Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The importance of teaching: pedagogical constraints and possibilities in working-class schools

an article by Ruth Lupton (Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics) and Amelia Hempel-Jorgensen (Institute of Education, University of London) published in Journal of Education Policy Volume 27 Issue 5 (September 2012)


This paper starts from the propositions that (a) pedagogy is central to the achievement of socially just education and (b) there are existing pedagogical approaches that can contribute to more socially just outcomes.

Given the ostensible commitments of the current English Government to reducing educational inequality and to the importance of teaching, we set out to explore the conditions that would need to be put in place to enable these approaches to be developed and sustained consistently in disadvantaged schools in England.

We start by analysing classroom observation and interview data from four primary schools with contrasting socio-economic composition, highlighting the different pedagogical practices that emerge in working- and middle-class schools and also in working-class schools in different circumstances.

Interviews with pupils show the impact of these practices on learner identities. We then draw on a variety of literatures on school composition, markets, leadership and teacher identities to present an account of the ways in which these different pedagogies are consciously or unconsciously produced.

We point to systemic constraints:
  • a mismatch between student demands and organisational capacity;
  • teachers’ attitudes and professional identities; and
  • performative pressures on school leaders.
All of these suggest the need for fundamental reforms to educational purposes and system architecture, rather than the naïve reliance on teacher agency to transform educational outcomes. Nevertheless, the current policy environment in England does offer some possibilities for action and we close the paper with some suggestions about ways in which capacity for more socially just pedagogy could be built within English schools.

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