Towards The Knowledge Producing School

Year: 2015

Author: Hattam, Robert

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper contests the logic of the emerging policy regime for control of teachers’ work in Australia: the NAPLAN and MySchool website; codifying teaching through standards; and a National Curriculum framed up as centralised and standardised-based. Put simply, such a policy regime undermines the potential for local negotiation of curriculum and pedagogy and that can only mean that schooling as a system will further entrench educational disadvantage. Such a regime reduces teachers to implementers and undermines claims to professional status and professional autonomy, and hence makes a mockery of the claims for devolution.
This paper is part empirical and part thought experiment. Empirically the paper draws on about a decade of funded action research projects in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide. These projects sustained small professional learning communities of teacher and academic researchers; the academic researchers provided provocations, critical friends for action research; teachers engaged in curriculum and pedagogical redesigns; curriculum focused on students-as-researchers and mostly involved students in producing new knowledge about their lives and their communities; and teachers experimented with pedagogies of negotiation. Importantly, these projects also reveal the limits of Bourdieuian theories of reproduction and provide case studies for advancing Ranciere’s rethinking of emancipation, that is, critical pedagogy as a verification of one’s equality.
The final part of this paper presents a thought experiment and proposes pushing the logic of ‘students-as-researchers’ beyond an individual classroom and imagines what might be possible if the practice was taken up by a school. There are plenty of examples of individual teachers engaging in various forms of negotiated curriculum, including using these approaches: ‘funds of knowledge’ (Moll), placed-based (Smith), integrated curriculum (Beane), and researching young peoples engagements with popular culture. What has yet to be properly advanced is the potential for whole school approached to a students-as-researchers approach, in which case, the school becomes a repository of knowledge about its local community and surrounding environs and also a laboratory for capacity building for knowledge workers, involved in all aspects of knowledge production.