Enchanting promises: representations of teachers by suppliers and consumers of private literacy tutoring.

Year: 2018

Author: Briant, Elizabeth, Dooley, Karen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Over the last thirty years or so, the autonomy of the field of education in Australia has been eroded. In the last ten years alone, there has been considerable change in the structures of assessment, curriculum, and pedagogy: in 2008, the highly specified National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was introduced; in 2012, the roll-out of the Australian Curriculum: English (AC:E) began in some states (with a more prescriptive local interpretation embedded in the C2C resources prepared for public school teachers in the state of Queensland from which we write); and the proliferation of more-or-less prescriptive commercial pedagogic packages and programs has continued apace. Meanwhile, the shadow economy of private literacy tutoring is booming. It is not uncommon for those with interests in the formal education sector to decry the worksheet culture of learning centres that are becoming more prominent in the shopping centres of suburban Australia. Yet, the marketing materials of these suppliers of literacy education conjure up a world of teacher freedom, sometimes drawing explicit contrasts with the constraints on teachers who work in formal institutions of education. To sum, the world of private tuition provides an ideal site for opening up questions of teacheragencyin contemporary Australian education.
This paper reports findings from the document analysis and interview phases of a study of private literacy tutoring for Year 5 students in Queensland, Australia. It addresses questions about the representation of teachers by suppliers and consumers of private tuition:

How is the professional autonomy of teachers represented in the marketing materials of suppliers of private literacy tuition?
How is the professional autonomy of teachers represented by parents talking about their purchases of private tutoring for their children?

The document data set consists of content from 10 tutoring provider websites. The interview data set consists of 34 interviews with parents Year 5 students. Critical sociological analyses were conducted, probing the discursive and material conditions within which suppliers and consumers of private tutoring were able to produce certain representations of the professional autonomy of teachers. The analyses are informed by the theory of practice of Pierre Bourdieu which gives purchase on the teacher condition.