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Panic Stations: Crises of teacher quality in an era of standards and accountability

Mockler, Nicole

Year: 2013

Type of paper: Abstract Refereed

Abstract: This paper explores the use of moral panic, or ‘shock doctrine’ (Klein, 2007)in relation to education, and specifically, as it relates to the contemporary ‘crisis’ of teacher quality n Australia.  It argues that in the context of globalized education policy discourses around standards and accountability, panic is increasingly used as a tool by politicians to manipulate and shape public opinion about teachers and their work, with two key sets of ‘policy effects’ (Ball, 1994)ensuing.  The first set, external to the teaching profession itself, is the intended effect of the panic, and positions teachers’ practice as a problem to be solved by politicians and bureaucracies to the benefit of society, consequently undermining social trust in teachers and schools.  The second set of effects, I argue, more problematic and destructive, is internal to the profession and perhaps less intentional, relating to the impact of the panic upon teachers’ practice.  Here I argue that successive waves of teacher quality panic have begun to mediate teachers’ practice, shaping teacher habitus and professional identity in corrosive ways. By way of illustration, the paper reports on a framing analysis (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989)of 42 communication texts, dating to the week following the announcement of the National Plan for School Improvement (the Federal Government’s response to the ‘Gonski Review’) in September 2012, including speeches, press releases and transcripts of interviews given by the Prime Minister and Minister for Schools, along with related newspaper articles.  It examines the frames in use, the origins and effects of these frames across the set of texts and the implications of these frames for both the public understanding of ‘teacher quality’ and the shaping of teacher habitus and identity.

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