The theory of practice architectures and its usefulness for analysing changing practices

Year: 2016

Author: Edwards-Groves, Christine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract:
This paper explores the practice theory on which our study of secondary school change draws, that is, the theory of practice architectures and ecologies of practices. The theory of practice architectures attends to the composition of practices in the dimensions of language, work and power which hold education practices in place. The theory of ecologies of practices attends to the interconnectedness between practices in a site, such as the practices of learning, teaching, professional learning, leading, researching and evaluating that make up the Education Complex of late (post)modernity. Inspired by practice philosopher Theodore Schatzki’s concept of site ontologies, the theory posits that educational practices in schools are prefigured (but not predetermined) by the cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political arrangements which hold them in place.These preceding arrangements give educational practices their substance, i.e., arrangements of language and specialist discourses used in a site such as secondary school provide the substance for, and make possible, i.e., the sayings of the practice in the site. Arrangements of objects in physical space-time in a site provide the substance for, and make possible, the activities and work that can be done in the practice, i.e., the doings of the practice in the site. Finally, the arrangements in the form of webs of relationships of power and solidarity (belonging) in a site provide the substance for, and make possible, the relatings of the practice. For instance, in one of our secondary sites, there was a major focus on a whole school improvement agenda to lift students’ academic outcomes. The arrangements of language and specialist discourses associated with school improvement provided the substance for, and make possible, particular kinds of sayings about leading practices (e.g., a “relentless focus” on instructional leading). It made possible particular kinds of doings about leading practices (e.g., classroom walkthroughs facilitated by the principal and KLA coordinators) and it made possible and rendered more sayable, particular kinds of relatings about leading practices (e.g., a principal-led didactic approach to professional learning, focusing on teaching instruction). The theory posits that understanding how such practices come to be, and what kinds of conditions make them possible, leads us to consider whether it might be transformed, or conducted otherwise, under other conditions of possibility. It can assist educators to conceive of alternative ways of theorizing and practising education that move beyond the individual and encompass a notion of education as cultivating a world worth living in.

Back