An activity theoretical analysis of how socially just pedagogic work is authorized in advantaged and disadvantaged schools

Year: 2016

Author: Gale, Trevor, Cross, Russell, Mills, Carmen, Smith, Catherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on analysis-in-progress from a large scale, multisite qualitative study into the ‘un-thought' social justice dispositions that guide teachers’ pedagogic work in secondary schools in two Australian cities. Following Bourdieu and Passeron (1977, p. 31; 1990), we conceive of ‘pedagogic work’ as comprising a series of ‘pedagogic actions’ conferred with ‘pedagogic authority’. Using cultural-historical activity theory (Engeström, 1987), we build on this Bourdieuian framework to conceptualize pedagogic action as ‘activity’, enabling a methodological framework to investigate the formation of practice against the different social, cultural, political, and material conditions that participants come to enact in their role as teacher-subject within their respective sites. Of specific interest in the present paper is how different forms of authority are conferred across varied systems for activity, and the ways that this is achieved given their differing positions of dis/advantage. Through a comparative cross-case analysis of systems from schools in both cities at both ends of the spectrum, the paper seeks to build new understandings of (a) how leaders’ pedagogic authority is conferred within different sites for teachers’ pedagogic actions, and (b) what types of authority are conferred on teachers’ actions with respect to socially just pedagogic work, given different conditions for undertaking such work.