14 SES 06 A, Place-Based and Place-Conscious Education
This paper is based on an anthropological research project called Judgment, assessment and reputation among school professionals. The aim of this project is to explore how school professionals make situated judgment in practice and how various perspectives on a complex school context influence the judgments and social identities of professionals. How do professionals give priority to one rather than another activity? What kind of loyalties and considerations are involved in the decision making of professionals? How do various principles of professional expertise influence professional practice and identity?
The project is based on an ethnographic fieldwork at a school on an island in a remote area of Denmark. The project explores school professionalism and expertise in an everyday life context. Situated professionalism involves a variety of political, juridical, educational ideologies as well as concerns over local social and educational challenges, underprivileged children and families and globalization as well as daily challenges, expectations and associations with actors spanning from pupils and parents to bureaucrats and politicians etc..
The meanings of professional practices are understood as rooted in symbolic webs of meaning (Clifford Geertz) and Actor Networks (Bruno Latour, John Law, Tara Fenwick & Richard Edwards). Drawing on both symbolic anthropology and ANT it is argued that professional judgment and expertise cannot be reduced to professional standards. Rather it must be analyzed as combinations and assemblages of Actor-Networks that are distinctive by the symbolic priorities given to certain aspects of practice and to certain important actors.
It is my argument that professional practitioners by participating in diverse and loosely associated Actor-Networks come to form slightly different and competing webs of meaning. This means that practitioners face the complexity of school in their daily practice and are subject to it in various ways. This means that professionalism must be seen as constituted by loosely interwoven sets of practices that are negotiated by attempts to expand or integrate detached Actor-Networks. Hereby teachers and other professionals in schools seek to integrate various sets of actors in their priorities when they make professional judgments. However by giving priority to some rather than other actor networks professionals are exposed to critique from other networks and positions. Consequently professionalism is seen as embedded in unresolved conflicts rather than in shared professional standards.
In this paper I will discuss how the school in practice constitutes a setting for negotiation of meaning and for division of work, influence and actor networks. Rather than seeing the school as a community of practice (Lave & Wenger) the school is seen as an arena for contested practices, alliances, distinction and construction and maintenances of Actor Networks. In this complex setting professional deviations are inherent and school practices generate new meanings and cosmological inconsistencies (Frederik Barth).
Barth, F. (1987). Cosmologies in the Making. A Generative Approach to Cultural Variation in Inner New Guinea. Cambridge Fenwick, T. & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-Network Theory in Education. London. Routledge. Geertz, C. (1973). The Interpretation of Culture. New York. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University press. Lave, J & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Law, J. (2004). After Method. Mess in Social Science Research. London. Routledge.
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