how do teachers articulate their what they consider to be in their students’ best interest when interpreting their everyday interactions with their students?
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