THE CONSTITUTION OF TEACHERS' KNOWLEDGE: A Literature Review

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [University of Tasmania]On: 14 November 2014, At: 20:23Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House,37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cdis20</p><p>THE CONSTITUTION OF TEACHERS' KNOWLEDGE: ALiterature ReviewJudyth Sachs aa University of QueenslandPublished online: 06 Jul 2006.</p><p>To cite this article: Judyth Sachs (1987) THE CONSTITUTION OF TEACHERS' KNOWLEDGE: A Literature Review, Discourse:Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 7:2, 86-98, DOI: 10.1080/0159630870070206</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0159630870070206</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) contained in thepublications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make no representationsor warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Anyopinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not theviews of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied upon and should beindependently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses,actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoevercaused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematicreproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in anyform to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cdis20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/0159630870070206http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0159630870070206http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p> DISCOURSE Vol. 7, No. 2, April 1987</p><p>THE CONSTITUTION OF TEACHERS' KNOWLEDGE:A Literature Review</p><p>Judyth SachsUniversity of Queensland</p><p>Introduction</p><p>The knowledge that teachers use in their daily work is central tounderstanding their lives in schools. Elbaz (1983), Grant and Sleeter(1985) and Clandinin (1985) among others have identified thisknowledge as having its basis in experience, therein creating what hasbeen termed a practical orientation. Furthermore, this knowledge is,according to Bolster (1983:298), idiographic in origin andparticularistic in character; that is, it arises from the need tocomprehend the complexity of a particular context with sufficientaccuracy to be able to act efficaciously in it. These claims provide thepoint of departure for this paper where the argument is made from areview of pertinent literature that teachers' work situation and theirexperience create mindsets or conceptions of knowledge which, first,promote a practical predisposition and second, are individualistic inorientation. Consequently, practical knowledge takes precedence overtheoretical or prepositional knowledge. This suggests that teacherstranslate concepts into situational models which facilitate easierteaching. In order to support this claim, in what follows I drawattention from research studies on how teachers' work conditionspredispose them to particular ways of understanding and operating inthe social systems of schools. I do this by addressing, first, theconditions in which teachers develop their professional knowledge,second, how teachers' cultural systems are constituted, and finally,how the effects of these conditions are central in their utilization ofknowledge and generation of behaviour. Pecheux's (1975) claim thatwords receive their meanings from the discursive formation in whichthey are used is the basis for understanding the content of teachers'knowledge and the conditions in which certain mindsets are created.</p><p>This review assumes that the constitution of teachers' knowledge isreflexive, and that discursive practices are not necessarily imposed onteachers. Rather, as Giddens (1979) has observed, there is a dialecticalsynthesis in which social structures are both produced by humanagency and yet remain the very medium through which this productiontakes place. This implies that teachers are not automatically shaped bythe structures in which they work. It is because of the recursive nature</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>asm</p><p>ania</p><p>] at</p><p> 20:</p><p>23 1</p><p>4 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>87</p><p>of social practices in the social systems of schools that teachers exhibitsome engagement within these systems. Following Giddens (1979:243),structure is seen as both the medium and outcome of those practiceswhich constitute social systems, and this is always a contingentaccomplishment of knowledgeable social actions to the reproductionof social systems.</p><p>Constraints on Teachers' Behaviour</p><p>It is part of the conventional wisdom of sociological studies conductedin schools that teachers are constrained by certain 'givens' in theirjobs. This claim is substantiated by the research of Dale (1977b),Esland (1971, 1977) and Grant and Sleeter (1985). The latter alsoclaim that teachers' life experiences and backgrounds act as modifiersof their work.</p><p>A number of relatively fixed factors impinge upon and hence set theconditions of teachers' practices in schools and classrooms. Theseinclude: the compulsory nature of education, class size and theteacher-pupil ratio, the use of time and space, the bureaucratic natureof schools, and the nature of the curriculum itself. The factors aredescribed in detail by Dale (1977b), Esland (1971) and Grant andSleeter (1985). How these factors shape and constrain teachers'practice requires more attention and will now be addressed.</p><p>The constraints the above have on teachers have been referred to byDale (1977b) as the 'teachers' problematic'. By this he means thatteachers are expected to operate and work within conditions overwhich they have very little personal control. Esland (1971, 1977a) hastaken the argument further in claiming that the key to understandingaspects of teachers' behaviour is through the interplay of physicalconstraints as they exist within classrooms and the often largenumbers of reluctant learners within these classrooms.</p><p>The compulsory nature of schooling as it exists at present meansthat students are forced to attend school until they are fifteen orsixteen, depending on state legislative requirements. The corollary ofthis is that teachers have a captive audience of students who have notnecessarily chosen to be at school, whom they must educate (Dale,1977b). Further compounding and confounding teachers' work is thatthey have little control over the composition and size of their classes.Class size or the teacher-pupil ratio is another dimension of 'theteachers' problematic' which sets the practical limits to what can bedone. Working in such an environment means that the exercise ofauthority is a central part of teachers' jobs. Furthermore, as bothSharp and Green (1975) and Denscombe, (1980, 1982) claim, teachersspend more time controlling students than teaching them. Accordingto Dale (1977b) this arises from a teacher's mandate to controlignorance and indiscipline. Dale's (1977b) identification of this issue</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>asm</p><p>ania</p><p>] at</p><p> 20:</p><p>23 1</p><p>4 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>88</p><p>points to a deeper influence on teacher behaviour. Because teachersare subject to demands of control and discipline as lone adults,outnumbered by their students, their behaviours are influenced inparticular ways. Moreover, most of the work ethic of teaching is thatindividuals must 'prove' themselves. It is this combination of the needto control and transmit information in ways approved by otherteachers that constitutes what Denscombe (1982:25a) refers to as 'thehidden pedagogy', defined as</p><p>a set of aims and methods of teaching, which is tacitly understood byteachers which stems from practical imperatives created by the organisationof the classroom and which is basic to competence as a teacher.</p><p>In addition, he argues that since it is through the maintenance ofcontrol that competency as a teacher is judged, this maintenance mustbe achieved without the help of colleagues.</p><p>The curriculum also serves to shape teachers' behaviour in schools.Arguments about this proposition will be illustrated with specificreference to Queensland primary schools. Curriculum, as used withinthis context, refers to all planned activities of the school. According toKerr (1968:16),</p><p>curriculum is all the learning which is planned and guided by the school,whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside theschool.</p><p>Such a conception of curriculum is inclusive of activities whichstructure and place constraints on teachers' lives. The notion of time,and how it structures teachers' behaviour are coextensive with such aconception. The day is broken up into blocks during which a certainamount of knowledge and information is to be transmitted. Timeconstrains the amount presented and how it is to be presented.</p><p>In Queensland primary schools, teaching procedures are guided bycentrally developed curriculum guides or syllabuses. In these, teachersare presented with imperative statements which are to be translatedinto classroom practice. These imperatives are presented as aims,objectives and so on.</p><p>While aims are not content specific, they do orientate primaryschool teachers' views of the subject towards 'humanistic', child-centred and individualistic conceptions. Hargreaves (1982) suggeststhat the culture of individualism holds teachers firmly in its grip, thatteachers are concerned with the cultivation of individual children andtheir various aptitudes and abilities, intellectual and social. Suchconceptions and notions are central in the creation of mindsets whichpredispose teachers to understand their work in individualistic ways.</p><p>A final point to be considered when examining how mindsets arecreated is that teachers are part of a bureaucracy. The influence ofbureaucracy on them is two fold. First, they are part of larger</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>asm</p><p>ania</p><p>] at</p><p> 20:</p><p>23 1</p><p>4 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>89</p><p>bureaucracy, the State Department of Education, which promulgates,through its various agencies, directives and curriculum imperatives.Wise (1979) has argued that bureaucratic structure and the associatedmindset are closely related to specific patterns in the management ofknowledge. Second, in schools, bureaucratisation via administrativeprocesses brings out not only a particular structuring of knowledge,but also a particular interpretation of that knowledge. Wise (1979:16)also makes the point that the attempt of administrators to organise theproduction, dissemination and utilisation of knowledge in the school isdirectly related to the imperatives of bureaucracy, where the over-riding concern in selecting, structuring and presenting knowledge is tofacilitate the administration of an organisation. This position, takenalong side Hargreaves' culture of individualism, reinforces the claimthat teachers possess individualistic mindsets.</p><p>To this point, the proposition has been developed that theconditions in which teachers work, both structural and organisational,create certain 'mindsets' which crucially influence how they interpretthe knowledge they transmit. Grant and Sleeter (1985) have made thefurther claim that teachers' biographies and experience are alsoinfluential in shaping their knowledge. The influence of these factorswill now be examined.</p><p>Teachers' Cultural Systems</p><p>In order to further develop the argument made by Grant and Sleeter(1985) that teachers' experience and backgrounds act as determinantsof their work, the point should be made that teachers enter socialsystems (schools) which are given, with already formed culturalsystems. The argument is made that teachers' cultural systems areconstituted by interpellations beyond schools, as well as theirprofessional training and finally by their experience as teachers.</p><p>Over the last twenty years a number of Australian studies inparticular have focused on the social location of individuals enteringteaching. These empirically based studies have typically defined classin terms of socio-economic status. Research by Bassett (1958, 1971)and Anderson and Western (1970, 1972) indicated that trainee teachersin Australia were less likely than other university students to havefathers in professional occupations. The research of Pike (1966), andMcKivitt and Douglas, (1973) indicated they were more likely to havefathers who are small businessmen, tradesmen or skilled workmen.While these studies are somewhat dated, the argument can still bemade that individuals entering teaching are, in general, from a lowersocio-economic class than those entering professions such as law,medicine and engineering (Anderson and Western, 1970, 1980;Anderson and Vervoorn, 1983).</p><p>The position that teachers are 'middle-class' is part of the collective</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Uni</p><p>vers</p><p>ity o</p><p>f T</p><p>asm</p><p>ania</p><p>] at</p><p> 20:</p><p>23 1</p><p>4 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>90</p><p>consciousness of those both within and outside of teaching circles.However, counter arguments of Marxist writers such as Wright (1978),Harris (1982) and White (1983) indicate that the structural location ofteacher work is both a confounding and a determining feature of suchwork. That is, teacher work is not simply a reflex to 'middleclassness'as claimed by sociologists but rather as Harris (1982) argues, teachers'class location is contradictory lying between the bourgeoisie and theproletariat. His claim is that teachers' positions in the labour marketdo not coincide with the relations of control over money capital,physical capital, or labour power. Likewise Wright's (1978) position isthat teachers execute, but do not create state policy; they disseminatebut do not control the production of bourgeois ideology. Theconfusion in identifying teachers' class location according to Harris(1982) is that teacher work and the perspectives of that work arelargely shaped by structural features and an individual's responses tothe work situation itself. Compounding this, teachers are not placedunder tight control or surveillance as are many factory workers.Indeed, their position in the hierarchy of control in occupationalstructure and the conditions of their work exemplify what Edwards(1979) refers to as the 'new class' worker who works on behalf ofcapitalism, but not for the capitalists. This orientation seriouslyundermines the conventional wisdom of teachers' class and statuspositions a...</p></li></ul>

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